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FIA European Historic Rally Championship Delivers Vltava Rallye Thriller

  • Erdi survives late reliability problems to win an all-action encounter in the Czech Republic to open his 2023 EHRC account
  • Group A cars dominate the outright pace on challenging stages
  • Women crew members on two of the top three finishers overall and all Category 3 podium finishers

The ancient and picturesque town of Klatovy in the Czech Republic played host to the second round of this year’s FIA European Historic Rally Championship this weekend (April 21-22), the Vltava Historic Rallye. 

Opening round winner ‘Zippo’, co-driven by Nicola Arena, seized the early advantage at the wheel of his Audi Quattro, winning the 9.32 km Tajanov-Polen test. The Italian’s slender two-second advantage was then reversed by Hungary’s former EHRC Category 3 champion Tibor Erdi and his Croatian co-driver Istvan Kerek in their Ford Sierra Cosworth 4x4 on the 17.55 km Kdyne-Slavikovice stage.

Further drama then unfolded when the mighty Audi stopped on the road section before the first service halt after mechanical problems waylaid the championship leader. Alas, there was to be no repeat of last month’s Costa Brava victory for ‘Zippo’ as the Quattro retired. 

This put Erdi into a clear lead over the Group B Lancia 037 of defending EHRC Category 4 champions Ville Silvasti and Risto Pietilainen. A colossal crowd had meanwhile gathered at the third test of the day, the 4 km loop at Klatovsky okruh which crews lap three times, often resulting in side-by-side action for the spectators.

Amid this drama a misfire struck Silvasti’s glorious supercharged Lancia, from which would follow the Finnish crew’s second retirement of the season. Fastest of all, meanwhile, was the Lancia Delta HF Integrale of ‘Lucky’ and his former WRC vice-champion co-driver Fabrizia Pons, who vaulted up into second place overall and took a 5.5-second chunk out of Erdi’s advantage. 

Erdi reasserted his authority on the second run through Tajanov-Poleń to add another 8.5 seconds to his lead but as the day closed with a second pass through Kdyne-Slavikovice the Hungarian crew dropped 29 seconds due to steering problems, allowing ‘Lucky’ through to hold the overnight lead by 6. 5 seconds.

The final day dawned with ‘Lucky’ treating the huge crowds lining the Klatovsky okruh stage a spectacular performance, holding off Erdi to claim SS6 and retain the lead. On the following 13.92 Sluhov-Stritez stage, however, Erdi surged back in front as he sought to recover ground in the championship points table after retiring from the Costa Brava with engine problems.

The short 7.71 km blast through SS8, Vlastejov-Keply, was won by the newly-restored Toyota Celica GT-Four of local hero Vojtech Stajf, restarting after going out with mechanical trouble on the first day. This was followed by a second stage win of the day for ‘Lucky’ on the 8.85 km Skelna Hut’-Svata Kateri na stage, pruning Erdi’s overall lead still further as the Hungarian was forced to change a driveshaft at the service halt..

The afternoon loop revisited all but the opening spectator stage, with the tantalising prospect of three stages and a margin of just 4.5 seconds between the top two cars.

A monumental effort from Erdi saw him beat second-fastest ‘Lucky’ by 24 seconds on the second pass through Sluhov-Stritez. The strain was almost too much for the engine of his Ford, but despite falling away from the ultimate pace over the final two stages – and having to push the car onto the podium – victory fell to the delighted Hungarian and his team.

“It was a great fight with ‘Lucky’ and a fantastic rally for us,” said the delighted winner, who also claimed the Category 4 class win. “We did not know if the car would hold together to the finish at all, but we are here. It’s fantastic.”

Speaking on the podium, an equally delighted Fabrizia Pons felt that this was a second place – both overall and in Category 4 – to savour. “It is a beautiful rally, great stages, great fans – and a big fight all through the rally. We had no problems, the car is a little dirty, that is all!”

Third place overall and victory in Category 3 belonged to the Austrian crew of former champion Karl Wagner and co-driver Gerda Zauner in their Porsche 911. The result marked the pair’s first EHRC podium of the season, following a fourth place in Costa Brava, and also meant that two women – Zauner and Pons - claimed laurels on the Historic Zltava Rallye.

Third place in Category 4 and fourth overall belonged to the German partnership of driver Jürgen Geist and Nico Otterbach with their Group B Opel Manta 400. The two-wheel-drive cars were at a slight disadvantage on the rougher stages of the route, but the performance remained one to be proud of.

In Category 3, the remaining podium positions behind the Wagner/Zauner Porsche were claimed by the similar car of fellow Austrians Michael and Elisabeth Putz in second place and fifth overall, while the Volvo 240 of German couple Siegfried and Renate Mayr came home in third, and 12th overall, to ensure that women were on all of the category’s top three finishing crews.

Category 2 saw a battle for victory between the Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800 of Norwegians Valter Jensen and Erik Pedersen and the Porsche 911 of Italians Paolo Pasutti and Giovanni Campeis, finishing in the Ford’s favour. They also claimed seventh and eighth place overall, with the category podium being completed by the BMW 2002 ti of local entrants Stanislav Budil and Petr Vejvoda, ninth overall.

In Category 1 for the oldest cars in the field, Northern Irishman Ernie Graham claimed his second consecutive win at the wheel of his Ford Escort Twin Cam, this time co-driven by his wife Karen. The pair outpaced the Porsche 911 of Italy’s Paolo Parisi and Giuseppe d’Angelo to maintain a perfect start to the season.

The third round of the 2023 FIA European Historic Rally Championship will be the Rallye de Asturias Historico held on May 11-13 in Pravia, Spain. The full season calendar covers nine events and will conclude in November on the Historic Acropolis Rally in Greece.


Notes to Editors:

Please find image library from the event here

Vltava Historic Rallye Top 10 Results

Date: April 20-22, 2023. Location: Klatovy, Czech Republic. Number of Entrants: 38 (FIA EHRC). Number of Stages: 12. Total distance: 438.31 km. Stage distance: 140.34 km.








Tibor Erdi/Istvan Kerek


Ford Sierra Cosworth 4x4


1 hr 23m 22.0s


‘Lucky’/Fabrizia Pons


Lancia Delta Integrale 16v




Karl Wagner/Gerda Zauner


Porsche 911 3.0 SC


+3m 16.5s


Jurgen Geist/Nico Otterbach


Opel Manta 400


+4m 25.7s


Michael Putz/Elisabeth Putz


Porsche 911 3.0 SC


+5m 58.3s


Antonio Sainz/David de la Puente


Subaru Legacy


+6m 58.6s


Valter Jensen/Erik Pedersen


Ford Escort RS1800


+7m 19.3s


Paolo Pasutti/Giovanni Campeis


Porsche 911 2.7 SC


+9m 5.9s


Stanislav Budil/Petr Vejvoda


BMW 2002 ti


+9m 55.5s


Ernie Graham/Karen Graham


Ford Escort Twin Cam


+12m 6.1s

Category winners: Cat. 1 Graham/Graham, Cat. 2 Jensen/Pederseni, Cat. 3 Wagner/Zauner, 4 Erdi/Kerek

2023 FIA European Historic Rally Championship Calendar

Round 1          71st Rally Motul Costa Brava              Spain                           March 16-18

Round 2          31st Historic Vlatava Rallye                Czech Republic           April 20-22

Round 3          Rally de Asturias Historico                 Spain                           May 11-13

Round 4          Rallye du Chablais VHC                      Switzerland                June 1-3

Round 5          Mecsek Rallye                                    Hungary                      June 22-24

Round 6          Rallye Weisz Historic                         Austria                        July 13-15

Round 7          Lahti Historic Rally                             Finland                                   August 10-12

Round 8          Sanremo Rallye Storico                      Italy                            October 5-8

Round 9          Historic Acropolis Rally                      Greece                        November 2-4