Sanremo magic seals FIA European Historic Rally Championship titles in style

  • Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell take overall win as FIA European Historic Rally Championship savours the legendary stages of Sanremo
  • Luigi ‘Lucky’ Battistoli and Fabrizia Pons win Category 4 championship title on home soil
  • Austria’s Karl Wagner seals Category 3 title, Norway’s Valter Jensen wraps up Category 2


The famous seaside resort of Sanremo played host to the penultimate round of the FIA European Historic Rally Championship on October 7-8.  With 34 cars in the FIA section of the rally, it was all to play for as the crews descended upon the Italian coast.

Following a strong first day blighted by a costly puncture, the hard charging Marty McCormack and his co-driver Barney Mitchell fought back sensationally on day two to take a brilliant overall victory. The Northern Irish duo turned around their 60-second Saturday deficit into a comfortable maximum points score in Category 4.

Tibor Erdi Jr/Istvan Kerek came to the event knowing that only a maximum points score in Category 4 would suffice for them to keep their hopes of the Category 4 championship title alive, despite a season that has delivered three inspired victories.  Sadly, their Ford Sierra Sapphire Cosworth lost a wheel following an impact early on day 2, meaning instant retirement for the Hungarian ace.

Erdi’s misfortune meant that series veteran Luigi ‘Lucky’ Battistoli with former World Rally Championship vice-champion Fabrizia Pons as co-driver did enough to secure the Category 4 Championship title in their Lancia Delta Integrale. The Vicenza driver backed off on the second day to protect the points total he assiduously built at every round; securing a well-deserved title in the process.

Series debutants Pieter-Jan Maeyaert and Yves Dewulf showed impressive pace all weekend in their Cat4 BMW M3. On their first trip to Italy, the Belgian team increased their pace all through the event, taking a hard fought final podium spot for the up to 1990 category.

In Category 3, Karl Wagner produced a sensational comeback drive on day 2 after throttle problems blighted his progress on day one, dropping him down the leaderboard. With Gerda Zauner alongside, the multiple champions from Austria were flying on day 2, even though Wagner lacked confidence in his braking after a change to a different type of brake pad.

With the normal pads fitted during the mid-day service halt, Wagner flew through the tortuously twisting stages to claim the Category 3 win, and in doing so, secured the Championship title after an eventful season in his Porsche 911 SC.

Just behind Wagner was the similar car of Swiss crew Guy Trolliet and Sebastien Moulin. Leading most of the event, the pace of Wagner on Sunday afternoon was too hot to handle as the Austrian took the win on the last stage of the event.

Chasing them home was the all French combination of Philippe Mermet/Gerard Clerton and their Renault 5 Turbo Cevennes. The team were hampered by fumes coming into the cabin in the rear engine Renault on day 2, but despite the unwelcome smell, they battled on for yet another podium finish after a hugely consistent year.

After a season-long battle, Category 2 honours were finally settled in the favour of the veteran Norwegian crew of Valter Jensen and Erik Pedersen. Battling a fever all weekend, Jensen showed his class with some brilliant stage times en route to the category victory, sealing the championship title in doing so. 

As so often this year, it was the hard charging Czech team of Stanislav Budil and Petr Vejvoda who finished 2nd behind the Ford Escort RS1800 of Jensen. Their BWM 2002ti has been enthusiastically driven all season but couldn’t match Jensen’s pace across the two days.  They edged out home hero Paolo Pasutti, with Italian co-driver Giovanni Battista Campeis alongside.

Pasutti lost a chunk of time on day one with a wheel problem and was unable to claw the deficit back to the cars in front. After a strong season and many close battles, the category podium was completed by the Italian veteran’s Porsche 911, despite some gearbox problems on the second day.

Finally, in Category 1, a sole entry from returning series supporter Antonio Parisi with Guiseppe D’Angelo on the notes. Their pre-1969 Porsche 911 S was a joy to drive on the twisting mountain roads north of Sanremo, and they thoroughly enjoyed their event from start to finish.

Following the Italian adventure, attention now turns to the final round in Greece, as crews head to the Historic Acropolis Rally.  Held over 3 days, the event will take crews from the start in Athens along smooth gravel roads up to the port of Itea, before 2 further days of competition prior to the finish in Elefsina on the Sunday afternoon.

Top 10 Finishers on Sanremo Rally Storico:

Date: August 11-12, 2023. Location: Lahti, Finland. Number of Entrants: 43 (FIA EHRC). Number of Stages: 12. Stage distance: 149.12 km









Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell


BMW E30 M3


1hr 33m 29.5s


‘Lucky’/Fabrizia Pons


Lancia Delta Integrale 16v




Pieter-Jan Maeyaert/Yves Dewulf


BMW E30 M3


+1m 41.2s


Valter Christian Jensen/Erik Pedersen


Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800


+5m 42.4s


Ernie Graham/Karen Graham


BMW E30 M3


+6m 42.5s


Karl Wagner/Gerda Zauner


Porsche 911 3.0 SC


+7m 16.0s


Guy Trolliet/Sébastien Moulin


Porsche 911 3.0 SC


+7m 28.9s


Daniele Gatani/Detlef Burghammer


Porsche 911 3.0 SC


+7m 34.4s


Philippe Mermet/Gérard Clerton


Renault 5 Turbo


+7m 41.1s


Stanislav Budil/Petr Vejvoda


BMW 2002 Ti


+7m 57.4s


Category winners: Cat. 1 Antonio Parisi/Giuseppe d’Angelo (Porsche 911 S), Cat. 2 Jensen/Pedersen, Cat. 3 Wagner/Zauner, 4 McCormack/Mitchell


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  


For more information on the FIA European Historic Rally Championship, please visit