Heikkilä begins his ERC debut campaign on the gravel stages of Portugal

Photo: Hannu Rainamo

Mikko Heikkilä starts his debut season in the European Rally Championship in the upcoming weekend. The opening round of the championship, held in Fafe, Portugal, is the Finn’s career-third ERC event.

Mikko Heikkilä, 31, and his co-driver Samu Vaaleri, 25, begin their competitive season 2023 in Portugal this upcoming weekend. The opening event of the eight-round European Rally Championship is held on the gravel roads of Portugal, familiar from the WRC events of the past. The jump to ERC is an anticipated move from the Finnish champion.

– I’m ready for the upcoming season. We’ve been watching from the side lines as others are competing, and it’s nice that now it’s finally my turn.

Heikkilä competes with Portuguese team The Racing Factory’s Skoda Fabia and Michelin tires. The opening rally is the team’s home event, but it’s Heikkilä’s first competitive touch to the gravel roads of Portugal. Testing on Monday in the rainy conditions, similar to what’s been forecasted on the route, Heikkilä is happy with the progress made during the tests.

– Compared to Finland the roads here are smaller, more technical and overall a bit slower, but still quite driveable. The grooves will be deeper than what we’re used to, but it won’t become a race of attrition. We got to practice driving in the rain here on Monday, and the warnings about the slipperiness of the roads were true. We also found a few setup changes that made driving easier, so the results were according to our goals.

The entry list for the opening round of the championship is one of the most high-class in years. Last year’s third in ERC Liepaja, Heikkilä welcomes the challenge.

– The entry list is one of the toughest I’ve had the chance to experience as a driver. There are about 10-15 names that can fight for win here. The competition is really tough, which is in everyone’s interest when the level of competition is so high. We get to see where we stand.

The next step into the European Championship was a big one in a multitude of ways. Heikkilä wishes to thank his cooperation partners for the opportunity to compete amongst other top European drivers.

– Big thanks to The Racing Factory, we’ve started the project well and I wish to achieve a lot in the future. I also want to thank my partners for following me into this project.

The opening round of the European Rally Championship ERC Rally Serras de Fafe is held on 10th to 12th of March in Fafe, Portugal. The event consists of 17 special stages and 180,29 special stage kilometres. The rally is streamed live via WRC+ service.

Words: Mikko Heikkilä Racing Communications / Juho Koski 

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