January 13 2021
- Vienna-based university student to build on impressive debut European championship campaign
- Promising Austrian aiming to secure minimum four-event bid alongside co-driving father
- Choice of Fiesta Rally4 makes him eligible for six-round 2022 ERC Junior prize drive if he wins
Nikolai Landa is hard at work finalising a return to the FIA European Rally Championship for 2021, with an ERC3 Junior campaign his focus.
Landa stepped up to international level for the first time in 2020 and twice finished in the top 10 in the Pirelli-supported category alongside his co-driving father Günter Landa.
“My main goal is to compete in the full ERC3 Junior season with the DriftCompany Rally Team,” said Landa, 22. “As of today we are going to compete in four events starting from Rally Islas Canarias and I definitely want to do Rally Liepāja, Rally Poland and Barum Czech Rally Zlín as well. We are working on securing the budget for the remaining two events.”
Strong season-closing performance
After impressing during his two-event ERC3 Junior trial run in 2020, Landa tackled selected national rallies in Czech Republic and Hungary. His programme included the Hungarian championship-deciding Taxi4 Mikulás Rallye in early December, where he delivered a strong performance in his Ford Fiesta Rally4.
“There were a lot of really fast drivers in the Rally4 category,” Landa explained. “Martin Koči, who has competed in the world championship and ERC, was there driving a Rally4 car. In the end we finished second overall in 2WD only 20 seconds behind Koči. That was really exciting and it showed that we learned so much in our two ERC outings.”
Big prize drive chance up for grabs
If Landa wins the ERC3 Junior title he will secure a step up to the ERC Junior Championship for 2022 driving a Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3 developed by M-Sport Poland. However, as part of an alliance between the FIA, ERC promoter Eurosport Events and M-Sport Poland, if a driver becomes ERC3 Junior champion driving a Fiesta Rally4 then the prize for 2022 will rise from three to six ERC Junior events.
Q&A: NIKOLAI LANDA, RISING STAR OF AUSTRIAN RALLYING
What were the most important lessons you learned during your first ERC season?
“Definitely to never give up! I think Rally Roma di Capitale was by far the most challenging event I’ve ever done. Coming from my first roll ever [on a rally in Slovenia], I was just missing a lot of confidence, which we all know is the key to being fast. Additionally, on the second day we encountered some technical issues which originated in the roll. There were times where I would have given up, but my father and co-driver motivated me to finish the rally and I’m more than just glad that we did. Even if the results didn’t show our progress during the rally, I learned so much.”
What was the best moment of your ERC season and why?
“Probably coming into the service after we finished the last stage of Rally Liepāja. It was a good rally for us and we could show that our pace on gravel isn’t so slow. Coming to the service, the whole team started applauding us and I felt that this is 100 per cent the thing I want to do! It’s the best feeling to have such a great team.”
In what areas do you think you need to improve in 2021?
“The big thing I want to improve in 2021 is my feeling in the car. I think I just have to enjoy every second and the pace will come by its own. Last year I tried to force myself to be fast but that is not sustainable. The stages I enjoy the most are always my fastest stages. My aim will not to be the fastest guy in ERC3 Junior because I know that this will not happen as I’m missing a lot of experience. But I try to be the guy who will learn the most over the season so let’s see what 2021 will bring.”
How important is Beppo Harrach and his team for you and your continued progression?
“To have such an incredible team by my side, which is led by Beppo, with his experience from driving, is amazing. We are working close together with Beppo and he also invests a lot of his time in our project. Every time we speak I try to absorb as much information as possible, like a sponge. We would definitely not be where we are now without Beppo and the team and that we can continue this partnership makes me really happy. Also, to have Niki Mayr-Melnhof as a team-mate is amazing. He is a really great guy and we get along really well. He helps me a lot by taking me with him in the R5 during testing and he always gives me really important tips during the rallies.”
You have two Tarmac events planned in 2021, how good are you on Tarmac compared to gravel?
“I would say Tarmac is not my favoured surface. As I don’t have a background in karting like a lot of other guys, I’m struggling a bit to find the limits on sealed surfaces. Therefore, I prefer gravel as there is a little bit more room for errors. But to recognise this is really important and we are working on my Tarmac skills. We have two Tarmac events planned before Gran Canaria so I hope I can learn a little bit more and get comfortable on Tarmac before coming to the first ERC3 Junior event.”