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European Rally Championship
Updated: 15 min 22 sec ago

ERC Junior Under 28: Ingram defeats Koči in dramatic Azores finish

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 22:39

Chris Ingram capped his FIA European Rally Championship four-wheel-drive debut with a first ERC Junior U28 class victory on Azores Airlines Rallye, retaking the lead in Saturday’s final test following an accident for Martin Koči.

Ingram had extended his lead to 15.8 seconds after Saturday’s opening stage, but a puncture through Tronqueira’s opening pass sent him straight back into Koči’s clutches.

Reigning ERC Junior U27 champion Ingram then went into tyre-saving mode in SS13, ceding first place to Koči. Ingram replied immediately through SS14, regaining the lead and setting up an epic showdown with a slim 4.7 second advantage over Koči.

Koči’s fantastic efforts came to a tragic end in Tronqueira’s rally-closing second pass, ripping a wheel from his ŠKODA Slovakia-backed Fabia R5 and unable to complete the stage.

“It was my mistake. I touched too much in one corner and it ripped the wheel off. I’m sorry for my team, my sponsors, the fans and my family and I’m sad for me. It might have been a good performance but that doesn’t change much right now." said Koči.

"Until that point it was very good rally for us, we had good pace. But you only score good points in the finish of the rally, need to be more clever next time. We will come better and stronger!"

Fredrik Åhlin inherited second place in his absence, a sensible and straightforward approach to his final day wrapping up an ERC Under 28 podium in only his second ERC start. Likewise, Rhys Yates scored his first ERC Under 28 podium with third place.

Taking a deliberately cautious approach to preserve points for his Portuguese championship campaign, Luis Rego brought his Ford Fiesta R5 home in one piece to clinch fourth place, while an impressive Fabian Kreim set the fastest time of anyone in SS13, even beating ‘Russian Rocket’ Lukyanuk and last year’s overall runner-up Bruno Magalhães on his way to fifth in class.

Tamara Molinaro was extremely unlucky to pick up punctures in both passes of Tronqueira, but her perseverance was rewarded by sixth place in ERC Under 28. Behind her were returning retirees from Friday and Saturday, Tomasz Kasperczyk, Laurent Pellier and Pierre-Louis Loubet securing positions seven through nine. OSCARO-backed Loubet showed glimpses of what might have been, setting a trio of overall top five stage times in leg two’s afternoon loop.

Hubert Ptaszek rolled his ŠKODA Fabia R5 while driving flat-out, crashing into a farm building and becoming stuck for over 20 minutes. Spectators came to his aid to extricate his car, dropping him being Pellier and Loubet to tenth.

Lukyanuk scores emphatic ERC Azores Airlines Rallye victory in style

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 21:10

Alexey Lukyanuk laid down an emphatic marker for his ERC rivals to aim for, leading Azores Airlines Rallye from Thursday afternoon all the way through to Saturday’s final stage, and capping his wining start to this year’s FIA European Rally Championship with donuts before the finish line. Portuguese drivers Ricardo Moura and Bruno Magalhães tried their best, but had no answer for Lukyanuk’s rapid pace.

Chris Ingram won a dramatic ERC Junior Under 28 battle, moving into first in Saturday’s final stage following an accident for chief rival Martin Koči. Diogo Gago secured ERC Junior Under 27 in his home event, beating ADAC Opel Junior Rallye Team factory driver Mārtiņš Sesks and Team Rallye Spain’s Efrén Llarena to first. Juan Carlos Alonso mounted an incredible comeback to win ERC2, recovering from a broken fuel pump on Thursday to make up three minutes and beat Sergei Remennik to victory.

Leg two recap: Lukyanuk opens his ERC 2018 account with victory

Holding a 21.8 second lead over local legend Ricardo Moura, Lukyanuk found a way to drive around brake issues caused by a leaking caliper to win Saturday morning’s two long stages, nearly doubling his lead ahead of second placed Moura to 37.8 seconds.

Moura went all out attack in his attempts to reel in the rapidly escaping Lukyanuk, but his push went slightly too far when he clobbered a bank and spun his ŠKODA Fabia R5 in SS11, Tronqueira’s morning pass. Behind, Bruno Magalhães started the day in third and within touching distance of the leading pair, but a broken rear differential cost him over half a minute and ruined his chances of a dream victory on home soil by midday service.

Lukyanuk took a steady approach to the final loop of stages, conserving his tyres and trying not to make any mistakes. Moura’s pace faded somewhat in the afternoon, dropping to 47.9 seconds off first place before leg two’s final stage.

Russia Performance Motorsport’s lead driver set hearts racing with only a few hundred meters of Tronqueira’s second pass remaining, Lukyanuk pulling wide to celebrate his impending victory with donuts. His showmanship cost over half a minute, but with nearly one minute in hand, entertaining the onlooking fans made no difference to the standings, sealing victory by 16.4 seconds.

"I was so happy that I made some donuts before the end. Thanks to my team, my sponsors, they all did really great job. We will try to do our best and be clever,” said Lukyanuk.

Despite taking what he described as ‘wrong’ tyres, Magalhães pressed on and closed in on Moura ahead, but came only 9.3 second short of stealing second place away by the finish.

National drivers Carlos Vieira and Bernardo Sousa lost a chance of an top 10 ERC finish after separate accidents in Saturday’s opening stage. Vieira bent his right-rear suspension while contact with a bank sent Sousa’s oil temperatures soaring, costing Vieira over four minutes and forcing Sousa to retire.

SS11 was delayed by Frank Tore Larsen crashing his Ford Fiesta R5 into a tree, blocking the stage and forcing his retirement. Hubert Ptaszek contributed to the final stage drama by crashing into a farm building, a mix-up caused by an incorrect pace-note.

Chris Ingram, Fredrik Åhlin, Norbert Herczig, Łukasz Habaj, Rhys Yates, Ricardo Teodósio and José Pedro Fontes completed the top 10 positions.

ERC Junior Under 28: Ingram defeats Koči in dramatic finish

Chris Ingram capped his ERC Junior U28 and four-wheel-drive debut with a first class victory, retaking the lead in Saturday’s final test following an accident for Martin Koči. Ingram had extended his lead to 15.8 seconds after Saturday’s opening stage, but a puncture through Tronqueira’s opening pass sent him straight back into Koči’s clutches. Reigning ERC Junior U27 champion Ingram then went into tyre-saving mode in SS13, ceding first place to Koči. He replied immediately through SS12, regaining the lead and setting up an epic showdown with 4.7 seconds separating the pair. Koči’s fantastic efforts came to a tragic end in Tronqueira’s rally-closing second pass, ripping a wheel from his ŠKODA Slovakia-backed Fabia R5 and unable to complete the stage. Fredrik Åhlin inherited second place in his absence, a sensible and straightforward approach to his final day wrapping up an ERC Under 28 podium in only his second ERC start. Likewise, Rhys Yates scored his first ERC Under 28 podium with third place. Taking a deliberately cautious approach to preserve points for his Portuguese championship campaign, Luis Rego brought his Ford Fiesta R5 home in one piece to clinch fourth place, while an impressive Fabian Kreim set the fastest time of anyone in SS13, even beating ‘Russian Rocket’ Lukyanuk and last year’s overall runner-up Bruno Magalhães on his way to fifth in class. Tamara Molinaro was extremely unlucky to pick up punctures in both passes of Tronqueira, but her perseverance was rewarded by sixth place in ERC Under 28. Behind her were returning retirees from Friday and Saturday, Tomasz Kasperczyk, Laurent Pellier and Pierre-Louis Loubet securing positions seven through nine. OSCARO-backed Loubet showed glimpses of what might have been, setting a trio of overall top five stage times in leg two’s afternoon loop. Hubert Ptaszek rolled his ŠKODA Fabia R5 while driving flat-out, crashing into a farm building and becoming stuck for over 20 minutes. Spectators came to his aid to extricate his car, dropping him beind Pellier and Loubet to tenth.

ERC Junior Under 27: Gago streaks clear for home win

Diogo Gago put his local knowledge to great use, further extending a 40 second lead from Friday to secure ERC Junior U27 victory by over a minute aboard his PEUGEOT 208 R2. Mārtiņš Sesks had been duelling with Gago for victory on Friday, but come Saturday he was instead looking backwards, fending off Efrén Llarena who had suffered a puncture and lost one minute the day before. A gearbox problem would settle their battle, Sesks losing first and second gear late on during Tronqueira’s rally-ending test and dropping him behind an ecstatic Llarena. Simon Wagner looked all set to pick up fourth place, but a myriad of technical gremlins ground his car to a halt shortly after leg two’s penultimate stage. Power steering failure coupled with a loose gear level made finishing SS14 difficult, and gearbox failure sidelined Wagner only 22 competitive kilometres from rally end Dominik Brož moved up to fourth place as a consequence, as Wagner’s Sainteloc Junior team-mate Catie Munnings would take fifth. Mattia Vita had retired with broken front left suspension on Friday, but returned on Saturday to claim sixth place in ERC Junior U27.

BREAKING: Lukyanuk scores ERC Azores Airlines Rallye victory

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 20:00

Alexey Lukyanuk secured a calm yet emphatic victory at the FIA European Rally Championship’s opening round at Azores Airlines Rallye, beating local legend Ricardo Moura and 2017 championship runner-up Bruno Magalhães.

Lukyanuk led throughout, and though he lost over half a minute in the last stage with a suspected brake issue, it was still enough to hold Moura and Magalhães at bay, who complete the overall podium.

ERC Junior Under 28 ended with an extraordinary final twist, an extremely close battle between Chris Ingram and Martin Koči decided by ŠKODA Slovakia Motorsport driver Koči ripping a wheel off midway through the final stage.

That crash handed Fredrik Åhlin second place in ERC Junior U28 in only his second ERC start, heading similarly green Rhys Yates who rounded out the class podium.

Following an SS8 stage time adjustment for Mārtiņš Sesks, local driver Diogo Gago holds a lead of over one minute ahead of Mārtiņš Sesks and Efrén Llarena in ERC Junior Under 27 after SS14.

Juan Carlos Alonso looks set to clinch victory in ERC2, holding a 31 second advantage over Sergei Remennik after SS14.

Llarena promoted in ERC Junior U27 after more timing adjustments

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 18:17

Efrén Llarena has successfully appealed his adjusted stage time from yesterday’s final stage of Azores Airlines Rallye, gaining nearly 1m30s and retaking third place in FIA European Rally Championship Junior Under 27.

Tomasz Kasperczyk crashed in Sete Cidades, blocking the stage and leading to its suspension. Llarena’s Team Rallye Spain Peugeot 208 R2 was last to encounter Kasperczyk’s stranded car, losing several minutes.

Llarena’s time had originally been adjusted down slightly, based upon his first pass through the same Sete Cidades test. However, he had struggled through SS6 earlier with a puncture, dropping over a minute to his ERC Junior U27 rivals.

Having re-examined Llarena’s first pass through Sete Cidades and accounted for his earlier issues through the same stage, officials elected to adjust his time down once more, awarding him an identical result to ERC Junior U27 leader Mārtiņš Sesks, 18m22.1s.

Dávid Botka, José Pedro Fontes, Ricardo Teodósio, Carlos Vieira, Orhan Avcioğlu and Tamara Molinaro all benefited from a second round of adjustments, being given Marijan Griebel’s representative time of 17m30.3s. In Molinaro’s case, over a minute was handed back, having previously been given a time of 18m44.8s.

Dominic Broz, Catie Munnings, Luis Pimentel, and Menderes Okur were also handed further adjustments to their SS9 times, having been caught up in a separate blockage involving Miguel Correia's stranded Renault Clio R3.

Lukyanuk extends ERC Azores lead despite spin

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 16:06

Alexey Lukyanuk continues to edge ahead out front in Azores Airlines Rallye, moving closer to victory in the FIA European Rally Championship’s season opener despite a spin.

Drama befell many drivers through SS10, including a long stoppage for a crash early in Tronqueira by Frank Tore Larsen. He went nose-first into a tree, blocking the stage and causing a near hour-long suspension of competitive action.

After Larsen’s stricken Ford Fiesta R5 was cleared, issues struck almost every front-running car. Lukyanuk complained of a soft brake pedal caused by a leaking caliper, dropping 10 seconds with a spin yet still going quickest through the 21.99 kilometre test.

Nine-time Azorean rally champion Ricardo Moura also spun after hitting a bank, lucky not to sustain any major damage. He lost further time in Lukyanuk’s dust during the Grupo Marques superspecial, dropping five seconds.

Bruno Magalhães kept his car pointing forward throughout, but struggled with a broken rear differential, dropping 20.5 seconds to second placed Moura across leg two’s morning loop.

ERC Junior Under 28 leader Chris Ingram did not survive Tronqueira without drama either, sustaining a left rear puncture to his Toksport WRT-prepared ŠKODA Fabia R5. Ingram’s 15 second gap to Martin Koči was almost entirely wiped out, now holding fourth overall by only 2.6 seconds to ERC Junior U28 rival Koči behind.

Rhys Yates dropped down to P13 due to being stuck behind Larsen’s crashed Fiesta R5, but is expected to regain seventh place overall and fourth in ERC Junior U28, with a notional time for Tronqueira yet to be assigned to him. Fredrik Åhlin remains around one minute clear, third in ERC Junior U28 and sixth overall.

Łukasz Habaj and Norbert Herczig were two of a small number of drivers with a drama-free morning, taking advantage of clean runs to move up to seventh and eighth respectively.

Luis Rego benefitted not only from Larsen’s retirement but troubles for his fellow Portuguese rivals to keep his top 10 place, running ninth overall. Carlos Vieira had to brave unswept gravel in Graminhais as first car out, his car crabbing throughout leg two’s first pair of stages with suspension damage. Losing over four minutes, his chances of ERC points are now gone.

Bernardo Sousa was also caught out by the same leg-opening stage, sustaining front left damage after clipping a bank inside a corner. Oil temperatures rising aboard his Citroën DS3 R5 after stage end, he was forced to retire thereafter.

Diogo Gago used his local knowledge to devastating effect, snatching first place in ERC Junior Under 27 from long-time leader Mārtiņš Sesks. He immediately set to work, gaining 19.7 seconds in leg two’s opening test to establish a 9.3 second lead.

Simon Wagner and Efrén Llarena continued to hold station in third and fourth place for both ERC Junior U27 and ERC3 standings. while Ruben Rodrigues completes ERC3’s top five and Dominik Brož rounds out ERC Under 27’s top five.

Further twists and turns in ERC2’s lead battle came courtesy of Sergei Remennik, who spun out and became stuck between two rocks midway through Tronqueira. This allowed Juan Carlos Alonso to gain nearly a minute, sending him into first place after an amazing comeback drive from losing over three minutes with fuel pump failure on Thursday.

Zelindo Melegari’s rally suffered another unfortunate turn of luck, following up clutch failure on Friday with a broken turbo this morning. He continues to nurse his Subaru Impreza STI towards service after SS11, but is uncertain whether he will continue this afternoon.

Tronqueira ERC Azores stage delayed by Larsen incident

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 13:22

Azores Airlines Rallye’s second Saturday morning stage has been delayed by a crash for FIA European Rally Championship Under 28 competitor Frank Tore Larsen, his Ford Fiesta R5 blocking the stage.

Larsen was running as third car through the 21.99 kilometre Tronqueira stage, but ran wide and hit a bank, bouncing back into the stage at 90 degrees to the road and blocking the stage. Both Larsen and co-driver Torstein Eriksen were reported as OK following the crash.

While spectators were able to push the car far enough for Rhys Yates to squeeze through, organisers elected to suspend the stage thereafter while marshals cleared Larsen’s stricken Fiesta.

Action will resume at 11:19am local time with Fredrik Åhlin setting off. Bernardo Sousa was originally scheduled to start after Yates, but heavy damage sustained to his Citroën DS3 R5 in Saturday’s opening stage lead to his retirement after SS10.

Griebel withdraws from ERC Azores Airlines Rallye

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 11:57

Reigning FIA European Rally Championship Junior U28 title holder Marijan Griebel will not return for Azores Airlines Rallye’s final leg, electing to save budget for future events.

Griebel faced a challenging second day in the Azores, his car proving difficult to handle around the tricky gravel stages.

Dropping out of points scoring places from P8 to P17 over the course of Friday’s six stages, Griebel packed up his PEUGEOT 208 T16 last night to focus on future ERC events.

“In our current situation and position, we have no chance for championship points. Therefore, it makes no sense for us to continue to burden the already tight budget,” said Griebel in a Facebook statement.

“Thanks to the guys from the team and Stefan [Kopczyk, his co-driver], who has sacrificed a lot of time and energy for the rally, and sorry to all the fans.”

Why it was over and out for ERC Junior Kristensson

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 08:00

Tom Kristensson has spoken about his dramatic exit from the Azores Airlines Rallye, the opening event of the 2018 FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship.

Kristensson, who is stepping up to ERC Junior as his prize for winning the ADAC Opel Rallye Cup in Germany last season, had just clocked the fastest time through Friday’s opening Pico da Pedra Golfe stage when disaster struck.

“It started really good and we get a good pace,” the Swede explained. “At the end of the stage [four] the corner was tightening a bit too much and the car don’t steer in as I was expecting. It hit the stone in the right side at the end of the corner and there was nothing I could do. It was just turning over. It’s my first roll over in 200 rallies but sometimes it happens, it happens now and it’s rallying.”

Kristensson confirmed he will be unable to restart on today’s closing leg after checks confirmed his ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team ADAM R2 was beyond immediate repair.

“The car is too damaged, it was rolling two times on the road and the hit at the beginning was too hard so it’s just not possible to do. We are just looking forward to the next rally in Gran Canaria. That’s the only thing we can do now.”

Vieira starts first, 11 crews returning for ERC Azores leg two

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 06:00

Carlos Vieira will lead the FIA European Rally Championship field into Azores Airlines Rallye’s final day of action, running as first car on leg two’s six stages aboard his Team Hyundai Portugal i20 R5 later today.

As first into a pair of stages yet to feature in this year's rally itinerary, reigning Portuguese rally champion Vieira faces a day of road sweeping, while rally leader Alexey Lukyanuk benefits from a cleaner path swept by those ahead restarting P10.

Frank Tore Larsen finished where he started on Friday in ninth place, so once again contributes to sweeping the dusty gravel stages as second car on the road, with Rhys Yates and Bernardo Sousa following soon thereafter.

Gravel sweeping won’t be a big concern for ERC2 and ERC3 drivers, the latter headed by Mārtiņš Sesks setting off P23 and the former lead away eight minutes later by Sergei Remennik.

There are 11 crews which retired from the first leg looking to restart today, though all are still subject to checks before being allowed to resume. 10 must pass re-scrutineering, while Emma Falcón will undergo a medical evaluation after hurting her back on Friday.

Hermann Neubauer and Albert von Thurn und Taxis will not attempt to restart leg two, as both their cars suffered terminal damage to their body shell and rollcage respectively.

Sesks reinstated to Azores ERC Junior U27 lead

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 01:07

Mārtiņš Sesks has regained first place in the FIA European Rally Championship’s Under 27 category on Azores Airlines Rallye, following adjustments to stage times awarded in SS8 and SS9 related to incidents causing delays for multiple drivers.

Sesks was flagged down to a stop by marshals midway through the second pass of Feteiras Meo due to an accident for Joaquim Alves, whose Ford Fiesta R5 ended up in a dangerous position on the road.

Initial time loss from the stoppage put ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team’s sole remaining driver behind Portuguese privateer Diogo Gago in both ERC Junior U27 and ERC3, but the adjustment now gives Sesks a 16.1 second lead in both categories heading to leg two.

Sesks was not the only driver to benefit from time adjustments, as 13 other crews were compensated for three separate stoppages across Friday’s final pair of stages.

Tamara Molinaro and Efrén Llarena were handed two notional times apiece, having been caught up both by Alves’ incident and also a stoppage in Sete Cidades’ second pass. Tomasz Kasperczyk rolled his Tiger Energy Drink Rallye Team Ford Fiesta R5, blocking their path entirely and leading to adjustments for seven drivers.

Miguel Correia’s gearbox packed in at a less than opportune moment, his stricken car blocking the same stage minutes after Kasperczyk’s car had cleared the finish. Only five cars were still to set a stage time, and all were awarded notional times.

LUKYANUK HOLDS ERC LEAD AS BATTLES RAGE BEHIND IN AZORES

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 22:33

The Azores Airlines Rallye once again showed why it is such a formidable opening round of the FIA European Rally Championship, but as others hit trouble, Russian Performance Motorsport’s Alexey Lukyanuk held steady out front.

Von Thurn und Taxis return unlikely for ERC Azores second leg

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 22:29

Albert von Thurn und Taxis is not expected to return for the FIA European Rally Championship’s opening round's second leg at Azores Airlines Rallye, having retired mid-Friday from a roll during the tricky Sete Cidades stage.

Von Thurn und Taxis was caught out in the difficult, foggy conditions, rolling his BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Team-prepared ŠKODA Fabia R5 at slow speed.

Though he was able to continue to the finish of SS6, von Thurn und Taxis would not be allowed to proceed further due to damage sustained to the rollcage.

“After a little roll on SS6 we were able to continue without much ado. Sadly the scrutineers identified slight damage to the roll-cage, excluding us from the event,” said von Thurn und Taxis on Instagram.

“Thanks to BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing for an amazing job. [We’re] happy with our improvements so far and already looking forward to Rally Islas Canarias next month!”

BRR Baumschlager packed up the damaged Fabia thereafter, with such rollcage damage effectively impossible to repair in time for a second leg return on Saturday.

ERC Ladies: Molinaro leads in Azores, Falcón retires in pain

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 22:00

Tamara Molinaro continues to head the ERC Ladies' Trophy category on the Azores Airlines Rallye, while Emma Falcón retired with back pain before midday service.

Emma Falcón was forced to abandon halfway through Friday’s action, after hurting her back landing from a jump during the notorious Sete Cidades test. Running out of breath mid-stage, she crawled slowly to the finish before retiring her Citroën DS3 RT.

Despite the painful end to her day, Falcón intends to restart in Saturday’s second leg, so long as she attains the required medical clearance.

Molinaro’s day was not an entirely smooth endeavour, instructed to stop in SS8 by marshals mid-stage due to Joaquim Alves’ crashed car. A mix of the delay and lost concentration led to over a minute lost to her R5 competitors.

Saintéloc Junior Team’s Catie Munnings lost her front bumper mid-stage in Feteiras Meo, though no time was lost and she remains second in ERC Ladies, five minutes behind Molinaro.

ERC2: Brief lead slips from Melegari’s clutches

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 21:38

Sergei Remennik has resumed his lead of Azores Airlines Rallye’s FIA European Rally Championship ERC2 category, following an unfortunate retirement for nearest challenger Zelindo Melegari with clutch failure.

Melegari had initially taken advantage of a puncture for Remennik in the notoriously challenging Sete Cidades stage to snatch first place.

“We just get a hit and after that, I felt the tyre was flat. It sometimes happens. We also lost our right-rear light,” explained Remennik.

“In the volcano stage it’s completely foggy and you can’t see anything. The only way to go is to listen to my co-driver. I try and it works. But not perfect.”

Remennik quickly moved back to first after Melegari was forced to nurse a broken clutch through SS7 and SS8. His Subaru Impreza STI would go no further, forced to retire and handing second to Juan Carlos Alonso.

Despite his closest rival retiring, Remennik was still looking behind him, wary of the threat posted by the rapid Alonso.

“We have our gap in front of Mr Alonso, but it looks like when everything is okay he is faster, a bit less than one second per kilometre,” said Remennik.

“We have about 60 seconds in front of him and [if] everything goes well for him, he will overtake us on the last stages. But we will see. It’s a big distance tomorrow and maybe we will try to go faster but I am not completely sure.

“I feel confident at such speed but sometimes the car stops us or other things happen.”

Menderes Okur completes the podium, unable to keep up with Alonso’s searing pace, and is quickly falling into the clutches of Luís Pimentel behind, who continues to recover from a broken turbo yesterday.

ERC Junior U27: Diogo beats Goliath in Azores Friday stages

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 21:36

Diogo Gago took on the might of ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team’s pair of FIA European Rally Championship Junior Under 27 factory drivers in Azores Airlines Rallye's Friday stages and succeeded aboard his PEUGEOT 208 R2, moving from third to first over the course of a dramatic multi-way battle.

Tom Kristensson made his first and final move in Friday’s opening stage, going fastest by 0.2 seconds from Gago. However, he went wide into a wall crossing the finish line, causing significant damage to his Opel Adam R2 and forcing his immediate retirement.

Kristensson’s team-mate and previous category leader Mārtiņš Sesks picked up a front right puncture and panel damage in the day’s penultimate stage, and Efrén Llarena also dropped over one minute from a puncture in the notorious Sete Cidades test.

“We had a puncture in SS8 before Kasperczyk’s car. It was a sharp left-hander, a big rut and a big hit,” said Sesks.

Gago’s charge to first was not without drama however, encountering a moment of his own in the morning pass of the same stage that caused Llarena’s puncture.

“On the first loop of Sete Cidades there was a bit of fog at the top of the stage. In one crest I slide a bit and touch with the left rear side but nothing happened, just touched and kept going,” explained Gago.

Sainteloc Junior Team driver Simon Wagner took advantage of others misfortune to move into third in both ERC Under 27 and ERC3. Llarena dropped to fourth in ERC Under 27 after his issue, though is only fifth in ERC3 behind fellow PEUGEOT 208 R2 pilot Ruben Rodrigues.

Dominik Brož and Catie Munnings complete ERC Under 27 in fifth and sixth, Brož one of many to suffer punctures and Munnings losing her front bumper in Feteiras Meo’s second pass.

ERC Junior U28: Ingram and Koči locked in close Azores battle

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 21:08

Chris Ingram and Martin Koči traded places throughout Friday’s Azores Airlines Rallye stages in a tight battle for ERC Junior Under 28 victory.

A quick time through Sete Cidades’ first pass by Toksport WRT driver Ingram sent him ahead of Koči initially, but a tyre saving strategy early in the afternoon loop dropped him back to behind his ŠKODA Slovakia Motorsport rival.

Ingram’s strategy paid dividends later however, retaking first place and establishing an 11.9 second lead over Koči, and holds 53.9 seconds in hand over third place.

Fredrik Åhlin continues to hold third despite hitting a bank during the treacherous 23.8 kilometre Sete Cidades test, while fourth placed Rhys Yates suffered a spin in the same stage only moments later.

Yates’ mistake was down in part to lost concentration from overtaking an ailing Fabian Kreim, who was nursing his BRR Baumschlager-prepared ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland Fabia R5 to stage end with a puncture. Kreim would end the day seventh, 3m48.7s behind Ingram.

Ahead in fifth, Frank Tore Larsen took his time to learn the stages, having missed out on Friday’s itinerary during his last appearance here in 2016. Luis Rego struggled with power steering issues at multiple points on Friday, ending two minutes off the pace in sixth.

Tomasz Kasperczyk started Friday’s final stage ahead of Kreim, but finished it last in ERC Under 28, rolling his Ford Fiesta R5 and blocking the stage. Thanks to drivers behind his car was pushed back onto its wheels, Kasperczyk limping his car to the finish line.

ERC Azores action erupts around iconic volcano stage

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 20:24

Azores Airlines Rallye once again showed why it is such a formidable opening round for the FIA European Rally Championship, but as others hit trouble, Russian Performance Motorsport’s Alexey Lukyanuk held steady out front.

Not even a heard of cows blocking the road in Friday afternoon’s iconic Sete Cidades ‘volcano’ stage could stop Lukyanuk from continuing to lead, taking advantage of a Ricardo Moura puncture this morning to extend his gap to 21.8 seconds ahead.

Sete Cidades was the setting for many dramatic moments, especially in the final pass where a roll for Tiger Energy Drink Rallye Team’s Tomasz Kasperczyk and a gearbox problem for Miguel Correira blocked and stopped the stage twice in quick succession.

Friday’s podium places were completed by Moura’s compatriot Bruno Magalhăes, who charged back up the order to third after a difficult trio of morning stages struggling with the balance of his ŠKODA Fabia R5.

A battle for ERC Junior U28 honours raged on immediately behind Magalhăes, as Chris Ingram and Martin Koči traded places throughout the day. A quick time through Sete Cidades’ first pass put him up to third initially, but after tyre saving dropped him back to fifth early in the afternoon loop, he finished the day fourth overall, 11.9 seconds ahead of Koči.

Fredrik Åhlin made it three ERC Junior U28s in the top six, holding 2010 Portuguese rally champion Bernardo Sousa at bay despite clattering a bank in Sete Cidades’ first run.

Rhys Yates fended off a challenge from a quartet of local drivers to hold eighth overall, but admitted a loss of concentration when passing Fabian Kriem – who was struggling with a puncture - caused a brief spin in Sete Cidades. He sits fourth in ERC Junior U28, with a slim 3.2 second gap over his nearest category and overall challenger, Frank Tore Larsen.

Larsen turned in a great performance to stay ahead of the same quartet of locals as Yates in ninth overall and fifth in ERC Junior U28, despite his road sweeping position and an early Thursday retirement from this event in 2016 meaning he had no experience of today’s stages.

Carlos Vieira completed the top 10, but was not helped by a broken anti-lag system during SS4. Luis Rego yo-yoed between 8th and 14th, settling down in 11th by day’s end with power steering issues. Ricardo Teodósio, José Pedro Fontes, Dávid Botka Łukasz Habaj completed the top 15 drivers.

ERC Junior Under 27: Gago takes on Opel might
Diogo Gago took on the might of ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team’s pair of factory drivers and succeeded aboard his PEUGEOT 208 R2, moving from third to first over the course of a dramatic multi-way battle.

Tom Kristensson made his first and final move in Friday’s opening stage, going fastest by 0.2 seconds from Gago. However, he went wide into a wall crossing the finish line, causing significant damage to his Opel Adam R2 and forcing his immediate retirement.

Kristensson’s team-mate and previous category leader Mārtiņš Sesks picked up a front right puncture and panel damage in the day’s penultimate stage, and Efrén Llarena also dropped over one minute from a puncture in the notorious Sete Cidades test.

Sainteloc Junior Team driver Simon Wagner took advantage of others misfortune to move into third in both ERC Junior U27 and ERC3. Llarena dropped to fourth in ERC Junior U27 after his issue, though is only fifth in ERC3 behind fellow PEUGEOT 208 R2 pilot Ruben Rodrigues.

Dominik Brož and Catie Munnings complete ERC Junior U27 in fifth and sixth, Brož one of many to suffer punctures and Munnings losing her front bumper in Feteiras Meo’s second pass.

ERC2: Melegari’s brief lead slips away with clutch issue
Zelindo Melegari had taken advantage of a puncture for chief rival Sergei Remennik in Sete Cidades to snatch first place, but his new found lead would last only one stage.

Remennik quickly moved back to first after Melegari was forced to nurse a broken clutch through SS7 and SS8. His Subaru Impreza STI would go no further, forced to retire and handing second to Juan Carlos Alonso.

Menderes Okur completes the podium, unable to keep up with Alonso’s searing pace, and is quickly falling into the clutches of Luís Pimentel behind, who continues to recover from a broken turbo yesterday.

What’s next?
Azores Airlines Rallye’s final leg consists of six stages covering 107.57 kilometres of competitive action, getting underway at 09:38am local time with the Graminhas stage. You can keep up with all the ERC’s final day action with our live timing and results.

LEG ONE, DAY TWO HIGHLIGHTS ON EUROSPORT AND EUROSPORT PLAYER. CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS.

Final Friday ERC Azores stage delayed by Kasperczyk crash

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 19:00

Friday’s final stage of Azores Airlines Rallye was delayed by a Tomasz Kasperczyk crash, his Tiger Energy Drink Rallye Team-prepared Ford Fiesta R5 temporarily blocking the Sete Cidades stage.

Kasperczyk rolled his car in a secluded point of Sete Cidades, and with no spectators nearby to help, it took his fellow drivers helping to push his upside-down car back on its wheels to unblock the road.

“I’m very sorry for the guys behind me because I blocked the road,” explained Kasperczyk at stage end.

“I lost the line and went out a bit too wide. I hit something but I don’t know what. We damaged the car a little bit, but the crew is OK. The car is working ok so we’ll go to the service, and then fight to the end. I’m angry with the mistake.”

10 drivers found themselves delayed or stuck behind Kasperczyk and will be awarded notional times by Azores Airlines Rallye organisers. Friday’s final stage will resume now Kasperczyk’s stricken car has been cleared, with ERC Junior U27 leader Mārtiņš Sesks resuming competitive action.

Lukyanuk ends ERC Azores day two with healthy lead

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 18:34

Alexey Lukyanuk further extended his Azores Airlines Rallye lead despite a close call with a herd of cows in Friday’s final stage of the FIA European Rally Championship’s season-opener.

Lukyanuk edged further ahead of nearest rival Ricardo Moura, taking a cautious approach to keep the car in one piece. Moura was similarly conservative after picking up a puncture during the morning loop, keen not to repeat his misfortune.

Three-time Portuguese rally champion Bruno Magalhães worked his way past ERC Junior U28 lead pair Martin Koči and Chris Ingram for third, but time he lost to Lukyanuk while unhappy with the balance of his car this morning put him 32.4  seconds away from first place by day’s end.

Third placed ERC Junior U28 competitor Fredrik Åhlin was left to rue his tyre choice, dropping 26.9 seconds in the Sete Cidades afternoon re-run to stage winner Magalhães. He managed to hold nearest rival at bay however, Bernardo Sousa taking the same stage easy to avoid risking punctures which had caught out many other drivers.

Rhys Yates, currently fourth in ERC Junior U28, remains in a hotly contested battle for the remaining top 10 places, fighting with local drivers Carlos Vieira, Ricardo Teodósio and Luis Rego. However, power steering issues dropped Rego to the rear of said battle, allowing Frank Tore Larsen to pick up fifth in ERC Junior U28.

Lukasz Habaj suffered a difficult day first in the road order, slowed by loose gravel in the morning loop followed by a puncture in Feteiras 2 and hitting a wall in the second pass of Sete Cidades, causing his engine to cut out momentarily. His various dramas dropped him well out of reach from the top 10.

ERC2: Melegari snatches lead, Alonso gains third in ERC Azores

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 16:01

Zelindo Melegari took advantage of a puncture for chief rival Sergei Remennik to lead the FIA European Rally Championship’s ERC2 support category on Azores Airlines Rallye, while a recovering Juan Carlos Alonso has stormed back to the podium after technical issues on Thursday.

Previous leader Sergei Remennik held a steady 32 second advantage over the chasing pack, but a puncture early in Feteiras Meo’s 7.46 kilometres dropped him into the clutches of Melegari.

Russian Performance Motorsport’s ERC2 contender then lost another 7.5 seconds through the picturesque Sete Cidades stage, allowing Melegari to snatch first place.

Both were outclassed in Sete Cidades’ dramatic volcano setting by Juan Carlos Alonso, who had led early on Thursday until a fuel pump failure. He set fastest time in all three Friday morning stages, climbing to third place.

His recovery drive was aided by Menderes Okur dropping over two minutes in Sete Cidades, which allowed Luís Pimentel to narrow his gap to the Toksport WRT driver to within 1m10s.

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ORLEN 74 Rally Poland / Rajd Polski

ORLEN 74 Rajd Polski

Kalendarz 2018

22-24 marca:

Azores Airlines Rallye (Portugalia)

03-05 maja:

Rally Islas Canarias (Hiszpania)

01-03 czerwca:

Acropolis Rally (Grecja)

15-17 czerwca:

Cyprus Rally (Cypr)

20-22 lipca:

Rally di Roma Capitale (Włochy)

24-26 sierpnia:

Barum Czech Rally Zlín (Czechy)

21-23 września:

Rajd Polski

12-14 października:

Rally Liepaja (Łotwa)