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European Rally Championship
Updated: 16 min 32 sec ago

Why it was over and out for ERC Junior Kristensson

2 hours 57 min ago

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

4 hours 57 min ago

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

9 hours 50 min ago

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.

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.


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.

Lukyanuk storms ahead in ERC Azores as rivals falter

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 15:11

Alexey Lukyanuk has strengthened his grip on first place at Azores Airlines Rallye, taking advantage of a puncture for chief rival Ricardo Moura and FIA European Rally Championship Junior U28 contender Martin Koči dropping back.

Russian Performance Motorsport’s lead driver Lukyanuk won two stages during Friday’s morning loop, even gaining 10 seconds over the chasing pack in the famous Sete Cidades ‘volcano’ stage, despite colliding with a bank in difficult conditions.

"In the fog, it was tricky. I touched the walls twice. We could have damaged some of the geometry or something in the suspension. It wasn't a big hit, but still unpleasant,” explained Lukyanuk.

Moura was engaged in a close battle for first until the Feteiras Meo test, picking up a puncture and losing over 13 seconds to Lukyanuk. However, a strong run through the loop-ending Sete Cidades test ensured Moura would hold a 20 second advantage in second place.

Reigning ERC Junior U27 champion Chris Ingram stormed to first in ERC Junior U28 and third place overall, rising from sixth place with a string of impressive stage times in his four-wheel-drive debut. This relegated previous ERC Junior U28 leader Martin Koči to fourth overall by a mere 0.1 seconds, with Bruno Magalhães lying in wait 1.7 seconds behind Ingram in fifth.

Bernardo Sousa was demoted to seventh by the charging ERC Junior U28 pair of Ingram and Fredrik Åhlin, the latter moving to sixth, while good stage times by Luis Rego and José Pedro Fontes in Sete Cidades moved both into eighth and tenth respectively. Rhys Yates dropped to ninth after a spin in the same stage.

Behind Yates, Frank Tore Larsen fell back to fourth in ERC Under 28, with Marijan Griebel completing the top five in class.

Hubert Ptaszek did not start today’s stages, after a mix-up at Thursday evening’s service meant he and co-driver Maciej Szczepaniak failed to check-in at a time control, leading to their exclusion.

Sergei Remennik’s comfortable lead evaporated by the end of Friday’s second test, a front right puncture allowing chief rival Zelindo Melegari to close in and reduce the gap to a mere 3.9 seconds.

Menderes Okur is engaged in a close battle for third with Juan Carlos Alonso, who had led ERC2 until a fuel pump failure in Friday’s final stage. A mere 0.4 seconds separated the pair after SS5. Luis Pimentel continues to hold fifth.

Mārtiņš Sesks has raced away at the head of ERC Under 27, going over a minute quicker than nearest rival Efrén Llarena in the loop-ending Sete Cidades test to establish a 1m13.3s lead.

Sesks’ ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team team-mate Tom Kristensson suffered a dramatic end to his rally, winning stage four whilst rolling over crossing the finish line. Damage sustained to his Opel Adam R2 was significant enough to force his immediate retirement.

Friday’s second test, Feteiras Meo, was a difficult stage for the ERC3 and ERC Under 27 competitors, with punctures for Dominik Brož and Gil Antunes. Catie Munnings also ripped the front bumper from her Sainteloc Junior Team PEUGEOT 208 R2, but with minimal time loss.

Moura sustains puncture in second Friday ERC stage

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 13:49

An exciting Azores Airlines Rallye lead battle has taken a sudden twist in the FIA European Rally Championship’s second Friday morning stage, after a puncture for second placed Ricardo Moura.

Nine-time Azorean champion Moura was locked in an intense battle for first place with rally leader Alexey Lukyanuk and ERC Junior U28 leader Martin Koči, but a puncture picked up midway through Feteiras Meo’s morning pass has set him back over 13 seconds.

“I didn’t feel anything special. We did half the stage with the puncture at the front,” explained Moura at stage end.

“We were going to make a super time here. We were pushing like hell. With the puncture, it’s a lot of time [we’ve lost].”

Despite his puncture, Moura still went 0.9 seconds quicker through the 7.46 kilometre rest than nearest rival Koči, so continues to hold second place heading into the morning loop’s final stage, Sete Cidades.

Neubauer withdraws from ERC Azores with major car damage

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 12:25

Hermann Neubauer’s return to the FIA European Rally Championship has ended in disappointment, being forced to retire from the Azores Airlines Rallye after a heavy accident in yesterday’s Vila Franca / São Brás stage.

Thursday’s tricky 17 kilometre stage caught out several drivers, with Neubauer the first thanks to his position as third in the road order. He crashed within 500 metres of the finish line, and while both he and co-driver Bernhard Ettel were uninjured, his Ford Fiesta R5 sustained significant enough body damage for stewards to exclude them from restarting in leg two.

Neubauer explained that he had been driving conservatively throughout the stage, and incorrect pace-notes were to blame for the incident.

“It was not a driving mistake, we were really smooth and easy on the road, far away from the absolute limit,” said Neubauer.

“But then there came this slight crest and I noticed immediately [making the corner] wouldn’t work. Usually you would write there 'brake' or 'brake early', but we did not have that in writing.

“I remember the place exactly [from the recce]. A farmer came to meet us on the tractor, then we were in traffic; with those distractions you can make a tiny mistake in the notes which has big consequences.

“That was unfortunately the case. The ERC is a different level. However, that does not remove my own responsibility [for what happened].”

Despite the early exit and damage incurred to his Fiesta R5, Neubauer was already focused on his return to ERC action.

“I’m sorry for the team, who worked so hard. We’ll look forward and fix it for next time at Rally Islas Canarias.”

Habaj first to start in second day of ERC Azores

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 06:00

Łukasz Habaj will embark on Azores Airlines Rallye’s Friday stages first on the road, resuming from P10 in the FIA European Rally Championship’s opening round of 2018.

Today’s first 10 runners are set by a reversed classification from Thursday’s overall top 10, leaving Habaj to tackle 76.56 kilometres of dusty gravel roads as road sweeper, thanks in part to engine issues that affected his car during the opening loop.

Starting immediately behind Habaj are Frank Tore Larsen and last year’s ERC Junior U28 champion Marijan Griebel, followed by ERC debutant Fredrik Åhlin and last year’s championship runner-up Bruno Magalhães.

Rally leader Alexey Lukyanuk resumes his challenge from P10 in the running order, two minutes after his nearest competitor, nine-time Azorean rally champion Ricardo Moura, enters today’s stages.

ERC Junior U27 holds potential for an exciting quick-fire battle, as first and second placed Mārtiņš Sesks and Efrén Llarena line-up two minutes apart, P2 and P1 in their class’ running order respectively.

Juan Carlos Alonso, who lost a well-earned ERC2 lead following a fuel pump failure on Thursday, kicks off his category’s battle almost a quarter of an hour before Sergei Remennik begins defending his 32 second lead over Zelindo Melegari.

Notably absent from the starting order are Pierre-Louis Loubet and Laurent Pellier, both of whom retired from technical issues on Thursday. As today’s stages are a continuation of leg one from Thursday, both must wait until Saturday’s second leg to restart.

This morning’s first stage, Pico da Pedra Golfe, is scheduled to begin at 10:28am local time with Habaj’s start-line departure.

Lukyanuk edges Moura for ERC Azores lead despite off

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 20:20

Alexey Lukyanuk has taken a narrow lead in FIA European Rally Championship’s opening round, edging out Qualifying Stage winner Ricardo Moura despite running wide into a field during a chaotic second stage.

Vila Franca / São Brás caught out a swathe of drivers including Lukyanuk, yet incredibly Russian Performance Motorsport’s lead driver also went fastest through the 17 kilometre test, even after an overshoot into a field caused by taking too much speed over a jump.

They were joined in the lead battle by ERC Junior U28 leader Martin Koči. Taking a cautious approach in the opening Lagoa Stage to save tyres, Koči charged through the tricky Vila Franca / São Brás test third quickest, joining Lukyanuk and Moura in taking advantage of his road position for a cleaner stage surface.

Three-time Azores Airlines Rallye winner Bruno Magalhães heads a close battle over fourth place, having lost over ten seconds during the Vila Franca / São Brás test to fall away from the leaders.

His compatriot Bernardo Sousa finished Thursday’s trio of stages 1.4 seconds behind Magalhães, holding an extremely thin 0.4 second advantage over second placed ERC Junior U28 competitor Chris Ingram.

Ingram suffered a hairy moment in the second stage, losing the rear bumper of his Toksport WRT ŠKODA Fabia R5 after clipping a tree, but was still fourth quickest through Vila Franca / São Brás regardless.

Frederik Åhlin finished the opening trio of stages 0.3 seconds behind Ingram to hold third place in ERC Junior U28 and seventh overall, but suffered a worrying end to his day with an oil pressure warning light flashing on his ŠKODA Fabia R5.

Double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel, Frank Tore Larsen and ŠKODA Auto Deutschland driver Fabian Kreim completed the top 10 overall, the latter pair also completing the ERC Under 28 top five.

Vila Franca / São Brás claimed many victims, through a mixture of accidents and mechanical failures. Hermann Neubauer crashed out towards the end of the test in the slippery conditions, while Pierre-Louis Loubet retired his OSCARO-backed car with a technical problem midway through the stage. Laurent Pellier reached the end of the same stage, but then retired in the following road section with an electrical problem.

Sergei Remennik inherited a 32.1 second lead in ERC2 after dominant leader Juan Carlos Alonso suffered a fuel pump failure in the final 3.95 kilometre Grupo Marques superspecial.

Alonso turned in a superb performance through the tricky Vila Franca / São Brás stage to put almost 20 seconds between himself and Remennik, only to stall at the Group Marques startline and drop almost four minutes trying to restart his Mistubishi Lancer Evo X.

Regular ERC2 frontrunner Tibor Érdi Jr. retired after the first stage with broken front right suspension, despite Érdi suggesting he had not made contact with anything mid-stage.

Menderes Okur and Luís Pimentel run third and fourth, the latter suffering a broken turbo. Alonso completes the top five after his fuel pump issues.

Mārtiņš Sesks made an ideal start to his ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team debut, moving into first place in both ERC Junior U27 and ERC3 during Thursday’s final stage.

Efrén Llarena initially led the ERC Junior U27s, aided by a class stage win in the longest 17 kilometre Vila Franca / São Brás test, but dropped several seconds in the day’s final superspecial and dropped to second place. Diogo Gago, Tom Kristensson and Simon Wagner completed the top five in both ERC Junior U27 and ERC3.

Several drivers were caught out by the tricky second stage. Pedro Antunes had been running second in ERC Junior U27 but was forced to stop mid-stage, as was Miika Hokkanen with an engine failure. Dominik Brož suffered a puncture after hitting a stone, dropping to sixth in ERC Junior U27 and ninth in ERC3.

Three ERC drivers retire during opening pair of Azores stages

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 18:35

A trio of drivers have retired from Azores Airlines Rallye after less than 20 kilometres of the FIA European Rally Championship's opening round.

Tibor Érdi Jr. made it no further than Lagoa Stage’s opening 2.14 kilometres, shearing the front right wheel from his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. A bemused Érdi could not explain what had happened, commenting that he “hadn’t touched anything” during the short superspecial.

Most of Thursday’s mileage comes from the first pass of Vila Franca / São Brás, its 17.08 kilometres proving treacherous for many competitors.

Herman Neubauer was first to be caught out by tricky conditions, as light rain began to fall. Running third on the road, he crashed late in the stage, but thankfully he and co-driver Bernhard Ettel were reported as OK following the incident.

Pierre-Louis Loubet was scheduled to be next car through after Neubauer, but he too failed to reach the finish line, his OSCARO-backed BRC Racing Team Hyundai i20 R5 suffering a technical issue midway through the test.

Other big names came close to being caught out by the challenging second stage. Reigning ERC Junior U27 champion Chris Ingram nearly sent his Toksport WRT ŠKODA Fabia R5 into a tree, while Alexey Lukyanuk lost time from going off into a field.

They said what? ERC drivers look ahead to Azores Airlines Rallye

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 15:00

Marijan Griebel, Chris Ingram, Fabian Kreim, Tom Kristensson, Bruno Magalhães, Catie Munnings, Laurent Pellier attended the pre-event conference for the opening round of the FIA European Rally Championship, the Azores Airlines Rallye. This is what they had to say.

Let’s begin with the 2017 Azores winner and last season’s vice champion Bruno Magalhaes from Portugal. Bruno, welcome and great to have you back. Fully recovered after your crash in Latvia and ready to go?

I am fine now. I broke two vertebrae when I crashed in Latvia but everything is okay and I am happy what I have done this morning because the time was good and it’s good to get again the best confidence behind the wheel so I think I did a good job.

You’re a three-time winner here. What do you need to do to thrive and survive?

This rally is very specific as you know. It’s very narrow, slippery in some parts so normally you fight second by second and you don’t have big gaps in the stages. But it’s very easy to puncture here because the road is very narrow and it’s very easy to make a mistake, especially the downhill parts. So you need to be very consistent and fast of course.

Let’s turn next the double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel from Germany. Having achieved so much success, how much pressure are you under and what do you have to prove?

To be honest I don’t feel too much pressure this year because the last two years were really good with back-to-back titles in ERC Junior. I think I’ve proved to everybody I can drive really fast and achieve good results. This year is a new experience with the PEUGEOT 208 T16 but I am really looking forward to this race and the races to come.

And tell us a bit about your new car and your programme for 2018?

To be honest the preparation was not so much. We tested first on Monday in the the test and this was my first ever time on gravel in the car so today is the second one. But I am feeling quite happy with the car. the driving the placement of the car was everything quite satisfying for me and I am quite optimistic we can do a good performance this year on the Azores Airlines Rallye. For the rest of the season we will see. I have a really good programme with PEUGEOT Germany for the German championship so I can do a lot of rallies in this car, develop my own skills and my driving style. I am optimistic this season can also be quite good.

Turning next to Chris Ingram from Great Britain, the 2017 ERC Junior Under 27 champion, a massive opportunity for you?

It’s massive. I’ve been working towards getting in a top-spec car ever since I was in a pram. It’s just incredible to finally have the chance. It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of money to find to do it but I have finally managed to take the step and it’s the perfect place to make my debut.

It’s a rally you know well but how hard is it?

Definitely one of the toughest but I’ve got a good record. I won the ERC Juniors twice and finished second twice. If I can translate that to a four-wheel-drive car it will go well but the difference is massive so I need to keep it on the road definitely.

Now from a driver who knows this rally to a driver that’s competing here for the first time, from Germany and representing ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland, it’s Fabian Kreim. Fabian, the German champion, tell us about your recent gravel experience?

I drove the APRC in 2016 and I got a lot of experience there and now it’s my first full season in the ERC so I will try to get more experience on gravel. For sure my favourite surface is Tarmac but now we are here we will try to stay on the road.

Now a German driver won the ERC Junior U28 title in 2017. What do you have to do to repeat that achievement?

I try it, for sure. My last rally on gravel was in December in 2016 in India so that was a long time ago.

Turning next to Laurent Pellier from France it’s a new car and a new rally for you, what’s your plan for this weekend and the season ahead?

All is new for us so we need to discover our car, the PEUGEOT 208 T16. We are already happy to be here but before QS we didn’t know our speed. Now we just want to go at the end of the rally and we will see.

Tell us about the PEUGEOT Rally Academy and the help they give you?

For sure we are in very good conditions and have the experience of the PEUGEOT Rally Academy behind us so all is good for us.

Coming to Tom Kristensson from Sweden of the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team. You’ve spoken about your dreams coming true with this chance, just explain how important it is for you?

It’s actually really hard to explain. It’s like a dream come true and I’m really happy to do this season with this amazing team and this amazing car. There are still some small things to improve but it’s going very well and I’m really looking forward.

Your team is unbeaten in ERC Junior for the last three seasons - is that pressure or motivation?

No, it’s just to do the job. It’s as simple as that.

And finally, coming to Catie Munnings from Great Britain, chasing success in ERC Junior Under 27 and the ERC Ladies’ Trophy. A tough start here last year but what’s the objective and the plan?

Last year here I learned a lot of lessons about keeping a lid on it and staying quite calm on a rally. It’s deinifely to be at the finish because there were a lot of accidents last year in the ERC Junior Under 27 category. That’s definitely going to be the focus for me to get the car to the end because I really need to get the kilometres under my belt because I haven’t got a lot and I crashed quite early last year. It’s important for me to develop my speed gradually and get a good feeling with Anna in the car.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen you competing so what have you been up to?

I’ve been really busy, always trying to find the money to drive like most drivers. But I’ve also been working in Sweden for a couple of months at an ice driving school. That was something completely different but I think I’ve already started to notice the skills we’ve developed out there on car control because it really transfers to gravel so I’m really excited to have a play with that this weekend.

Kreim leads the running order at ERC Azores Airlines Rallye

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 14:43

Skoda Auto Deutschland driver Fabian Kreim will lead the field away for the first two days of the FIA European Rally Championship’s opening round at Azores Airlines Rallye, picking first position on the road.

Local hero Ricardo Moura earned the right of first selection thanks to winning the earlier Qualifying Stage, and unsurprisingly chose to start in 15th place, aiming to take advantage of those ahead sweeping the gravel roads clean for him.

From there, the next 14 fastest drivers opted to start in reverse order, with second quickest Alexey Lukyanuk opting to start 14th aboard his Russian Performance Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5, behind third quickest Fredrik Åhlin 13th on the road.

Road sweeping duties therefore befall José Pedro Fontes and Hermann Neubauer, who will follow Kreim in second and third starting positions.

Azores Airlines Rally’s mascot Percy got in on the action, attempting to steal the glory of first driver running on the road for himself. Noticing the full reverse order pattern, he broke onto the stage ahead of Łukasz Habaj, though unsurprisingly wasn’t allowed to keep the place Kreim would eventually take.












ORLEN 74 Rally Poland / Rajd Polski

ORLEN 74 Rally Poland

2018 Calendar

22-24 March

Azores Airlines Rallye (Portugal)

3-5 May

Rally Islas Canarias (Spain)

1-3 June

Acropolis Rally (Greece)

15-17 June

Cyprus Rally (Cyprus)

0-22 July

Rally di Roma Capitale (Italy)

24-26 August

Barum Czech Rally Zlín (Czech Republic)

21-23 September

Rally Poland

12-14 October

Rally Liepaja (Lativa)