Lukyanuk scores hard earned ERC win

Lukyanuk scores hard earned ERC winFrom ERC Media [ 06/07/2019 ].
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*Russian Rocket's first victory of 2019 boosts European title defence *Habaj maintains championship lead with third behind Hyundai's Huttunen *MareŇ° overcomes puncture for first ERC1 Junior triumph, Torn wins ERC3 and ERC3 Junior *Alonso heads ERC2, Nucita takes Abarth Rally Cup spoils FIA European Rally Championship 2019, Round 4 of 8 PZM 76th Rally Poland leg two report: 30 June 2019

Alexey Lukyanuk is back in the hunt for a second FIA European Rally Championship title after taking his first win of 2019 on PZM 76th Rally Poland, scoring maximum points.

Taking the lead from Hyundai Motorsport N's ERC3 Junior graduate Jari Huttunen first thing on Saturday morning after stage two, Lukyanuk didn't look back, winning by 59.8s with Łukasz Habaj taking third to maintain his championship advantage, albeit by 11 points over new second place driver Lukyanuk.

After a broken damper and puncture on Saturday only caused a minor delay, another puncture occurred when Lukyanuk hit a rock on the morning pass of Gmina Mragowo.

His lead was reduced but he still remained out front and from there he was untouchable, winning the remaining stages to cement his first win of 2019 and his ninth in the ERC.

"It' a long-awaited result," Lukyanuk said. "It should come straight away from Azores, but some bad luck happened. Now it's like a revenge against fate. We still had some moments, some close moments from the car and from the road also but we survived them. I am happy we did it in style."

Huttunen's return to the European championship was equally as successful as his appearance on this event last year, repeating his second-place finish with a factory-supported Hyundai i20 R5.

Conscious that Lukyanuk was keen to get his first win of 2019 on the board, Huttunen played it safe and made sure he secured second place to continue the ERC3 Junior graduate's 100 per cent podium rate in the ERC since moving up to the faster four-wheel-drive category.

Championship leader Habaj (Sports Racing Technologies) added another podium to his impressive 2019 trophy cabinet, limiting his points loss to Lukyanuk to ensure he would leave his home country still top of the ERC standings, 11 points ahead of Lukyanuk.

Habaj overhauled ERC1 Junior star Miko Marczyk (ŠKODA Polska Motorsport) for fourth place early on Sunday morning and then took third when Filip Mareš (ACCR Czech Rally Team) picked up a right-rear puncture on stage 12.

Despite losing nearly a minute, Mareš still secured victory in the ERC1 Junior category and fourth place overall, putting him into class title contention as Chris Ingram (Toksport WRT) retired on the road section between SS13 and SS14 with a water leak.

Aron Domżała (TGS Worldwide) scored his first ERC top five finish aboard his ŠKODA Fabia R5. The cross-country regular had been battling Habaj earlier on but fell back during leg two. Co-driven by three-time ERC champion Jarek Baran, Domżała was able to drive to the finish without drama when nearest rival Hiroki Arai (Team STARD) rolled out of the rally on the morning pass of Uzranki.

Tomasz Kasperczyk (Tiger Energy Drink Rally Team) mounted a strong comeback to finish sixth after starting leg two down in P11. He benefitted from Arai's retirement and also Marijan Griebel's off just 2.5 kilometres from the end of the rally, but also passed Mattias Adielsson (Sweden National Team), Norbert Herczig (MOL Racing Team) and Marczyk during leg two.

Adielsson had been set to finish sixth until a broken front differential left him with only rear wheel drive, though Griebel's crash meant the he was given a notional time for the final stage and clung on to seventh by 0.1s from Herczig.

Despite the last-minute issues Adielsson also wrapped up a first ERC1 Junior podium finish, ahead of Marczyk, who completed the class top three and finished ninth overall. Marczyk had been running fourth overall behind Habaj on Sunday morning but lost nearly three minutes when he stopped to change a puncture on SS12.

The spate of late retirements promoted Kacper Wróblewski into the top 10 on the final stage, scoring an ERC championship point on his first ever gravel rally in a four-wheel drive car. Juan Carlos Alonso won ERC2, Andrea Nucita secured top Abarth Rally Trophy honours, while Ken Torn made it two ERC3 and ERC3 Junior wins in succession.

Alonso lands "perfect" ERC2 victory, Nucita takes Abarth Rally Cup

Juan Carlos Alonso scored a "perfect" victory in the FIA European Rally Championship's ERC2 category on PZM 76th Rally Poland, increasing his points lead over title rival Zelindo Melegari. Alonso led the ERC's production category from start to finish, winning 12 out of 15 stages across three days of high-speed gravel action.He was initially kept honest by Mshari Althefiri on leg one. The Kuwait driver remained within striking distance for much of Saturday until he suffered a broken gearbox on stage eight, leaving Alonso's path to victory clear."It's wonderful for us. We had a perfect weekend, we showed our speed, and my co-driver was excellent all weekend," said Alonso.Melegari (Neiksans Rallysport), who started the event only one point behind Alonso in the ERC2 points standings, finished as runner up but was five minutes behind Alonso, unable to find the feeling he wanted with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.

Andrea Nucita wrapped up a vital Abarth Rally Cup victory, bolstering his ambitions of winning the €30,000 grand prize at the end of the season. His efforts were also enough to secure the final podium place in ERC2, which keeps him within touching distance of Alonso and Melegari for the ERC2 title. Dmitry Feofanov (Sporta Klubs Autostils Rally Team) capped his second ERC2 appearance with fourth place, restarting on leg two after a broken wheel on stage eight had forced him to retire. Pole Dariusz Poloński (Rallytechnology) was also back on the road again after being sidelined with driveshaft failure on Saturday, completing the top five in ERC2 and picking up second in the Abarth Rally Cup, limiting his points loss to Nucita in their duel for the title. Althefiri had returned for leg two but crashed midway through the opening Mikołajki MAX test, ending his rally.

ERC3 form book Torn up with another triumph for Ken

Ken Torn cemented his status as an FIA ERC3 Junior Championship title contender with his second consecutive class win on PZM 76th Rally Poland, beating new points leader Sindre Furuseth. Estonian Autosport Junior Team's standout talent made his ERC debut last month on Rally Liepāja and has wasted no time establishing himself as a man to beat, maintaining his 100 per cent win rate in ERC3.Torn had taken the lead from Furuseth late on the first leg (Saintéloc Junior Team) and was initially under pressure, his lead cut to just 4.7s after the first pass of Gmina Mragowo. But he would not be beaten by Furuseth for the rest of the rally, winning three of the last four stages aboard his Pirelli-shod Ford Fiesta R2T to build a 37.8s lead by the finish line.Efrén Llarena (Rally Team Spain) had started leg two as the third contender for victory. A puncture on Gmina Mragowo cost him around 20 seconds and dropped him from second to third, but worse was to come. A high-speed crash destroyed his car, although both he and co-driver Sara Fernandez were largely uninjured after their off.

PROVISIONAL TOP 10 POSITIONS (after 15 stages, 201.42 kilometres)
http://www.rallye-info.com/event_results.asp?event=751

FIA ERC2: Juan Carlos Alonso (ARG)/Juan Pablo Monastelero (ARG) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
FIA ERC3: Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta R2T
FIA ERC1 Junior: Filip Mareš (CZE)/Jan Hloušek (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia R5
FIA ERC3 Junior: Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta R2T
Abarth Rally Cup: Andrea Nucita (ITA)/Alina Bianca Pop (ROU) Abarth 124 rally
ERC Ladies' Trophy: Nabila Tejpar (GBR) Peugeot 208 R2

RALLY LEADERS
SS1: Huttunen/Lukka
SS2-SS15:Lukyanuk/Arnautov

CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS: Click here for the provisional positions after 4/8.
http://irc.rallye-info.com/points.asp?sid=11

What's next? Rally di Roma Capitale, 19-21July:
The progression of this exciting asphalt event, organised and promoted by Max Rendina, has been remarkable. Having run for the first time in 2013, Rally di Roma Capitale made its ERC debut in 2017 as Italy returned to the European championship for the first time since 2013 when Rallye Sanremo was on the calendar. It proved a big hit with a driving parade through the centre of Rome, a spectacular spectator stage around the Palazzio della Civiltà del Lavoro in the EUR district, followed by two days of action-packed rallying on stages to the east and south-east of the capital.