No pressure as Russian Rocket Lukyanuk prepares for second Saintéloc ERC season
Alexey Lukyanuk has vowed to continue his ‘pressure-free’ approach to the FIA European Rally Championship after re-signing with the Saintéloc Junior Team for 2020 to drive a Citroën C3 R5.
The 2018 ERC champion narrowly missed out on back-to-back titles in a thrilling final-stage showdown with Chris Ingram on Rally Hungary last November. With Dmitriy Eremeev recruited in place of Alexey Arnautov – who is taking a break from co-driving after more than 10 years as Lukyanuk’s wingman – Lukyanuk will bid for more ERC success in 2020, albeit with the overall title not at the forefront of his mind.
I’m fast but I need to continue working
Described by a rival as “one of the fastest drivers on the planet”, Lukyanuk’s ERC career hasn’t been without its share of excitement and incident. That’s why the 39-year-old Russian has made becoming an even better driver a main goal this season, even if that’s at the expense of the championship. “I know I am fast but I am a bit sad that it’s not always transforming into really good results. I still have a lot of passion inside and energy to push, to fight and to deliver good results, good speed. I just need to continue working on my driving, on the car and that’s it.”
Driving is the focus for nine-time ERC event winner
“Rallying really matters to me. Modern cars are so exciting to drive, so easy to control and go really fast in and get a lot of joy. This sensation is the most important. Of course, it would be nice to support these feelings with good results. The championship is important, I cannot deny it, but if you want to win it you put so much pressure on yourself. My idea is to focus on my driving. Each year it looks like we’re getting more experience, getting stronger. Sometimes it holds you back because the experience is a heavy weight on your shoulders, so it’s important not to overhang yourself with all the knowledge, stay easy and relax and get fun from driving. It’s probably the main strategy thing for me. To achieve that we have a lot of sub-goals and sub-measures, which I am not ready to share. But I don’t really think about reclaiming our title because winning once is already an achievement.”
Why second Saintéloc season makes sense
“We started last year from a blank sheet of paper and now we know much more about the car and the team, so definitely it will be much easier for everyone. I believe we can improve the car even more and extract a bit more speed and reliability. It’s interesting to continue our work because all last year we were searching for the balance, for the set-up, for solutions to get more grip, especially on Tarmac. But the car is very solid and powerful, easy to control. It’s interesting to see where we can get to with the C3.”
Eight is just fine again in 2020
“Eight events is a good balance with the locations, there are some fantastic sights for each rally. I have very good memories on some of them, some events were not so fantastic but eight events, almost one rally per month, is a good schedule and not so bad for the budget. The rallies are challenging, there are local drivers who are very fast so it should be an exciting year.”
Lukyanuk thanks Arnautov, welcomes Eremeev
“I will go with a new co-driver this year, Dmitriy Eremeev, but first I would like to say how I enjoyed the years spent with Alexey. He was my co-driver since 2009 and we won a lot of rallies and championships together. He’s the strongest guy I know mentally, he’s so calm and responsible. He was taking care of many things around me, supporting me and giving me freedom to focus on my driving. With Alexey it was so natural and easy, so calm within the car together. I massively respect these years and our passion, our results, our friendship. Dmitriy was a co-driver to some really fast drivers and he has some good experience. Okay, he was not intensively rallying for the past five years but I really like his attitude. It was not easy to find a person to match my expectations because I had a high benchmark with Alexey. But Dmitriy is a strong choice. We’ve had some pacenote training and we made quite good steps with our preparation. I am pretty confident we will come to the first event well prepared and ready to deliver good results from the first stages.” A Q&A with Alexey Arnauov is available by clicking here.
Lukyanuk on new team-mate Griebel: Here to help and be helped
“Marijan is consistent and experienced, an open guy and a nice guy I have known for many years. We can have a really strong year as team-mates and I am ready to share all my experience of the car to help him get to the speed he wants. I am ready to share with any of my team-mates. But the Azores is getting closer and closer. I miss the ERC because it’s been a long time at home. I am happy it will all start soon.”
Saintéloc’s Ducher delighted to keep his man with support from Pirelli and Citroën Racing
Saintéloc Junior Team’s Vincent Ducher, who has welcomed support from Pirelli and Citroën Racing, said: “There was no reason not to try to keep Alexey in the team. Alexey won more stages than any other driver last year and came very close to the title. We always learn from defeat and have analysed the past season in great detail and what we need to do to be even more successful this year.”
Where to watch Alexey Lukyanuk in 2020
Azores Rallye, 26-28 March; Rally Islas Canarias, 7-9 May; Rally Liepāja (Latvia), 29-31 May; 77th Rally Poland, 26-28 June; Rally di Roma Capitale (Italy), 24-26 July; Barum Czech Rally Zlín, 28-30 August; Cyprus Rally, 9-11 October; Rally Hungary, 6-8 November.