Leg two report: Basso’s back with Rome ERC victory
Giandomenico Basso scored his first FIA European Rally Championship victory in six years, as the double ERC champion took the spoils on Rally di Roma Capitale.
The Loran SRL-entered Italian was in the podium places from the opening test and took a lead he would not relinquish on stage four when Andrea Crugnola punctured. Basso’s only mistake of note was overshooting a junction on stage 13, which cost him around 24 seconds and nearly put him within Simone Campedelli’s reach.
Afterwards, Basso’s co-driver Lorenzo Granai explained that his compatriot had endured a tough event following the passing of a close friend shortly before the start in Rome on Friday.
“We wanted to make a very good race for what happened to the best friend of Giandomenico,” said Granai. “We had a difficult weekend but now, with him, that followed us, I’m sure we did a very good job. Giando won two times the European championship and now we come back to home and this victory is very important for us, both for the Italian championship and the European championship.”
Campedelli gave M-Sport’s brand new Ford Fiesta R5 challenger its ERC debut in Rome. Despite limited testing he was quickly into his stride and stormed up from ninth to third after tyre trouble on stage two.
That became second place after a time penalty for Alexey Lukyanuk (Saintéloc Junior Team), which demoted the reigning ERC champion down a place.
Campedelli (Orange 1 M-Sport Rally Team) took the Fiesta’s first stage win on Affile-Bellegra this morning, although on pure speed no-one could match Crugnola, who had led early on before a puncture demoted him to P10.
The ERC Junior graduate was on a mission thereafter and won 13 out of the rally’s 16 stages to rocket up the leaderboard on Sunday, dramatically picking off Lukyanuk for the final podium place on the rally-ending Ostia superspecial.
Despite the penalty that lost him a potential second place finish, Lukyanuk’s title defence was still strengthened by the result, as chief title rival Łukasz Habaj (Sports Racing Technologies) crashed out on Saturday and only scored points for finishing fourth on leg two.
Filip Mareš (ACCR Czech Rally Team) scored a crucial ERC1 Junior victory over Chris Ingram (Toksport WRT), the pair separated by 17.6s in fifth and sixth overall. Mareš now heads to the ERC1 Junior season finale – his home ERC event, Barum Czech Rally Zlín – still with a chance of beating Ingram to the title.
Ingram and Norbert Herczig (MOL Racing Team) spent most of leg two swapping positions in fifth and sixth places, which became sixth and seventh when Crugnola went breezing past them on the morning loop.
Hopes for Herczig were high when he swiftly rebutted Ingram’s advances, thanks to the ERC1 Junior Championship leader spinning twice on Rocca Santo Stefano. But it was only temporary relief, with Herczig losing crucial seconds on the afternoon pass of Affile-Bellegra when he forgot to switch stage mode on for the opening kilometres.
Mārtiņš Sesks (LMT Autosporta Akadēmija) capped his second prize drive for winning last year’s ERC3 Junior crown with third in ERC1 Junior. After an overall podium on familiar territory in Latvia on gravel, Sesks turned in a consistent pace to secure eighth overall in his first outing on asphalt in an R5 car.
Umberto Scandola (Hyundai Motorsport N), the only two-time winner of Rally di Roma Capitale, ran in the top five on Saturday but an end-of-day puncture cost him three minutes and sent him down to ninth.
He was nearly a minute faster than Sesks across Sunday’s 10 stages but such was Scandola’s time loss on leg one, he was too far behind to make up any positions on Sunday.
Vojtěch Štajf (ACCR Czech Rally Team) completed the top 10, catching and passing both Hiroki Arai (STARD) in P11 and ERC Ladies’ Trophy victor Emma Falcón (Rallye Team Spain) in P12 on Sunday after a difficult first leg had cost him several minutes. Arai and Falcón also completed the top five in the ERC1 Junior classification with Falcón battling a clutch issue.
Dariusz Poloński won the Abarth Rally Cup and ERC2 with Ken Torn taking ERC3 and Pirelli-supported ERC3 Junior honours. Nikoly Gryazin, on his first of two prize drives for winning the ERC1 Junior crown in 2018, led after winning the first stage only to crash into retirement nearing the end of the very next run.