ERC 2021: the season so far
With Rally di Roma Capitale getting underway on Friday, here’s a reminder of some of what’s happened so far in the 2021 FIA European Rally Championship.
ORLEN 77th Rally Poland (June 18-20): Alexey Lukyanuk delivered the ultimate comeback victory to begin his FIA European Rally Championship title defence in style. Co-driven by fellow Russian Alexey Arnautov, Lukyanuk was seemingly down and out on Tuesday following a testing crash which left his Pirelli-equipped Citroën C3 Rally2 beyond immediate repair after they rolled five times.
But Saintéloc Junior Team heroically answered their call by transporting a replacement bodyshell from its base in central France and preparing an all-new car in time for Friday’s start. Undeterred by his lack of loose-surface running – the 20 kilometres he managed in the build-up to the event was Lukyanuk’s first on gravel since Rally Liepāja last August – the two-time ERC champion kept calm and moved into the lead when long-term pacesetter Nikolay Gryazin was forced out with a double puncture on Saturday’s penultimate stage.
Starting the final leg with an advantage of 29.7s over Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene, Lukyanuk and Arnautov achieved the perfect blend of speed and caution to win in Poland for the second time, unflustered when their Norwegian rivals cut their margin to 17.4s heading to the deciding stage on the streets of the capital, Warsaw, added to the itinerary as part of the event’s 100th anniversary celebrations.
Spain’s Javier Pardo won ERC2 at their first attempt driving a Rally2 Kit-specification Swift R4lly S from Suzuki Motor Ibérica. Finns Sami Pajari claimed the ERC3 laurels in a Ford Fiesta Rally4 built by M-Sport Poland in Kraków. In ERC Junior, which is for Rally3 cars on Pirelli tyres from 2021, Jon Armstrong came out on top driving M-Sport Poland’s history-making Fiesta Rally3. Pajari was first to finish in ERC3 Junior with Paulo Soria triumphing in the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT, the all-new arrive-and-drive series for MICHELIN-equipped Renault Clio Rally5s. Dariusz Poloński won the Abarth Rally Cup, while the first ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory incentives were handed to registered young stars in Rally2 cars.
Rally Liepāja (July 1-3): Nikolay Gryazin became the Rally Liepāja hat-trick hero following his victory on round two of the 2021 FIA European Rally Championship season. Gryazin, who also won Latvia’s ERC counter in 2017 and 2018, led the high-speed event from the opening stage to claim a hugely impressive triumph alongside co-driver Konstantin Aleksandrov in a Pirelli-equipped Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 (pictured).
He finished 17.3s ahead of Craig Breen, who claimed Team MRF Tyres’ first podium in the ERC in second with Alexey Lukyanuk extending his ERC title lead to nine points in third place for Saintéloc Junior Team after the Russian overtook Rallye Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena on Saturday’s opening test.
Llarena, the leading ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory finisher, took fourth with Toksport WRT’s Andreas Mikkelsen fifth in another Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo and the best of the Rally Liepāja newcomers.
After finishing third on his home round in Poland last month, ORLEN Team’s Miko Marczyk continued his strong run of form in sixth position with Hyundai Junior Driver Ole Christian Veiby marking his ERC return in seventh place, despite power issues masking his ultimate speed. However, the Norwegian was subsequently excluded after his car failed post-event technical checks.
Finland’s Eerik Pietarinen moved up to seventh in his older-specification Fabia with Yacco ACCR Team’s young Czech Erik Cais impressing by climbing up from P15 overnight to finish eighth. Chilean Emilio Fernàndez took ninth for Toksport WRT, while Simone Tempestini (Napoca Rally Academy) completed the top 10. Nil Solans (Rallye Team Spain) slipped to P11 due to time lost opening the road for his rivals behind, as Georg Linnamäe, Norbert Herczig (Škoda Rally Team Hungaria), Raul Jeets and Yoann Bonato (CHL Sport Auto) rounded out the top 15. Alberto Battistolli was P16 with Hyundai Junior Driver Grégoire Munster P17 after various delays. ERC Junior winner Ken Torn was a fine P18 overall in his M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3 followed by Jarosław Kołtun and Russian Radik Shaymiev.
Umberto Scandola rolled his Hyundai Rally Team Italia i20 R5 into retirement on SS8. Fabian Kreim (Pole Promotion) was in the top-six fight when he stopped with damaged suspension on the same stage. Suspension damage cost Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Callum Devine vital time when a top 10 finish beckoned.
Dmitry Feofanov won ERC2 for the first time in his career as Jean-Baptiste Franceschi scored an ERC3/ERC3 Junior double in the all-new Renault Clio Rally4 after Mārtiņš Sesks was excluded for a technical infringement. Yigit Timur appeared to have taken an impressive maiden victory in the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT. However, a time penalty for an early check-in following the final stage handed first place to Andrea Mabellini. Dariusz Poloński made it back-to-back Abarth Rally Cup wins with Martin Rada second.
Provisional standings following round two of eight are available by clicking HERE.