ERC Roma leg one report: Crugnola's crusade too strong for double European champion Basso
Andrea Crugnola is winning a gladiatorial-style battle for Rally di Roma Capitale glory with Giandomenico Basso, upstaging the double European champion to lead by 5.4s following an action-packed day in the searing Italian sunshine.
Crugnola dethroned Basso to become Italian champion for the first time last season and the ERC Junior graduate has the edge over the 2019 Rally di Roma Capitale winner after seven stages.
But the Hyundai Rally Team Italia driver reckoned he could have been even further ahead of his compatriot and rival had it not been for a “stupid mistake” on Saturday’s closing run.
“We started very well by winning the first stage in Rome last night and we are continuing today,” said Crugnola. “We need to continue this pace but it’s not so easy because the other drivers are pushing a lot. It’s close and it will be a tough battle tomorrow. I made a stupid mistake on the last stage and lost a lot.”
Crugnola began Saturday’s action leading Basso by 0.6s following his fastest time through SSS0 Caracalla in Rome last night. But Basso was in front following today’s opening test, which he completed 1.7s faster than Crugnola. Crugnola hit back on SS2 and was 4.4s faster than Basso, but Basso was fastest on SS3 to cut Crugnola’s margin to 2.5s heading to the midday halt in Fiuggi.
Basso, who won SS4 and shared the fastest time with Nikolay Gryazin on SS6 either side of a Crugnola best time on SS5 aboard his Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, said: “It’s been a difficult day, but I am happy to be here. We are second for now and we will see for tomorrow when we will push.”
Fresh from his WRC3-winning heroics on Rally Estonia last week, FIA European Rally Championship leader Alexey Lukyanuk is third overall in his Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 Rally2, 21.8s behind Crugnola. “We should have been faster, but we are missing something with the set-up,” said the Russian.
Damiano De Tommaso demoted Norbert Herczig for fourth on SS4 but a 20-seconds penalty for a driving infringement drops the Italian to P10, leaving Herczig – who was just 3.8s behind De Tommaso following a strong performance by the Škoda Rally Team Hungaria driver – in fourth. Rallye Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena is 3.2s behind Herczig on his first start on asphalt aboard his Fabia Rally2 Evo. Miko Marczyk (ORLEN Team) demoted CHL Sport Auto’s Yoann Bonato for sixth on Saturday’s closing run, albeit by a scant 0.7s. Italian championship leader Fabio Andolfi is eighth and 0.4s ahead of Umberto Scandola, who is ninth for Hyundai Rally Team Italia.
Simone Tempestini is 6.4s off the top 10 in P11 with Craig Breen 0.8s behind Tempestini in P12 for Team MRF Tyres. Ole Christian Veiby is 0.7s adrift of Breen in P13 in another Hyundai i20 R5 with Simone Campedelli and Giacomo Scattolon completing ERC scorers in P14 and P15 respectively.
Andreas Mikkelsen is P16 for Toksport on his Roma debut and far from happy following a tough day in his Fabia. “I’m fighting a lot with the car but there’s no rhythm at all,” he said. “It’s a tricky rally.”
Erik Cais battled handbrake and rear differential issues during this morning’s loop but is P17 aboard his Yacco ACCR Team Ford Fiesta Rally2. Grégoire Munster has been hampered by understeer but remains in contention to score his first points of the season in P18. Alberto Battistolli and Josh McErlean round out the top 20 ahead of Iván Ares. Czech newcomer Dominik Stříteský is P23, while Gryazin is one place further back after he was forced to change a damaged front-left tyre on SS1. Luis Vilariño is next up.
Javier Pardo (Suzuki Motor Ibérica) leads ERC2 with Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas ahead in ERC3 after Florian Bernardi damaged his Renault Clio Rally4 striking a barrier while leading the category. Ken Torn heads ERC Junior after overcoming powersteering issues on his M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi is 6.0s in front of Alejandro Cachón in ERC3 Junior with Norbert Maior 4.5s behind Cachón in third. Yigit Timur leads the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT from Paulo Soria and Andrea Mabellini, who is 12.2s behind the pacesetting Turkish driver. Dariusz Poloński is the driver to beat in the Abarth Rally Cup.