ERC Roma leg two report: Emperor Basso defeats Crugnola in all-asphalt battle

2021-07-26T00:39:33+02:00July 25th, 2021|2021, Rally di Roma Capitale|

Giandomenico Basso is the new ruler of Rome following a sensational victory on round three of the FIA European Rally Championship. He defeated Andrea Crugnola in an all-Italian battle for Rally di Roma Capitale glory with Norbert Herczig beating Efrén Llarena to third by 0.3s in a final-stage showdown.

Basso, the two-time ERC champion, started Sunday’s action 5.4s behind overnight leader Crugnola. But he cut that margin to 3.4s after winning the first stage of the day, which ERC Junior graduate Crugnola completed with a rear axle issue on his Hyundai Rally Team Italia-entered i20 R5.

And when Crugnola suffered a front-left damaged tyre five kilometres from the finish of SS8, Basso seized his opportunity to move to the top of the order with a 28.7s advantage over the recovering Crugnola, while Alexey Lukyanuk, the leader of the ERC after two rounds, was now 0.7s behind in third starting SS9.

But Lukyanuk’s pursuit of a podium ended on the final stage of the morning lop when he skated wide on gravel and clouted a tree with the rear of his Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 Rally2. Although it was a tough end to the event for Lukyanuk, there were no such problems for Basso and co-driver Lorenzo Granai.

“Everything is okay, it was a very tricky but we are very, very happy,” said Basso. “The final loop was long and we needed to be concentrated because even with the problems for Crugnola and Lukyanuk we could only relax medium because anything can happen on this rally with many kilometres. Thank you to my team, my co-driver and everyone who helped us.”

Llarena, driving a Rallye Team Spain-entered Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo on asphalt for the first time, was 5.3s ahead of Herczig starting the final stage but admitted he had nothing left to give in his pursuit of third place and lost the spot to Škoda Rally Team Hungaria driver Herczig by 0.3s. “It was really hard fighting with him, but my tyres were gone and this was all I could do,” said Llarena. “But it was a really good performance for my first time in this car on Tarmac.”

Herczig, whose last ERC podium was on the Cyprus Rally in 2018, returned to the top three following an outstanding display in his Fabia. “Llarena is very, very fast and very, very young but this is an incredible result for me. We’ve waited a long time and worked very hard. The car was perfect all weekend.”

Miko Marczyk was fifth with two stages remaining, but Roma rookie Fabio Andolfi demoted the ORLEN Team driver on SS12 only to spin one kilometre from the start of the last stage, which allowed former Polish champion Marczyk to round out the top five.

Five-time Romanian champion Simone Tempestini started the penultimate stage 3.6s in front of Andreas Mikkelsen and held on for seventh after the Norwegian spun on a fifth-gear left-hander on SS13. But with Lukyanuk only landing three bonus points for finishing leg one in third, Mikkelsen’s eighth place means he cuts Lukyanuk’s championship lead to one point after three rounds. “I went off and had to come back,” he said. “I made a mistake, I was too fast and I’m lucky to be here.”

Mikkelsen’s final-stage spin rounded out a weekend of frustration for the Toksport WRT driver, who reported a two-wheeled moment on SS2 following a knock and was never truly at ease with the set-up of his Škoda Fabia Rally2 or his pacenotes on his Rally di Roma Capitale debut. “It’s better today but there has been a lot of gravel [rallies] lately and our test was very limited before here. I don’t think I had the aggressivity and the speed in the corners which you need to have on Tarmac.”

Simone Campedelli was all set to head home his fellow Team MRF Tyres’ driver Craig Breen in ninth but a damaged tyre on a gravel section on the final stage dropped him to P17. Campedelli’s bad luck promoted Breen to ninth after both drivers had focused on the Indian manufacturer’s ongoing but fast-paced tyre development programme.

Erik Cais was P19 after leg one but a charging display throughout Sunday’s route enabled the Yacco ACCR Team driver to finish P10, his second-fastest time on the final stage helping his cause. Giacomo Scattolon took P11 followed by Hyundai Rally Team Italia’s Umberto Scandola, Grégoire Munster, Iván Ares and ERC newcomer Dominik Štríteský.

Yoann Bonato went wide in fifth gear on Sunday’s opener but avoided damaging his CHL Sport Auto entry and was on course to finish P11 only for a damaged front-right tyre on the final stage to leave him P16. Damiano De Tommaso was P18 following a puncture. Callum Devine fought back to P19 after he was delayed by a puncture on day one.

Nikolay Gryazin won the Qualifying Stage on Friday morning but the Russian’s challenge was undone by a spate of punctures. Rachele Somaschini was P27 on her return to ERC action and her first start in the championship at Rally2 level following intercom issues this morning. Luis Vilariño was P23.

Italian youngster Alberto Battistolli retired from P16 when his Fabia lost first gear after 12 stages. After transmission problems struck this morning, Josh McErlean crashed his Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy Hyundai on SS11. Ole Christian Veiby’s bid for his first ERC points ended on with a moment on SS7. “We were caught out on some dirty gravel in a corner, touched a small concrete block and damaged the radiator,” Veiby explained. “Very disappointed right now, we’ve shown good progress on these tricky asphalt stages, and the set-up changes we did last night were working a bit better.”

There were wins in ERC2 and ERC3 for Javier Pardo and Pep Bassas. Ken Torn won ERC Junior with Jean-Baptiste Franceschi taking the ERC3 Junior honours by 0.1s. Dariusz Poloński and Andrea Mabellini came out on top in the Abarth Rally Cup and Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT.