ERC 2019 season recap: Azores Rallye
Łukasz Habaj and Daniel Dymurski battled the elements to claim a sensational maiden victory in the FIA European Rally Championship, snatching top spot from reigning champions Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov during a dramatic final afternoon on the Azores Rallye.
Lukyanuk was on course for his second consecutive Azores win only to pick up a puncture on the penultimate stage, handing first place to Habaj and dropping to third behind local hero Ricardo Moura. But the flailing rubber from Lukyanuk’s punctured tyre had damaged his Citroën C3 R5’s braking and resulted in the unsuspecting Russian suffering a huge accident at the first corner of the event-closing Tronqueira stage.
Although Lukyanuk and co-driver Arnautov were uninjured, their all-new Saintéloc Junior Team-entered C3 suffered extensive damage. But while Lukyanuk was left to reflect on what might have been, Habaj became the first Polish driver to win in the Azores and the first driver from his country to win in the ERC since Kajetan Kajetantowicz triumphed on the Acropolis Rally in Greece 657 days previously. And by leading through the final stage, Habaj joins compatriots Kajetanwoicz and Robert Kubica by heading the field in the Azores.
“The final stage was crazy, the most difficult stage I have ever done,” said the 2015 Polish champion, who was driving a ŠKODA Fabia R5 for Sports Racing Technologies. “I can’t believe it, but we had good pace all week and this victory was not just luck, there was a lot of hard work behind.”
Just 8.4s behind Habaj, Moura gave home fans reason to celebrate in second with Toksport WRT’s Chris Ingram claiming his first overall Azores podium and winning the ERC1 Junior category for young stars in R5 cars. Bruno Magalhães finished fourth for Team Hyundai Portugal, Ricardo Teodósio took fifth with double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel rounding out the top six on his Volkswagen Polo debut.
There was a first ERC3 and ERC3 Junior victory for Rallye Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena, who broke down in tears at the finish of the final stage, such was the enormity of his achievement in the Pirelli-supported category ahead of Sindre Furuseth.
Juan Carlos Alonso beat Sergey Remennik to ERC2 honours after both drivers overcame a succession of issues, Remennik going slowly to the finish with a transmission issue.
AZORES RALLYE 21-23 MARCH 2019
TOP 10 POSITIONS (after 15 stages, 223.93 kilometres)
1 Łukasz Habaj (POL)/Daniel Dymurski (POL) ŠKODA Fabia R5 2h50m55.s
2 Ricardo Moura (PRT)/António Costa (PRT) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +8.4s
3 Chris Ingram (GBR)/Ross Whittock (GBR) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +42.2s
4 Bruno Magalhães (PRT)/Hugo Magalhães (PRT) Hyundai i20 R5 +1m29.0s
5 Ricardo Teodósio (PRT)/José Teixeira (PRT) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +1m46.1s
6 Marijan Griebel (DEU)/Stefan Kopczyk (DEU) Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +2m12.5s
7 Alexandros Tsouloftas (CYP)/Antonis Chrysostomou (CYP) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +4m34.7s
8 Bernardo Sousa (PRT)/Victor Calado (PRT) Citroën C3 R5 +6m44.0s
9 Vojtĕch Štajf (CZE)/Veronika Havelková (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +10m10.7s
10 Paulo Nobre (BRA)/Gabriel Morales (BRA) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +11m40.9s
FIA ERC2: Juan Carlos Alonso (ARG)/Juan Pablo Monasterolo (ARG) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
FIA ERC3: Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Peugeot 208 R2
FIA ERC1 Junior: Chris Ingram (GBR)/Ross Whittock (GBR) ŠKODA Fabia R5
FIA ERC3 Junior: Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Peugeot 208 R2