Tuesday | 26 Jul 2022

Lucky Llarena gets Italian scare

Efrén Llarena edged another step closer to the FIA European Rally Championship crown at Rally di Roma Capitale - but luck was on his side.

The 27-year-old tightened his hold on the championship lead and extended his advantage with a fourth-place finish at the Fiuggi-based counter. 

However, speaking to FIAERC.com at the end of the rally, Llarena admitted that things could have taken a very different turn after a close call on Sunday afternoon. 

Just a few kilometres from the start of the monster 32.30km Rocca di Cave - Subiaco test, Llarena’s Team MRF Tyres Škoda Fabia hit a stray rock on the line. He thought a puncture was inevitable, but somehow the tyre remained inflated.

Had he and co-driver Sara Fernández stopped to change a tyre, around two minutes would have been dropped and they would likely have finished outside the top 10.

Llarena: more points in the bag

“We were very lucky,” smiled Llarena. “I hit a rock in the middle of the road - it was around 3km into the stage, I think.

“We still had 29km of the stage to go and, honestly, I thought I had a puncture. I had a strange feeling coming from the car but we made it to the end. There was a bulge [in the tyre] but somehow it stayed up,” he added. 

Llarena was denied a podium by Yoann Bonato in the Power Stage - ending just three-tenths of a second behind the French driver. But that didn’t bother him.

Rally di Roma Capitale 2022: Event Highlights

The Spaniard now holds a 58-point advantage over Simone Tempestini and a handful of points next time out at Barum Czech Rally Zlín (26 - 28 August) would be enough to secure the title. 

“We are really happy,” he explained. “In other rallies, we have taken positions in the Power Stage, so now I know what it feels like for the other guys!

“In the end, we are leaving here with more points to our advantage and that was our aim. I could have pushed a bit more in the last stage, but I didn’t want to - there were too many risks and it was important to get to the finish.”