ERC2: Alonso first amid day of high drama
Argentine Juan Carlos Alonso tops the FIA European Rally Championship’s ERC2 category after a day of high drama on the Azores Rallye.
Alonso and chief rival Sergei Remennik had been trading fastest times on leg one’s first three stages on Thursday afternoon and swapping the lead, often separated by only a few tenths of a second.
Friday was a stark departure from those close margins. Despite being seven minutes behind Remennik at one point, Alonso reclaimed the lead of ERC2 on the day’s final stage.
Problems began for Alonso when he suffered a puncture and hit a wall on SS4, the first stage of the day, and dropped half a minute to Remennik. That gap then expanded to seven minutes when he had to stop to change another puncture on Sete Cidades, while also sustaining both a broken driveshaft and clutch.
But the tables turned dramatically on the afternoon loop, when it was Russian Performance Motorsport driver Remennik’s turn to lose time hand over fist.
Broken powersteering on SS7 cost Remennik over a minute and was only a sign of more troubles to come, picking up a puncture only a few hundred metres into the Sete Cidades afternoon rerun. Although he fixed his powersteering for SS9, he suffered a second puncture on Vista do Rei / Feteiras, reducing what had been a gap of over seven minutes at midday service down to just 43.0s.
But while he still led there was one last moment of heartbreak for Remennik, as his Mitsubishi Lancer refused to fire up at the start of the Marques superspecial. Unable to take the start, he was forced to retire, handing the lead to Alonso.
“It’s been a horrible morning for me and horrible afternoon for him,” said Alonso afterwards. “I’m sorry for him, it’s not the way you want things to go but anything is possible now. It’s unbelievable, but that’s rally!”
Luís Pimentel had also been due to participate in ERC2 this weekend but was a non-starter due to an issue with his Subaru Impreza’s fuel tank.