From Russia with pace: Lukyanuk ready to thrill again in ERC

From Russia with pace: Lukyanuk ready to thrill again in ERC

08/03/2018 18:00

Alexey Lukyanuk will bid for FIA European Rally Championship gold in 2018 when he will double as the ultimate benchmark for his young rivals chasing success in the ERC Junior Under 28 category.

One of the fastest drivers of his generation, Lukyanuk’s high-pace approach has earned him a legion of fans plus numerous victories and awards, making him the perfect target driver for the R5-equipped ERC Junior U28 contingent.

Funding permitting, Lukyanuk is planning to contest all eight ERC rounds in 2018 with countryman Alexey Arnautov co-driving their Russian Performance Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5, run by H-Racing and supported by Qiwi during the season-opening Azores Airlines Rallye from 22-24 March.

While little has altered on the surface for Lukyanuk in terms of car, co-driver and team, a number of changes have taken place for the upcoming campaign.

“We changed our approach to the car’s set-up and started to work with a new engineer, who has great experience of world championship events,” said the 37-year-old Lukyanuk. “We just finished the tests in Italy and both the Fiesta and me are satisfied with the steps we’ve made. I cannot wait to experience all of that on the real stages. I’m thinking over the tactics and preparing well.”

Despite crashing out of the lead in the Azores last season, Lukyanuk is a big fan of the gravel spectacular. “I love the Azores Rallye,” he said. “When we first started there in 2016, we got accustomed fairly fast and showed good speed on the stages. They are narrow, quite technical, with fairly good grip, and despite the surface is slippery and loose, I like it. I believe our previous experience will help us. I plan to re-check the pacenotes from the last year, as 95 per cent of the stages are similar to 2017.”

After his Azores exit last year, Lukyanuk hit back with a dominant victory on Rally Islas Canarias only to suffer serious injuries in a testing accident shortly afterwards. He was still recovering when he returned to action, heroically leading Rally Rzeszow and claiming a podium on Barum Czech Rally Zlín. He received a standing ovation when he accepted the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy Driver of the Year award.

Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator, said: “Alexey Lukyanuk has established himself as a fast and formidable competitor in recent seasons and it really is good news he’s back in 2018 when the outright title will surely be his target. Because of his pace and profile, Alexey is popular among the ERC Junior Under 28 drivers and somebody they aspire to beat. He’ll be a big help to them.”

Mārtiņš Sesks has regained first place in the FIA European Rally Championship’s Under 27 category on Azores Airlines Rallye, following adjustments to stage times awarded in SS8 and SS9 related to incidents causing delays for multiple drivers.

Tamara Molinaro continues to head the ERC Ladies’ Trophy category on the Azores Airlines Rallye, while Emma Falcón retired with back pain before midday service.

Sergei Remennik has resumed his lead of Azores Airlines Rallye’s FIA European Rally Championship ERC2 category, following an unfortunate retirement for nearest challenger Zelindo Melegari with clutch failure.

Diogo Gago took on the might of ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team’s pair of FIA ERC Junior Under 27 factory drivers on the Azores Airlines Rallye’s Friday stages and succeeded aboard his PEUGEOT 208 R2, moving from third to first over the course of a dramatic multi-way battle.

Chris Ingram and Martin Koči traded places throughout Friday’s Azores Airlines Rallye stages in a tight battle for FIA ERC Junior Under 28 victory.

The Azores Airlines Rallye once again showed why it is such a formidable opening round of the FIA European Rally Championship, but as others hit trouble, Russian Performance Motorsport’s Alexey Lukyanuk held steady out front.