Torn reverses Rome fortunes as Furuseth crashes out in ERC
A final stage crash for Sindre Furuseth on leg one of Rally di Roma Capitale handed Ken Torn the FIA ERC3 Junior Championship class lead, capping a remarkable comeback from sixth place in the Pirelli-supported category.
Despite set-up issues, Furuseth (Saintéloc Junior Team) had a lead of nearly 30s at midday service after taking two stage wins out of three, although he was nearly 10s off the pace on the re-run of Pico-Greci.
Any challenge from second-placed Grégoire Munster (ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team) disappeared on stage five when the Belgian had an off at slow speed, retiring with broken steering.
That promoted Torn (Estonian Autosport Junior Team), who had been set back by a stage one puncture, to second place, having already picked his way past Roman Schwedt (Team ROMO) and ACCR Czech Rally Team pair Jan Talaš and Erik Cais.
But an unexpected final twist came on the day’s closing stage, when Furuseth slid off around two kilometres from the finish line and retired, handing Torn an unexpected 22.1s lead over fellow Ford Fiesta R2T driver Cais.
“It’s quite hot in the car but it has gone better and better and I enjoy driving on Tarmac,” said Torn. “I hope tomorrow is another fighting day.”
A potentially disastrous event for Efrén Llarena (Rallye Team Spain) had also been turned around over the course of leg one, his day starting out with a puncture on Pico-Greci that cost him 1m42s and demoted him to ninth.
Over the remaining five stages he gained six places, completing the overnight podium places albeit 46.1s off Cais ahead.
“At the beginning my day was bad but now I am happy because I am driving better, no mistakes. We will see,” said Llarena, who is currently second in the ERC3 Junior title standings behind Furuseth.
Schwedt was for a brief moment set to inherit third place but was passed by Llarena on the final stage, finishing the day 3.4s behind the Spaniard in fourth after a promising display by the German teenager.
Florian Bernardi was also picking up the pieces after a first stage delay of over two minutes, taking two ERC3 stage wins to climb from P11 to fifth, 1m33.2s behind Torn and 21.6s behind Schwedt.
Talaš had run as high as fourth place but fell back as he struggled with a clutch problem, finishing the day in sixth as he lost further time with a puncture on stage five.
Orhan Avcioğlu (Toksport WRT), who competed in the top category for R5 cars last season, is seventh, also struggling along with clutch issues in similar equipment to Talaš.
Torn’s team-mate Gregor Jeets is eighth on his first start on asphalt, with ERC3 debutant Cristiana Oprea ninth on her first ever rally in R2 machinery.
Elias Lundberg was forced to withdraw at midday service due to health reasons but hopes to return on Sunday.
Pedro Antunes (FPAK Portugal Team ERC) crashed out on the morning pass of Pico-Greci while trying to avoid a rock in the line, while ERC3 Junior rookie James Williams rolled his Ford Fiesta R2T into retirement at a hairpin on stage two.
Catie Munnings (Peugeot Rally Academy) retired after stage one, a brake fire on the road section ending her day.