Llarena increases ERC3 Junior lead as Antunes drops back
Efrén Llarena scored two stage wins on the Azores Rallye this morning to extend his FIA ERC3 Junior Championship advantage to 31.8s, as Portuguese rival Pedro Antunes fell back.
Peugeot 208 R2 pair Llarena and Antunes were separated by only 8.8s heading into Leg Two but their fortunes immediately went in separate directions.
Rally Team Spain’s federation-backed hope Llarena smashed the ERC3 Junior field by 13.9s on Graminhais, with Saintéloc Racing’s Sindre Furuseth immediately moving into second place.
Llarena also went on to win the Vila Franca Sao Bras stage, while Furuseth scored top time on Tronqueira, with the pair now separated by 31.8s.
Antunes meanwhile dropped nearly half a minute compared to Llarena with a stall, and his luck would only get worse on the wet and windy Tronqueira test.
Getting the rear of his Peugeot loose on a corner exit, Antunes struck a wall, damaging the suspension on his car and dropping over a minute, which put him down to fifth place.
Elias Lundberg moved into third place immediately afterwards and Simon Wagner also nipped past into fourth, though Antunes would quickly reclaim that place from Wagner on Vila Franca Sao Bras, as the Team Stengg Motorsport driver retired mid-stage.
Behind fourth-placed Antunes, ACCR Czech Rally Team’s best-placed driver of its ERC3 Junior trio Erik Cais set the third-fastest time on Vila Franca Sao Bras to take fifth place in the overall ERC3 order from Peugeot Rally Academy’s Yohan Rossel.
Cais’ ACCR team-mate Jan Talaš is now up to sixth in ERC3 Junior and seventh, behind Rossel, in ERC3, though has over two minutes in arrears to his compatriot ahead.
Talaš had been locked in a tight battle with Team ROMO’s Roman Schwedt, the pair trading places repeatedly since yesterday afternoon. But Schwedt’s fortunes turned on Vila Franca Sao Bras, going off and getting stuck.
After over 40 minutes of effort Schwedt and co-driver Lina Meter were able to get their Peugeot 208 going again and finish the stage but, tragically, arrived only three minutes shy of the maximum time allowance for lateness, forcing their retirement from the rally by default.
Sean Johnston is now up to eighth in the overall ERC3 order on his class debut with Saintéloc Junior Team, with Rally2 returnees Dmitriy Myachin (TBRacing) ninth and Steve Røkland P10.
Catie Munnings had been set for a top 10 finish but rolled on the treacherous Tronqueira stage, ending her rally.