Lukyanuk and Kopecky 0.4s apart in ERC as Gryazin loses lead
A puncture for ERC1 Junior champion Nikolay Gryazin has ended his hopes of Barum Czech Rally Zlín victory, leaving Alexey Lukyanuk and Jan Kopecký to engage in a thrilling fight up front.
With five sealed-surface stages run, Lukyanuk leads Kopecký by 0.4s as the FIA European champions present and past thrill the thousands of fans watching the action in the stunning South Moravian countryside.
Gryazin (Sport Racing Technologies) had demoted Kopecký (ŠKODA Motorsport) for the lead with a rapid stage best on SS3, Semetín, 8.1s faster than home hero Kopecký, who won Friday night’s Zlín superspecial.
One stage later, Lukyanuk (Saintéloc Junior Team) moved in front on Halenkovice with a second stage win of the rally following his fastest time on SS2, with Gryazin just 0.5s behind in second.
But Gryazin, who is competing on his second of two prize drives provided by ERC promoter Eurosport Events for his ERC1 Junior title success last year, was delayed for two minutes on Kostelany as he was forced to stop and change a puncture.
“After the start it was off the rim. We didn’t hit anything. I don’t know,” explained Gryazin. “I felt like it’s no pressure. I don’t know. [There was] no hit at all. I was driving the first part really nice and clear. We have lost everything. Now we will drive for ourselves.”
Kopecký’s first stage win since Friday’s Zlín superspecial on the loop-ending Kostelany test closed the gap to rally leader Lukyanuk down to just 0.4 seconds, as the 2013 ERC champion continues to chase his fifth consecutive Barum Czech Rally Zlín win and his eighth in total.
Toksport WRT’s Chris Ingram, a strong third overall ahead of Václav Pech, holds the upper hand in the race to win the ERC1 Junior crown with a 5.5s advantage over Filip Mareš (ACCR Czech Rally Team) following back-to-back class stage wins.
Mareš is fifth overall with Norbert Herczig sixth for MOL Racing Team. Tomáš Kostka is seventh, Marijan Griebel eighth, Jan Černý ninth and Łukasz Habaj 10th.
Simon Wagner is a fine third in ERC1 Junior on his class debut despite reporting a lack of energy due to illness. Tomáš Pospíšilík, another newcomer, is next up with Gryazin dropping from first in the category to fifth.
Miko Marczyk crashed out on SS5, the Pole’s stricken ŠKODA Polska Motorsport entry blocking the road and halting the stage for a time. Sweden National Team’s Mattias Adielsson reached the finished of SS5 with a front-left damaged tyre and is currently sixth in class. Hiroki Arai put his Team STARD Citroën off the road on SS2.
The top five in ERC3 Junior are covered by 12.9s after five stages. Efrén Llarena leads but Sindre Furuseth is just 3.1s behind despite a mistake at a junction on SS5. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi, fastest on SS5, is third with fellow Ford Fiesta R2T drivers Erik Cais and title leader Ken Torn fourth and fifth respectively. Local driver Cais has reported brake issues.
Despite a slow puncture on stage four, Andrea Nucita leads ERC2 and the Abarth Rally Cup ahead of Dariusz Poloński and Juan Pablo Alonso.
Stage four was stopped before being cancelled altogether after Zelindo Melgari and Corrado Bonato crashed heavily in their Abarth 124 rally. The Italians have been taken to hospital for checks.
Following service at the Continental Barum factory in Otrokovice, SS6, the repeat of Březová, is due to get underway at 16h41 local time.