Lukyanuk edges Loubet for early ERC Azores Rallye lead
Alexey Lukyanuk has established a slim 3.1s advantage over FIA European Rally Championship rival and Team OSCARO’s Pierre-Louis Loubet to lead the Azores Rallye.
Though reigning ERC champion Lukyanuk won all three stages, ERC1 Junior class leader Loubet was right behind him throughout, at one point finishing only 0.1s behind the Russian on the Mediana Remédios test.
There was a slight concern for Lukyanuk towards the end of the final stage as the dashboard and associated buttons on his Citroën C3 R5 were not functioning fully.
Ricardo Moura, the 2016 Azores Rallye winner, holds the final podium place by 1.9s from Toksport WRT’s Chris Ingram, who is also sitting second in ERC1 Junior and only 9.9s off rally leader Lukyanuk.
ERC1 Junior and ERC3 Junior championship winner Marijan Griebel is fifth on his return to the ERC, driving a Baumschlager Rallye & Racing-prepared Volkswagen Polo GTI. He had initially been third but dropped back to sixth when he picked up a puncture while running off-line on SS2, though swiftly recovered to finish the day in fifth, 10.4s off the lead.
Griebel demoted Sports Racing Technologies driver Łukasz Habaj to sixth on the day-ending Marques superspecial. Bruno Magalhães is seventh, having struggled to find a good set-up aboard his Team Hyundai Portugal machine, while Ricardo Teodósio moved ahead of fellow ŠKODA Fabia R5 runner Luís Rego for eighth on Marques. Behind Rego in ninth, Norbert Herczig completes the top 10 for MOL Racing Team.
Portuguese pair and ARC Sport team-mates Miguel Correia and Pedro Almeida are separated by a mere 0.3s in their battle over third place in ERC1 Junior.
Both had been behind Alexandros Tsouloftas initially but the Cypriot sustained a puncture on the day-ending Marques test, which dropped him down to fifth, albeit only 2.9s off Correia in third.
Lukyanuk’s team-mate and ERC1 Junior contender Mattias Adielsson, competing under the Sweden National Team banner, was delayed by over a minute by electrical gremlins in the sister C3 R5, which caused his car to stop on both SS2 and SS3 and dropped him to sixth place in ERC1 Junior. Despite his car troubles Adielsson is also still within striking range in the ERC1 Junior battle, 20.8s behind Tsouloftas in sixth.
An incredible battle ensued over honours in ERC2, with Sergei Remennik leading Juan Carlos Alonso by a mere 0.3s. They swapped places on each stage, Alonso taking the lead away from Remennik on SS2 only to lose it again on SS3.