Champions attack: Lukyanuk, Vincze level after thrilling 8000 fans on ERC opener
Alexey Lukyanuk has begun the deciding round of the 2019 FIA European Rally Championship by setting the joint-fastest time with Ferenc Vincze during the opening superspecial stage of Rally Hungary in front of 8000 fans.
Lukyanuk (Saintéloc Junior Team), the defending ERC champion, and Korda Racing Team’s Vincze, who claimed his first Hungarian title last month, set exactly the same time of 1m53.1s on the 2.40km Rabócsiring rallycross venue test and enter Saturday’s leg tied for the rally lead, just two-tenths of a second ahead of the ACCR Czech Rally Team ŠKODA Fabia of ERC1 Junior champion Filip Mareš.
Overall ERC points leader Chris Ingram (Toksport WRT) lies in sixth, tied with four-time Hungarian champion Norbert Herczig, while Łukasz Habaj is ninth after his Sports Racing Technologies team heroically completed the repair of his damaged Fabia R5 with just moments to spare.
Qualifying Stage pace-setter Ingram survived a slight drama on his run, after the headlamps failed, leaving the British driver literally in the dark.
Despite ending the opening stage on top of the times, it was far from an easy start for Lukyanuk who struggled to switch his wipers back on following the water splash which resulted in him “sliding sideways for 50 metres.”
Behind Mareš came American Sean Johnston, who was a fine fourth quickest on his first competitive outing in an R5 car, just seven-tenths off the pace of his team-mate Lukyanuk. Niki Mayr-Melnhof was fifth with Motorsport Ireland-backed Callum Devine (Hyundai Motorsport N) eighth fastest behind Herczig on his first ERC appearance in an R5 car. Hungarian Frigyes Turán completed the top 10.
Marijan Griebel marked his return to European championship action by topping ERC3 on the opening stage. The German, who has been a regular in the ERC1 category, beat Erik Cais, whose ACCR Czech Rally Team Ford Fiesta R2T developed a gearbox issue during the run. Hungarian Miklós Csomós was third in a Peugeot 208 R2.
The battle for the ERC Ladies’ Trophy title got off to a somewhat anti-climatic start as Nabila Tejpar and Ekaterina Stratieva’s head-to-head was red flagged, with both receiving notional times.
Abarth Rally Cup title contenders Andrea Nucita and Dariusz Polónski began their weekend with contrasting fortunes as Nucita headed his Polish rival by nearly 10 seconds despite falling ill earlier.
Saturday’s leg begins with the 19.95-kilometre Újhuta – Nyíri stage from 08h58 local time.