Midday round-up: Thrilling battle for ERC3 glory lights up Italian stages
Ken Torn and Pedro Antunes are engaged in a thrilling battle for victory in the FIA ERC3 Junior category on Rally di Roma Capitale.
With three stages run on today’s deciding second leg, Torn tops the Pirelli-supported class by a slender 4.3s in what is also a battle between the all-new Rally4 cars from M-Sport Poland and Peugeot Sport.
Driving a Ford Fiesta Rally4, Estonian Autosport Junior Team driver Torn began the second leg 11.2s in front of his Portuguese rival Antunes, who is driving a Peugeot 208 Rally4 on the Italian event.
After losing out to Antunes on SS7, Torn hit back on the next run before Antunes topped the class rankings on SS9 to trim Torn’s lead to 4.3s with six stages left.
Newcomer Pep Bassas remains third in the category for Rallye Team Spain followed by Amaury Molle, Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy’s William Creighton, Adam Westlund and Nikolai Landa.
Basso narrows Lukyanuk’s overall lead
After winning all six stages on Saturday to build an advantage of 34.1s, Alexey Lukyanuk (Saintéloc Junior Team) has been second best to Giandomenico Basso this morning, with the two-time ERC champion going quickest on the first and second stages north of rally hub Fiuggi.
At the regroup in the thermal spa town earlier, Basso had narrowed Lukyanuk’s overall lead to 29.3s with Oliver Solberg maintaining his grip on third as the top ERC1 Junior driver in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Hyundai-powered Craig Breen is fourth for Team MRF Tyres, taking the place from Simone Tempestini on SS8 after the Romanian driver admitted he was struggling to “wake up” and repeat his flying form from Saturday.
Efrén Llarena is sixth having adapted the handling of his Rallye Team Spain C3 R5 more to his liking by tweaking the spring and anti-roll bar settings. Hyundai Junior Driver Grégoire Munster is seventh with ERC1 Junior champion Filip Mareš up to eighth ahead of Emil Lindholm and Miko Marczyk from the ORLEN Team.
After restarting on leg two following his crash on Saturday’s first stage, Andrea Crugnola went fastest of all on SS9 to underline his pace and potential.
Hard time for Kreim
A strong fifth overnight on his return to ERC1 Junior action, Fabian Kreim’s debut in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 ended on today’s first stage when he broke a wheel and retired.
Poloński out of luck again
Abarth Rally Cup contender Dariusz Poloński was back in action for leg two after a turbo issue forced him out on Saturday morning. After going fastest in the one-make series and in ERC2 on SS7 and SS8, more turbo problems struck on SS9, forcing the Pole to retire for a second day running.
Zelindo Melegari continues to lead ER2 despite reporting an intercom issue. Andrea Mabellini tops the Abarth Rally Cup section with Petr Nešetříl third in his Porsche 997 GT3. Roberto Gobbin is fourth followed by Dmitry Feofanov. However, Igor Widłak retired prior to SS7 with a sensor failure.
The action resumes with the second of three passes of the 7.25-kilometre Rocca di Cave test from 12h17 CET, after which five stages will remain to the finish in Fiuggi this evening.
Photo: Julian Porter/ERC Radio