Moments that made ERC Rally Poland perfect: 2018
Rally Poland returned to the FIA European Rally Championship in 2018 after a short break. On the weekend when the 77th running of the famous gravel event was originally scheduled to take place, here’s a reminder of how the battle for victory was decided on 23 September of that year.
Nikolay Gryazin secured his second career FIA European Rally Championship victory on PZM 75th Rally Poland, fending off Jari Huttunen and strengthening his FIA ERC Junior Under 28 title challenge in the process.
Co-driven by Yaroslav Fedorov in a Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5, the Pirelli-equipped Gryazin and ERC Junior Under 27 graduate Huttunen were locked in an epic tussle throughout leg two. And with no championship aspirations to worry about, the young Finn went flat out to catch the rally leader.
Huttunen won all three afternoon stages, unleashing the shackles on his Hyundai i20 R5. A 10-second time penalty for late check-in to SS14 undid his progress but failed to dampen his determination, driving on the ragged edge and finishing with a rear-left puncture, broken bumper and spoiler from his final push.
Although he won the rally-closing Baranowo test by 4.6s, Huttunen fell short of victory with Gryazin securing top spot by 8.3s. Huttunen settled for second.
Young stars in R5 cars dominated the top positions, with Chris Ingram scoring his first overall ERC podium in third. He escaped the clutches of ERC Junior U28 rival Fabian Kreim over the course of leg two for second in class, the Toksport WRT and ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland pilots separated by 17.3s at the finish. Though unable to challenge Ingram, Kreim still secured an ERC Junior U28 podium and fourth overall.
ERC Junior U28 debutant Miko Marczyk held off a late challenge from Polish championship rival Łukasz Habaj to score a sensational top-five finish for ŠKODA Polska Motorsport. The prodigious young talent has only two years’ rallying experience and had covered less than 200 competitive kilometres on gravel before the start. Yet he resisted pressure from both sixth placed Habaj and Grzegorz Grzyb in seventh with Grzyb taking the Polish title for the second time in his career.
ACCR Czech Team’s Filip Mareš successfully pulled away from and then held fellow ERC Junior U28 competitor Tomasz Kasperczyk at bay for eighth overall and fifth in ERC Junior U28. It was a strong result for Mareš, taking part in his first gravel rally in an R5-specification car. Despite a trip through a garden on Saturday morning, road sweeping today as first on the road and even rolling his car over this afternoon, Norbert Herczig brought his MOL Racing Team Fabia home P10.
Mārtiņš Sesks took the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 title spoils despite crashing out of the Pirelli-supported category for a second day. Tom Kristensson gave the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team double cause for celebration with the class win ahead of Rally Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena. Marcin Słobodzian won ERC2 for Subaru Rally Team Poland.
With his first ERC title effectively in the bag before the start, the event should have become a high-speed lap of honour for Alexey Lukyanuk. But oversteering entering a fast left on stage three, the Russia ended up off-line over the following jump, landing wide and whacking the right rear of his Russian Performance Motorsport Ford Fiesta off a tree and retiring, fortunately without injury to either he nor co-driver Alexey Arnautov.