Moments that made ERC Rally Poland perfect: 2019
On its second year back in the FIA European Rally Championship, 76th PZM Rally Poland was one to remember as Alexeys Lukyanuk and Arnautov scored a long-overdue first win in their Saintéloc Citroën C3 R5.
During the weekend when the 77th running of the famous gravel event was originally scheduled to take place, here’s a reminder of how the Russian duo came out on top on 30 June 2019.
Taking the lead from Hyundai Motorsport N’s ERC3 Junior graduate Jari Huttunen after stage two on Saturday morning, Lukyanuk didn’t look back, despite a handful of issues, winning by 59.8s with Łukasz Habaj taking third to maintain his ERC title advantage, albeit by 11 points over new second-place driver Lukyanuk.
After a broken damper and puncture on Saturday caused only a minor delay, another puncture occurred when Lukyanuk hit a rock on the Sunday morning pass of Gmina Mragowo.
His lead was reduced but he still remained out front and from there he was untouchable, winning the remaining four stages to cement his first win of 2019 and his ninth in the ERC.
“It’ a long-awaited result,” Lukyanuk said. “It should come straight away from Azores, but some bad luck happened. Now it’s like a revenge against fate. We still had some moments, some close moments from the car and from the road also but we survived them.”
Huttunen’s return to the European championship was equally as successful as his appearance on this event last year, repeating his second-place finish with a factory-supported Hyundai i20 R5.
Conscious that Lukyanuk was keen to get his first win of 2019 on the board, Huttunen played it safe and made sure he secured second place.
Championship leader Habaj (Sports Racing Technologies) added another podium to his impressive 2019 trophy cabinet, limiting his points loss to Lukyanuk to ensure he would leave his home event still top of the ERC standings, 11 points ahead of Lukyanuk.
Habaj overhauled ERC1 Junior star Miko Marczyk (ŠKODA Polska Motorsport) for fourth place early on Sunday morning and then took third when Filip Mareš (ACCR Czech Rally Team) picked up a right-rear puncture on stage 12.
Despite losing nearly a minute, Mareš still secured victory in the ERC1 Junior category and fourth place overall, putting him into class title contention as Chris Ingram (Toksport WRT) retired on the road section between SS13 and SS14 with a water leak.
Aron Domżała (TGS Worldwide) scored his first ERC top five finish aboard his ŠKODA Fabia R5. The cross-country regular had been battling Habaj earlier on but fell back during leg two. Co-driven by three-time ERC champion Jarek Baran, Domżała was able to drive to the finish without drama when nearest rival Hiroki Arai (Team STARD) rolled out of the rally on the morning pass of Uzranki.
Tomasz Kasperczyk (Tiger Energy Drink Rally Team) mounted a strong comeback to finish sixth after starting leg two down in P11. He benefitted from Arai’s retirement and also Marijan Griebel’s off just 2.5 kilometres from the end of the rally, but also passed Mattias Adielsson (Sweden National Team), Norbert Herczig (MOL Racing Team) and Marczyk during leg two.
Adielsson had been set to finish sixth until a broken front differential left him with only rear wheel drive, though Griebel’s crash meant the he was given a notional time for the final stage and clung on to seventh by 0.1s from Herczig.
Despite the last-minute issues Adielsson also wrapped up a first ERC1 Junior podium finish, ahead of Marczyk, who completed the class top three and finished ninth overall. Marczyk had been running fourth overall behind Habaj on Sunday morning but lost nearly three minutes when he stopped to change a puncture on SS12.
The spate of late retirements promoted Kacper Wróblewski into the top 10 on the final stage, scoring an ERC championship point on his first ever gravel rally in a four-wheel drive car. Juan Carlos Alonso won ERC2, Andrea Nucita secured top Abarth Rally Trophy honours, while Ken Torn made it two ERC3 and ERC3 Junior wins in succession.