Polonski wins ERC2 after Rome podium battle takes final twist
Dariusz Poloński wrapped up a maiden win in both the FIA European Rally Championship’s ERC2 category and in the Abarth Rally Cup, but a close fight for second took an unexpected late turn.
Poloński had taken the lead after Andrea Nucita, who had led for most of Saturday, retired after stage five and didn’t look back, bagging vital points over his rival in his pursuit of the Abarth Rally Cup title.
Behind Poloński, a late battle was brewing between Loran SRL team-mates Nucita and Zelindo Melegari.
Nucita was the class of the ERC2 field, using home advantage and familiarity with the Abarth 124 rally to great effect to win almost every stage.
Rather than sit back on his return on Sunday, Nucita pushed to the limit to catch Melegari, closing the gap to just 1.1s with two passes of the short Ostia superspecial to go.
Keen to make up the difference Nucita pushed on over the artificial jump in the stage, but broke a driveshaft after a heavy landing and lost precious seconds, the gap between the two ending up at 11.4s.
There was late heartbreak for Mshari Althefiri, who unlike his other ERC2 rivals, was driving a heavier four-wheel drive Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
With the more agile rear-wheel drive Abarths better suited to Rome’s asphalt roads, Althefiri had settled into fourth place, only to retire between runs on the rally-ending Ostia superspecial due to a suspected clutch issue.
Melegari now leads the ERC2 standings by 18 points from Nucita in second, who in turn has a single point advantage over rally winner Poloński in third.
The tables are turned in the Abarth Rally Cup, however, with Poloński now leading the standings by two points from Nucita.