Zlin throws up shock twists in ERC3 Junior title race
Ken Torn is still slightly ahead in the race for the FIA ERC3 Junior Championship title but suffered a scare on Barum Czech Rally Zlín, losing nearly two minutes, while Efrén Llarena lost the lead to Jean-Baptiste Franceschi.
Franceschi, effectively acting as Torn’s wingman thanks to being stablemates in Orsák Rally Sport-prepared Ford Fiesta R2Ts, caught and passed Llarena (Rallye Team Spain) for the lead on Pindula.
The Spaniard lost 8.4s and and slipped to second place, making his task of overhauling Torn in the championship order a much harder task.
But brake fade issues for Franceschi on Kašava brough Llarena straight back into lead contention, the pair now separated by four seconds with only three stages left to decide the new ERC3 Junior champion.
“We lost a lot of seconds in the second stage. Now we try to attack,” said a defiant Llarena at the end of Kašava.
Sindre Furuseth (Saintéloc Junior Team), the last of the three ERC3 Junior title fighters, remains third, 8.5s behind Llarena.
“The other guys have been flat out,” said Furuseth. “I have not so much margin left, so I have to take more risks.”
Torn (Estonian Autosport Junior Team) had been battling Erik Cais (ACCR Czech Rally Team) for fourth place but picked up a puncture seven kilometres from the finish of Kašava, losing nearly two minutes.
Such was his gap over ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team pairing Grégoire Munster and Elias Lundberg that he remains fifth in ERC3 Junior, despite falling behind Florian Bernardi to sixth in the combined ERC3 standings.
But leg points are now a worry for Torn, who is only eighth in the combined ERC3 Junior times for Sunday’s stages. Seven points are available for the fastest driver over leg two, down to one point for the seventh-fastest driver: Torn has now dropped to eighth, with Lundberg 12s ahead in the first points-paying spot.
If the current positions remain until the finish, Torn would win the title by six points from Llarena, but with only four seconds between Franceschi and Llarena, the title’s destination could change at any moment.
Behind the Junior title dramatics, Bernardi resumed his battle over sixth place with Yohan Rossel (Peugeot Rally Academy) and is 11.3s ahead of his fellow Frenchman, though now has Torn in between himself and Rossel, who remains seventh in ERC3.
Sean Johnston (Saintéloc Junior Team), Miklós Csomós (East Motorsport Kft.) and René Dohnal (ACCR Czech Rally Team) complete the top 10 in ERC3.
Nabila Tejpar lost the lead in the ERC Ladies’ Trophy on Maják, the first stage of Sunday morning, as former champion Ekaterina Stratieva successfully erased a 35.8s deficit to the Brit and established a 16.1s advantage of her own by the end of stage 12.