Season recap #1: Lukyanuk lands the big prize with Azores ERC win
Alexey Lukyanuk laid down an emphatic marker for his ERC rivals to aim for, leading the Azores Airlines Rallye from the opening afternoon all the way through to the final stage, and capping his wining start to this year’s FIA European Rally Championship with donuts before the finish line.
Portuguese drivers Ricardo Moura and Bruno Magalhães gave their all, but had no answer for Lukyanuk’s rapid pace, while fellow Pirelli-equipped Chris Ingram was one of a number of ERC Junior Under 28 stars to excel on the demanding gravel spectacular with a class win on his step up to R5 as the ERC Junior Under 27 champion.
Martin Koči had been leading ERC Junior U28 up until the penultimate stage on his Azores debut but the ŠKODA Slovakia Motorsport driver would retire six kilometres from the start of the final run, ripping off the front-left wheel of his Fabia R5.
Diogo Gago secured the Pirelli-supported ERC Junior Under 27 laurels on his home event, beating Rally Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena to first place. Llarena started the closing Tronqueira test – one of several broadcast live on RTP in the Azores, Portugal and beyond – in third place but took advantage when ADAC Opel Junior Rallye Team factory driver Mārtiņš Sesks was delayed by gearbox issues.
Juan Carlos Alonso mounted an incredible comeback to win ERC2, recovering from a broken fuel pump on Thursday to make up three minutes and beat Sergei Remennik to victory after the Russian lost time with a time-consuming spin in Tronqueira on Saturday morning.
Words of a winner (Alexey Lukyanuk): “I am absolutely happy because with [Ricardo Moura and Bruno Magalhães] it was a great battle. They won the two previous years so I am really proud to be in this company and happy to win in front of so many spectators who always support us and cheer us. Thank you very much for your support Azores!
FIA ERC1: Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Alexey Arnautov (RUS) Ford Fiesta R5
FIA ERC2: Juan Carlos Alonso (ARG)/Juan Pablo Monasterolo (ARG) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
FIA ERC3: Diogo Gago (PRT)/Miguel Ramalho (PRT) PEUGEOT 208 R2
FIA ERC Junior Under 28: Chris Ingram (GBR)/Ross Whittock (GBR) ŠKODA Fabia R5
FIA ERC Junior Under 27: Diogo Gago (PRT)/Miguel Ramalho (PRT) PEUGEOT 208 R2
ERC Ladies’ Trophy: Tamara Molinaro (ITA)