Season recap #7: Gryazin in Pole position with sensational ERC victory
Nikolay Gryazin secured his second career FIA European Rally Championship victory on PZM Rally Poland, fending off Jari Huttunen and strengthening his FIA ERC Junior Under 28 title challenge.
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 final afternoon stages, unleashing the shackles on his Hyundai i20 R5. A 10s 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.
Though he won the rally-closing Baranowo test by 4.6s, Huttunen fell short of victory, Gryazin securing top spot by 8.3s, with Huttunen settling 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. Although 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 prior to his home ERC counter, yet 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 the opening morning, road sweeping on leg two 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 running. 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.
Words of a winner (Nikolay Gryazin): “I’m really happy because I didn’t expect to win this rally. I wanted to win ERC Junior U28 but I was able to win [overall] so it’s really good for me. We had a few problems. On the last loop we had no tyres and we just had to survive, so it was a bit advantage for Jari Huttunen because he had better tyres. It was our mistake. He had a penalty, I’m really sorry for him but that gave me the chance to win. Honestly, he was really fast. I hope in the future we’re going to have a fight with him again. On the second loop I understood that he will be faster. For sure it was difficult but I just calmed down because I had to have good points in U28, so I was even prepared not to win.”
FIA ERC1: Nikolay Gryazin (LVA)/Yaroslav Fedorov (RUS) ŠKODA Fabia R5
FIA ERC2: Marcin Słobodzian (POL)/Grzegorz Dachowski (POL) Subaru Impreza STI
FIA ERC3: Tom Kristensson (SWE)/Henrik Appelskog (SWE) Opel ADAM R2
FIA ERC Junior Under 28: Nikolay Gryazin (RUS)/Yaroslav Fedorov (RUS) ŠKODA Fabia R5
FIA ERC Junior Under 27: Tom Kristensson (SWE)/Henrik Appelskog (SWE) Opel ADAM R2
ERC Ladies’ Trophy: Catie Munnings (GBR) PEUGEOT 208 R2