Fri 11 Mar 2022

Cais sets pace in Fafe curtain-raiser

Erik Cais took an early lead at Rally Serras de Fafe - Felgueiras - Cabreira e Boticas with the fastest time on Friday evening’s superspecial stage.

Standings after Friday (SSS1 /17):
Pos Driver Car Time
1. Erik CAIS Ford Fiesta Rally2 1min 26.5sec
2. Miguel CORREIA Skoda Fabia Rally2 +0.6sec
3. Nil SOLANS Volkwagen Polo GTI R5 +0.7sec
4. Ken TORN Ford Fiesta Rally2 +1.2sec
5. Armindo ARAÚJO Skoda Fabia Rally2 +1.3sec
6 Simone TEMPESTINI Skoda Fabia Rally2 +1.4sec
=7. Norbert HERCZIG Skoda Fabia Rally2 +1.8sec
=7. Georg LINNAMÄE Volkwagen Polo GTI R5 +1.8sec
9. Rúben RODRIGUES Citroën C3 Rally2 +2.2sec
10. Bruno MAGALHAES Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +2.3sec


Thousands of fans lined the streets of Fafe as the new-look FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) got underway in spectacular style. 

Slippery cobbled streets bordered by punishing concrete kerbs kept drivers on their toes as Cais edged home hero Miguel Correia by six-tenths of a second. 

It’s shaping up to be an exciting weekend for the ERC-Michelin Talent Factory member. He finished second to Georg Linnamäe at Friday afternoon’s Lagoa Qualifying Stage and will start fourth in the running order on Saturday. 

“It's always good to finish these stages safely because they can be very difficult, but the spectators are here and it was really good,” he said.

“Tomorrow will be full of mud, but I like these conditions so I am really looking forward to it. If there is rain, fog and everything I will be happy because I like it, so let’s see how it is out there tomorrow.”

Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 pilot Nil Solans ended just 0.1sec down on Correia to complete the early top three. He was 1.2sec clear of Fiesta man Ken Torn, who survived a scare with clutch issues in free practice. 

Overall it was a strong night out for the Skoda cars. Six-time Portuguese champion Armindo Araújo was just one-tenth back from Torn, whilst Simone Tempestini rounded off the top six. He trailed Cais by a mere 1.4sec at close of play. 

Linnamäe eventually tied for seventh with Team MRF Tyres star Norbert Herczig and admitted he had underestimated how slippery the surface would be. He starts fifth on the road on Saturday.

Top seed Efrén Llarena had a disastrous start when his Fabia hit trouble. A mystery technical issue caused the car to stall at a hairpin right and he lost more than 10sec. 

Italian hopeful Simone Campedelli was having headaches of his own, although his 7.4sec time loss was self-inflicted. The Fabia driver outbraked himself approaching the donut section and had to stop and reverse before continuing the stage. 

Fiesta Rally3 youngster Kaspar Kasari topped ERC3 by 0.3sec from Igor Widlak after the 1.43km opener, while Roberto Daprà's Fiesta Rally4 heads up the ERC4 field. In ERC Open, Alberto Monarri edged Martins Sesks to lead by 1.4sec in his Suzuki Swift Rally2 Kit. 

The action resumes at 0900hrs on Saturday morning with two loops of four gravel speed tests located north-east of Fafe.

• Full coverage from Rally Serras de Fafe - Felgueiras - Cabreira e Boticas will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

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