Sat 26 Mar 2022

Mabellini keeps Fotia at bay in ERC4 duel

Andrea Mabellini emerged as ERC4 leader after a tight scrap with Anthony Fotia on Saturday at the Azores Rallye.

The pair, both driving similar Renault Clio Rally4 machines, shared spells at the top of the timesheets during a frantic opening day on Sao Miguel Island. 

Mabellini was fastest out of the blocks. He ended the morning loop almost 30sec clear of his rival, but Fotia responded by pulling back a whopping 31.9sec over SS4 and SS5 to snatch the lead. 

A minor gearbox issue for Fotia in the closing stages enabled Mabellini to move back ahead and the Italian finished the day with a tiny 3.7sec advantage. 

“It feels good,” Mabellini told FIAERC.com. “We are happy with our pace and the car was perfect all day. 

“Let's see what tomorrow can bring us. We are also hoping for better weather,” added the Italian.

The remainder of the leaderboard consisted of Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT runners, with Paulo Soria leading the Rally5 charge. The Argentine suffered broken rear suspension on the penultimate test and ended 2min 49.8sec behind the leading pair. 

Soria had a comfortable 30.8sec in hand over fourth-placed Giorgio Cogni, with Sergio Fuentes a hefty 6min 12.2sec behind. Patrik Herczig - son of Team MRF Tyres driver Norbert - trailed Fuentes by 26.1sec at close of play. 

Challenging conditions and punishing roads claimed their fair share of crews. Ernesto Cunha pulled up on the opener with mechanical headaches on his Peugeot 208 Rally4, while Roberto Daprà’s Fiesta broke a driveshaft on SS4. 

Emre Hasbay and Reiner Kuhn both stopped with radiator damage on their Clios as Ghjuvanni Rossi and Andrea Mazzocchi both crashed their similar cars. 

  • Full coverage from the Azores Rallye is 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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