Sun 27 Mar 2022

Perfect start to Clio title bid for Soria

Argentina’s Paulo Soria tops the provisional Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT standings following a dominant victory at the season-opening Azores Rallye.

Co-driven by compatriot Marcelo Der Ohannesian, Soria was fastest in the entry-level, arrive-and-drive category on all but three stages to head home Italian FIA European Rally Championship rookie Giorgio Cogni and Canary Islander Sergio Fuentes, who completed the podium in third position. 

Soria, who finished runner-up in the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT last season, led from start to finish. Aside from a scare on Saturday afternoon when his car suffered a broken left-rear damper, little troubled the 27-year-old, who enjoyed a winning margin of more than three minutes after Cogni backed off during the closing stages to ensure a strong finish.

After he was delayed by a damaged tyre on leg one, Sergio Fuentes experienced no further delay to finish third and underline his potential for a home victory when the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT resumes on Rally Islas Canairas in mid-May.

“We drove to the finish with no problems and to be on the podium is the perfect way to prepare for our race on Canary Islands,” Fuentes said. 

Turkey’s Emre Hasbay restarted on leg two after going into a ditch on SS4 to finish fourth. He explained what went wrong on Saturday’s opening leg. “We went into a tight corner full of mud quite fast and jumped into a ditch. We could not take the car out, there were no spectators around. It’s a shame because after we put the car on the road we had no mechanical damage so we could drive to the finish.”

Andrea Mazzocchi was also back in action after crashing out on Saturday morning. And it was a case of what might have been for the Italian who clocked two fastest stage times as he fought back to finish fifth.

Having overcome a gearbox issue on Sunday morning Hungarian teenager Patrik Herczig was in fourth place when he rolled into retirement on the penultimate stage.

“It was a very good way to start the season in an amazing rally like Azores and it’s an honour for me and another dream come true to be here,” said Soria, whose victory earned him €4000 in prize money.

“Winning is amazing and I’m so happy. We tried to be so efficient and clever on the rally, adapting our pace and our style to the Rally5. It was difficult but we drove very good and precise with no mistakes, just the little problem with the damper on day one. In the end we managed to arrive to the finish with the victory. That was the main target and also with a podium in ERC4.”

Giorgio Cogni, who was competing outside his native Italy for the first time, said: “It was a really difficult rally, very difficult conditions but we finished. We were not so fast today because we wanted to keep the car on the road in a really safe mode. In the end I am second and we are really happy.”

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