Tue 29 Mar 2022

Moura magic runs out as every metre counts

Ricardo Moura’s final-stage defeat on his home round of the FIA European Rally Championship on Sunday left the 10-time Azorean champion shocked but philosophical.

Moura had led the Azores Rallye from the off only to lose out on victory to Efrén Llarena in a dramatic Power Stage decider by 2.7s.

Had Moura held on to his first place over the final 10.22-kilometre Ribeira Grande stage he would have celebrated his second win on the island classic and banished the memories from the final stage of the Azores Rallye last year when he rolled and slipped from third to fourth behind Llarena.

“It was just not enough but that’s how it is,” Moura said. “I’m a bit sad of course, I cannot hide this because we’ve been on the lead of the rally since the first stage. But we couldn’t hold [it] on the last one and we lost it for a couple of seconds. The total metres count and we couldn’t match [his] pace on the last one. It’s easy to find those seconds during the whole event of course, for Efrén it would also be the same. But he was very, very strong and very, very good, especially on the last stage. He deserves to win.”

The 43-year-old Moura hadn’t competed since last September’s Azores Rallye and admitted his lack of seat time was a hindrance against the ERC regulars.

“I’m just a hobby driver nearing the end of his career maybe,” Moura said. “Okay we did what we could, we pushed and we used our knowledge well. But we don’t have the rhythm and the capability to improve so much on the second passes through the stages. I was not able to keep with Efrén’s rhythm.

“Of course it’s a bit sad to be at the end like this but I have to be very happy to see all the people, all the crowds cheering us. I really appreciate that and I give back that love they send to me. For the people I would liked to have given a different result, but it was not possible although I tried my best.

Azores Rallye 2022 highights

Asked if there was a decisive moment that turned the result in Llarena’s favour, Moura pointed to the Power Stage as being out of keeping with the rest of the event.

“It’s completely different to what happened in the whole rally because we have been tenths of a second per kilometre apart, one tenth even,” Moura explained. “We did Sete Cidades and we were one tenth apart after 20 kilometres or something. But on the last stage it changed completely and I was not aware this could happen, not in 10 kilometres. It was quite an improvement by him and a big surprise.”

Moura admitted he has no more rallies scheduled in 2022 but hasn’t called time on his hugely impressive career either. “The plan was to do this rally this year and I have nothing scheduled from now on. But I don’t know if we will stop, we will see.”

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