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Fri 22 Jul 2022

Llarena tops Rome qualifier

Efrén Llarena laid down the gauntlet for his Rally di Roma Capitale charge by winning Friday morning’s sun-kissed Qualifying Stage.

  • Full coverage from Rally di Roma Capitale 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.

The Spaniard, driving a Škoda Fabia Rally2, fended off local opposition to win the 4.02km Fumone warm-up blast by two-tenths of a second from Citroën C3 Rally2 man Andrea Crugnola.

Llarena’s Team MRF Tyres colleague Simone Campedelli completed the podium 0.5sec further back as ambient temperatures tipped 30 degrees Celsius in central Italy. 

Llarena arrives in Rome with a commanding 46-point championship lead over Nil Solans, who withdrew his entry earlier this week. A strong result this weekend would move him a step closer to - or potentially secure - the title. 

“We had a really good run,” Llarena told FIAERC.com. “For sure, it wasn’t completely perfect and we have some room to make improvements, but the feeling was really nice with the car and the tyres.

“Of course, it’s going to be really hot in the car this weekend - but it’s no different to the conditions on some of the other rallies we have done in the past. The heat will not be a problem and we are just going to try and enjoy. 

“I am not thinking about the championship,” he continued. “We just want to be at the finish of this rally with a lot of points - then we can go to Barum [Czech Rally Zlín] in a really strong position.”

Filip Mareš matched Campedelli’s pace to end fourth overall in another Fabia, while home hero Fabio Andolfi brought his similar car home three-tenths further back. Damiano De Tomasso - also driving a Škoda - completed the top six. 

Mārtiņš Sesks and Ken Torn were over 20 seconds adrift of the leading time as both drivers picked up punctures after hitting anti-cut markers. Giandomenico Basso - twice a winner of this event - was saddled with a stage maximum for jump-starting.