Tue 07 Mar 2023

Top five Portuguese ERC moments

National champions past (José Pedro Fontes, Pedro Meireles, Bernardo Sousa and Ricardo Teodósio) and present (Armindo Araújo), will be among several home heroes flying the Portuguese flag when the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship begins in Fafe this week.

But ahead of Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto taking place from Friday to Monday (10 - 12 March) here are five top Portuguese ERC moments to remember.

1: Magalhães takes vital win (above)
Bruno Magalhães knew time wasn’t on his side. Lacking the funds necessary to contest the subsequent ERC event in Cyprus, Magalhães had to win EKO Acropolis Rally in 2018 to stand any chance of securing the backing necessary to continue his European title challenge. He promptly won the event, however, to secure his place on the Cyprus Rally entry list. Then he came within 0.6s of winning again, only to lose out to Cypriot star Simos Galatariotis in a dramatic final-stage decider.

2: Moura the man on home soil (below)
While he’d made winning the Azorean championship and artform – he had eight local titles to his name prior to the 2016 Azores Rallye – winning his home round of the ERC had thus far eluded him. Two years after Bernardo Sousa triumphed for Madeira on São Miguel island, Moura finally got the Azores Rallye victory he and his fellow islanders craved with a triumphant performance.

3: Comeback hero Magalhães (below)
The 2017 Azores Rallye was dramatic from start to finish with the then reigning ERC champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, the 2016 runner-up Alexey Lukyanuk and local hero Ricardo Moura all hitting trouble. Despite not rallying on gravel for 18 months and with scant knowledge of his Škoda Fabia R5, Magalhães steered clear of the drama and powered ahead of Moura on leg one before moving in front when Lukyanuk broke his steering striking a rock on leg two’s second stage to add to the Azores wins he scored in 2008 and 2010. “I didn’t expect that, it is just amazing, just perfect and thanks to my sponsors who gave me this opportunity, to my family and everybody in the team,” said Magalhães, who had rallied only once in 2016 but used his Azores victory in 2017 to launch an unexpected ERC title challenge.

4: Gago is great (below)
There was no stopping Diogo Gago at the start of the European championship in 2018. The Portuguese impressed hugely by claiming back-to-back victories in the Junior ERC category. But after landing class wins on the Azores Rallye and Rally Islas Canarias, a lack of budget would prove his undoing and Gago’s title challenge quickly fizzled out, a classic case of what might have been.

5: Unleashed Antunes goes on a spectacular Roman charge (below)
When international rallying resumed following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in July 2020, the ERC was first out of the blocks with Rally di Roma Capitale hosting the delayed start to the season. While Alexey Lukyanuk was heading to the outright victory, Pedro Antunes was embroiled in a thrilling fight for Junior ERC success in his all-new Peugeot 208 Rally4. Having glanced a wall on SS12 in his bid to catch class leader Ken Torn, the charging Antunes moved in front on SS13 before increasing his margin to 4.3s with one stage left. But a crash on the decisive stage put him out and handed Torn – who would go on to take the championship title that year – first place.

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