Sat 11 Mar 2023

Cunha on course for home ERC4 success

Ernesto Cunha is on course for a home victory in the FIA ERC4 category on Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto, the Portuguese driver making the most of co-driver Carlos Magalhães’ extensive experience.

Driving a Peugeot 208 Rally4, Cunha leads Polish Ford Fiesta Rally4 driver Tymoteusz Jocz by 1m32.2sec with Italian Roberto Daprà completing the overnight podium in another Peugeot.

Cunha is only in his third full season of competing, while Magalhães began his career almost 25 years ago. And with this morning’s rain- and mud-hit stages particularly challenging for the two-wheel-drive crews, the knowledge and calming influence of Magalhães proved to be an advantage.

“It’s not been easy because all the stages were muddy and with two-wheel drive this was not easy, particularly when there was a lot of uphill,” said Magalhães. “There was not much grip and we lose a lot of time but it was the same for everyone.”

Magalhães was a late replacement for Rai Raimundo, who was not able to take part for personal reasons. He’s been impressed by the performance of his inexperienced driver.

“I’m here to help Ernesto only for this event, but he has been fantastic and we match together quite okay,” said Magalhães. “The conditions are quite new for him but he is doing well.”

Second-placed Jocz could have been closer to Cunha had he not damaged his Fiesta’s steering on SS3.

“It has been very hard, the last stage was very slippery with a lot of fog in the mountains,” said Jocz, who is competing in Portugal for the first time. “The stages were good but very hard, it was the first time for me in these conditions. In the second stage we had a little accident on a fence by the end but it was only light on the front-right and the steering is not straight but only this.”

Daprà, who is using the Fafe round to prepare for his upcoming FIA Junior ERC Championship challenge from ORLEN 79th Rally Poland onwards, said: “I don’t want to take any risks because we are here for the experience. It was very hard to know where you can push and where you need to be safe with the car. There were a lot of cars stopped so we had to be careful.”

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