Sun 12 Mar 2023

Delight for Daprà as Cunha can't hold on in ERC4

Roberto Daprà reversed an overnight deficit of 1min 43.1sec to score his maiden FIA ERC4 victory as Ernesto Cunha tried but was unable to maintain his once comfortable margin on Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto.

Portuguese driver Cunha excelled during Saturday’s rain-hit opening leg with three stage wins as Italian youngster Daprà made gaining experience and preparing for his upcoming Junior ERC bid his focus following a tyre-damage delay on leg one.

But Cunha’s lead would soon unravel after the watersplash on SS11 as his co-driver Carlos Magalhães explained afterwards. “The first stage was not big attack because we had time enough to manage but on the second stage after the watersplash on a tight right corner the windscreen became completely foggy and we see nothing, we went off. The front-left tyre came out of the rim and we went to the end of the stage like that. We also had a small problem with the brakes and again on the third stage.”

Cunha returned to the midday halt in Fafe 19.4sec in front of Daprà, who would then close to within 4.3sec of the Portuguese leader with just the Power Stage remaining. And by going 13.285sec faster than his rival through the rally’s deciding 14.9 kilometres, it was the 21-year-old Daprà who triumphed by 9.0sec

“Today was so much better than yesterday,” said Daprà. “We were 1min 43sec behind Cunha and then it became around 20sec [at the midday service] so we are really happy for the pace and now we are going faster than yesterday and pushing more. Of focus was still to finish the race and gain some points for ERC4, we didn’t want to take any risks or something that can lose time. I’m very happy because we said today that we must do our best in every condition and this is what we did.”

Chilean Patricio Muñoz enjoyed a trouble-free run on his first rally in Europe to finish third in class and complete a Peugeot 208 Rally4 podium lockout.

Tymoteusz Jocz was in a strong second position after Saturday’s sixth stages only for a driveshaft failure to force him to stop. He returned for today’s eight tests in his repaired Ford Fiesta Rally2 and finished fourth.

Joosep Ralf Nõgene’s tally of four two stage wins was evidence of what might have been after a broken intercooler struck on SS3. “It was frustrating stopping yesterday but it’s the first rally with this new car and we are still learning,” said the Estonian, who would ultimately retire on the Power Stage with a mechanical failure.

Norman Kreuter restarted following his trouble-filled Saturday, which included the loss of fourth gear and a drop in turbo pressure before he went straight on into a rock on a slippery downhill right-hander. The German reported the impact speed was a mere 30kph but it was enough to break his Peugeot’s front-left wheel, which put him out for the day. After finishing fifth Kreuter said: “We were still struggling with some problems today but the focus was to bring the car home and score some points. We were very careful not to do anything stupid today.”

The ERC4 drivers will be back in action on Rally Islas Canarias, which takes place on asphalt-only stages from 4 - 6 May.

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