Sun 10 Mar 2024

Moments that made ERC 2023 great: Crugnola rules for first win

Having come agonisingly close to winning his home round of the FIA European Rally Championship on two previous occasions only to be denied through no fault of his own, Andrea Crugnola finally triumphed on Rally di Roma Capitale following a charging display.

Driving a Pirelli-equipped Citroën C3 Rally2, Crugnola delivered a dominant performance alongside co-driver Pietro Elia Ometto, the duo winning in the ERC for the first time as they clinched a third Italian championship title.  


Giandomenico Basso, the double European champion, placed second with Hayden Paddon strengthening his grip on a first ERC crown in third place following a dramatic penultimate stage in the scorching Italian sunshine last July.  


The repeat of the 29.08km Santopadre test on the deciding afternoon would prove costly for several drivers, including Yoann Bonato, who had been embroiled in a close battle with Basso for the runner-up spot, but was one of a number of stop to change a damaged wheel.



“Every year it is a pleasure to fight against the ERC drivers because, especially this year, the level is really crazy high so it’s always a challenge,” said Crugnola, who won by 23.1sec having claimed eight stage bests. “I said before the start my focus was to win the Italian the championship but to win the rally is very special, I am so happy and thank you to my team, to Citroën and Pirelli.”  


Crugnola, driving for F.P.F. Sport, started Sunday’s deciding leg 20.2sec in front of Basso. He edged further ahead by outpacing Basso (below) through the day’s first two stages before he won 29.08km Santopadre 1 to build his overall advantage ahead of Yoann Bonato to 23.7sec after the Frenchman had snatched second from Basso on SS10.



But when Bonato was delayed through the virtual chicane on Alatri 2, Basso retook second, a position he would hold to the finish following Bonato’s unfortunate stop on SS12.  


The rally’s penultimate stage had a dramatic impact on the final order with Alberto Battistolli, Simone Campedelli, Andrea Mabellini, Filip Mareš and Simone Tempestini also stopping and losing strong points-paying finishes as a result. Mathieu Franceschi needed to push his all-new Škoda out of the stop control of SS12 with a reported fuel pump issue.  


However, there were no such problems for Hyundai-powered BRC Racing Team driver Paddon, who made it through the drama-filled SS12 unscathed to finish third to complete a Pirelli podium lockout.

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