Lukyanuk takes Rally Fafe Montelongo in thrilling conclusion


Russian rain-masters Alexey Lukyanuk and Dmitry Eremeev scored a thrilling Rally Fafe Montelongo victory as Portugal’s FIA European Rally Championship reached a dramatic conclusion with 4.7s covering the top three starting the final stage.

Lukyanuk, in a Pirelli-equipped Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 R5, had been heading to a relatively comfortable victory in changeable weather conditions only to spin on the penultimate stage and hand the chasing Yoann Bonato and Iván Ares the chance to close up.

But the 2018 ERC champion held his nerve through the rain-hit closing run to win for the second time in this year’s European championship and extend his title advantage in the process.

“It was an odd thing from me, it was my mistake, I made a spin,” Lukyanuk said. “I initiated the turn with the handbrake and initially it was not locking so I pulled it a bit more and it suddenly snapped off. It’s never happened to me before and it was not a nice moment to happen but, okay, it kept us motivated and focused and this result is amazing actually. In the morning it was much more relaxed than during the day because the guys behind gave me a very hard time. I tried to control the pace and it was on a nice way before that spin actually. But we did a good job on the last stage despite we had massive rain straight away from the startline. But I gave it everything, a good drive and on a proper pace. I can be proud of myself, I am happy. Many thanks to my team for a great car and a great job and to Pirelli for the great tyres, I was dependent on them. I hope we get more sponsors for the next event because we are in trouble at the moment but let’s go and have some fun now.”

Bonato, who was 4.6s behind Lukyanuk, beat Ares to second place in the absolute classification by 0.1s with Ares second of the ERC contenders. Grégoire Munster triumphed in ERC1 Junior for the first time in a fine third place with Tibor Érdi Jr taking the ERC2 laurels for the second event running. Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas claimed his maiden victory in Pirelli-supported ERC3 Junior, beating points leader Ken Torn in a final-stage decider. Andrea Mabellini scored a second Abarth Rally Cup victory of 2020 in his Pirelli-equipped Abarth 124 rally.

Leg two round-up: Lukyanuk ends up on top despite late scare
Although the conditions were a little more consistent on day two, they were still changeable throughout with tyre choice once again a key factor as rain persisted.

Alexey Lukyanuk started Sunday’s nine stages 38.3s ahead and was controlling his pace up front as Iván Ares and Yoann Bonato engaged in a thrilling battle behind.

Bonato made his move on the day’s first stage, moving ahead of Ares with the fastest time in his Michelin-shod Citroën C3 R5. But Ares was back ahead of Bonato on SS14 and appeared to have the beating of his French rival with a 6.8s margin starting the final loop of three stages.

But Bonato, whose tyre choice for the middle loop of stages wasn’t ideal for the mainly dry conditions, had other ideas and reclaimed second place on SS17. Although Ares went quicker than Bonato by 0.8s on the final run, it wasn’t enough with Bonato holding on by 0.1s despite a slide into a barrier exiting a right-hander. The moment was captured by the ERC’s camera in the sky as part of the live coverage on Facebook and YouTube.

“It was a really perfect weekend, really difficult as well but I’m really proud of my team and with our performance because it was very tricky with the weather,” said Bonato, a double French Tarmac champion.

For Ares, his capture of second among the ERC contenders represented a European championship high. “We are surprised, today is a very complicated day because the weather changes very much,” said Ares. “You have sun, rain and we don’t know the tyres to use. But it is the same for everybody. We are very satisfied. The position is incredible for us. We are from Galicia and in Galicia it always rains and we are very confident in these conditions. But it’s very difficult.”

It was a triple celebration for Hyundai Junior Driver Grégoire Munster, who not only scored win number one in ERC1 Junior, but also bagged his first outright ERC stage win and European championship top-three finish. ORLEN Team’s Polish champion Miko Marczyk excelled in fourth place among the ERC crews. He headed MOL Racing Team’s Norbert Herczig by 9.5s with the four-time Hungarian title-winner achieving his pre-event objective of scoring his first ERC points of 2020.

Erik Cais (Yacco ACCR Team) got the better of Brose Motorsport’s Dominik Dinkel for sixth by 5.6s after a lengthy battle. Callum Devine overcame fuel pressure issues this morning to finish eighth in ERC and fifth in ERC1 Junior for the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy. Double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel completed the top 10 behind Hyundai Motor España driver Surhayen Pernia.

Niki Mayr-Melnhof had been on course for a top 10 finish only for a late puncture to drop him back to P11. Albert von Thurn und Taxis was P12 followed by ERC3/ERC3 Junior trio Pep Bassas, Ken Torn and Pedro Almeida.

Craig Breen restarted on Sunday following his exit on stage eight and placed P16 for Team MRF Tyres, the Irishman using the day’s nine stages to continue MRF Tyres’ development programme.

Rallye Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena had been in the thick of the ERC1 Junior victory fight but was unable to start on leg two due to a broken exhaust manifold.

Oliver Solberg, out of contention for an overall following a turbo issue on Saturday afternoon, underlined his potential by scoring three stage wins. Although he lost out on a third ERC1 Junior victory, the 19-year-old continues to top the standings, albeit by a reduced seven-point margin over Munster.

Érdi Jr dominates in ERC2, Mabellini claims last-gasp second and Abarth Rally Cup spoils
Tibor Érdi Jr was fastest in ERC2 on all but two stages to take a dominant triumph, his second on as many rallies. In doing so, the Hungarian will head to his home rally next month equal first in the title standings with Zelindo Melegari. Giving the Alpine A110 RGT its international debut, Melegari went off the road on SS6 but battled back to finish fifth. Andrea Mabellini snatched second from Dmitry Feofanov on the final stage and also took Abarth Rally Cup honours for the second time in 2020. Roberto Gobbin was fourth.

Bassas at the double for Rallye Team Spain in ERC3/ERC3 Junior
Pep Bassas was in tears after claiming a first ERC3/ERC3 Junior double in his Pirelli-equipped Peugeot 208 Rally4. The Rallye Team Spain driver described Rally Fafe Montelongo as a must-win event and he duly delivered by beating Ken Torn (Ford Fiesta Rally4) following an event-long battle. Despite reporting a persistent power issue, Bassas kept Torn at bay through the closing stages to win with local hero Pedro Almeida completing the podium ahead of Amaury Molle and Sergio Cuesta, who restarted on day two following his SS1 crash. With 30 ERC starts to his name as a co-driver, Fafe-based Mário Castro was fifth in ERC3 on his first appearance in the championship as a driver.

P1 Racing Fuels Podium Challenge awards top crews
The P1 Racing Fuels Podium Challenge, run for the first time during the 2019 ERC season finale in Hungary, continued on Rally Fafe Montelongo. It rewarded the top three finishes in ERC1 and ERC2 with fuel vouchers that can be exchanged for P1 XR5 race fuel at subsequent events, helping competitors to further reduce the cost of competing. Across both categories, the winning drivers received 150 litres of fuel, while the second and third placed drivers received 100L and 50L respectively.

PROVISIONAL TOP 15 ERC POSITIONS (after 18 stages, 181.44 kilometres)
1 Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Dmitry Eremeev (RUS) Citroën C3 R5 1h45m52.5s
(2 Yoann Bonato (FRA)/Benjamin Boulloud (FRA) Citroën C3 R5 +4.6s)*
2 Iván Ares (ESP)/David Vázquez (ESP) Hyundai i20 R5 +4.7s
3 Grégoire Munster (LUX)/Louis Louka (BEL) Hyundai i20 R5 +1m06.1s
4 Miko Marczyk (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +1m43.9s
5 Norbert Herczig (HUN)/Ramón Ferencz (HUN) Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +1m53.4s
6 Erik Cais (CZE)/Jindřiška Žáková (CZE) Ford Fiesta R5 MkII +2m00.2s
7 Dominik Dinkel (DEU)/Michael Wenzel (DEU) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +2m05.8s
8 Callum Devine (IRL)/James Fulton (IRL) Hyundai i20 R5 +3m02.0s
9 Surhayen Pernía (ESP)/Eduardo Gonzalez (ESP) Hyundai i20 R5 +3m54.1s
10 Marijan Griebel (DEU)/Tobias Braun (DEU) Citroën C3 R5 +3m56.1s
11 Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT)/Poldi Welsersheimb (AUT) Ford Fiesta R5 MklI +4m03.4s
12 Albert von Thurn und Taxis (DEU)/Bernhard Ettel (AUT) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +4m38.1s
13 Pep Bassas (ESP)/Axel Coronado (ESP) Peugeot 208 Rally4 +6m27.7s
14 Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta Rally4 +6m41.6s
15 Pedro Almeida (PRT)/Hugo Magalhães (PRT) Peugeot 208 Rally4 +8m49.8s
*Third in absolute classification, not eligible for ERC points

FIA ERC2: Tibor Érdi Jr (HUN)/Szabolcs Kovács (HUN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
FIA ERC3: Pep Bassas (ESP)/Axel Coronado (ESP) Peugeot 208 Rally4
FIA ERC1 Junior: Grégoire Munster (LUX)/Louis Louka (BEL) Hyundai i20 R5
FIA ERC3 Junior: Pep Bassas (ESP)/Axel Coronado (ESP) Peugeot 208 Rally4
Abarth Rally Cup: Andrea Mabellini (ITA)/Nicola Arena (ITA) Abarth 124 rally