Crugnola tops leg 1 in FIA ERC Rally di Roma Capitale


Andrea Crugnola is winning a gladiatorial-style battle for Rally di Roma Capitale glory with Giandomenico Basso, upstaging the double European champion to lead by 5.4s following an action-packed day in the searing Italian sunshine.

Crugnola dethroned Basso to become Italian champion for the first time last season and the ERC Junior graduate has the edge over the 2019 Rally di Roma Capitale winner after seven stages.

But the Hyundai Rally Team Italia driver reckoned he could have been even further ahead of his compatriot and rival had it not been for a “stupid mistake” on Saturday’s closing run.

“We started very well by winning the first stage in Rome last night and we are continuing today,” said Crugnola. “We need to continue this pace but it’s not so easy because the other drivers are pushing a lot. It’s close and it will be a tough battle tomorrow. I made a stupid mistake on the last stage and lost a lot.”

Crugnola began Saturday’s action leading Basso by 0.6s following his fastest time through SSS0 Caracalla in Rome last night. But Basso was in front following today’s opening test, which he completed 1.7s faster than Crugnola. Crugnola hit back on SS2 and was 4.4s faster than Basso, but Basso was fastest on SS3 to cut Crugnola’s margin to 2.5s heading to the midday halt in Fiuggi.

Basso, who won SS4 and shared the fastest time with Nikolay Gryazin on SS6 either side of a Crugnola best time on SS5 aboard his Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, said: “It’s been a difficult day, but I am happy to be here. We are second for now and we will see for tomorrow when we will push.”

Fresh from his WRC3-winning heroics on Rally Estonia last week, FIA European Rally Championship leader Alexey Lukyanuk is third overall in his Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 Rally2, 21.8s behind Crugnola. “We should have been faster, but we are missing something with the set-up,” said the Russian.

Damiano De Tommaso demoted Norbert Herczig for fourth on SS4 but a 20-seconds penalty for a driving infringement drops the Italian to P10, leaving Herczig – who was just 3.8s behind De Tommaso following a strong performance by the Škoda Rally Team Hungaria driver – in fourth. Rallye Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena is 3.2s behind Herczig on his first start on asphalt aboard his Fabia Rally2 Evo. Miko Marczyk (ORLEN Team) demoted CHL Sport Auto’s Yoann Bonato for sixth on Saturday’s closing run, albeit by a scant 0.7s. Italian championship leader Fabio Andolfi is eighth and 0.4s ahead of Umberto Scandola, who is ninth for Hyundai Rally Team Italia.

Simone Tempestini is 6.4s off the top 10 in P11 with Craig Breen 0.8s behind Tempestini in P12 for Team MRF Tyres. Ole Christian Veiby is 0.7s adrift of Breen in P13 in another Hyundai i20 R5 with Simone Campedelli and Giacomo Scattolon completing ERC scorers in P14 and P15 respectively.

Andreas Mikkelsen is P16 for Toksport on his Roma debut and far from happy following a tough day in his Fabia. “I’m fighting a lot with the car but there’s no rhythm at all,” he said. “It’s a tricky rally.”

Erik Cais battled handbrake and rear differential issues during this morning’s loop but is P17 aboard his Yacco ACCR Team Ford Fiesta Rally2. Grégoire Munster has been hampered by understeer but remains in contention to score his first points of the season in P18. Alberto Battistolli and Josh McErlean round out the top 20 ahead of Iván Ares. Czech newcomer Dominik Stříteský is P23, while Gryazin is one place further back after he was forced to change a damaged front-left tyre on SS1. Luis Vilariño is next up.

Rachele Somaschini P30 on her ERC return and her first appearance at European level in Rally2 machinery. A damaged left-rear tyre dropped Motorsport Ireland Rally Academ’s Callum Devine out of the points fight this morning. Nil Solans was fifth overall when an accident put him out on SS2.

Perfect Pardo ahead in ERC2, Poloński primed for Abarth Rally Cup honours
Javier Pardo has continued where he left off on ORLEN 77th Rally Poland by leading ERC2 in his Suzuki Motor Ibérica-entered Swift Rally2 Kit. The Spaniard leads Joan Vinyes by 16.1s with Abarth Rally Cup pacesetter Dariusz Poloński in third. Championship leader Dmitry Feofanov is fourth on his first outing on Tarmac in his Suzuki. Subaru driver Michał Pryczek is fifth ahead of Abarth Rally Cup driver Roberto Gobbin. Csaba Juhász is seventh but an electrical issue dropped Victor Cartier’s Toyota Yaris Rally2 Kit into road mode during the afternoon to leave the Frenchman down in eighth.

Torn powers to ERC Junior lead
Ken Torn overcame a powersteering issue to top the ERC Junior order in his M-Sport Poland-run, Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3. Oscar Solberg, who is competing on his first asphalt event in four years, is second in another Fiesta Rally3 but frustrated after some wrong set-up calls this morning.

Bernardi’s ERC3 heartbreak lets in Bassas, Franceschi ahead in ERC3 Junior
Florian Bernardi was leading ERC3 by 3.8s on his return to the FIA European Rally Championship. But an off on SS5 left his Renault Clio Rally4 too badly damaged to continue. It means Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas holds the overnight advantage in his Peugeot 208 Rally4 ahead of ERC3 Junior contenders Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (Renault Clio Rally4) and Alejandro Cachón. Norbert Maior, Martin László and Łukasz Lewandowski (Opel Corsa Rally4) complete an evenly-matched top six. Franceschi leads ERC3 Junior with Sami Pajari, the points leader in ERC3 and ERC3 Junior prior to Friday evening’s start in central Rome, eighth in ERC3 and six in ERC3 Junior behind Nick Loof. Daniel Polášek has battled brake issues, while and engine fire forced a devastated Amaury Molle to retire his Ford Fiesta Rally4.

Timur tops tight Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT battle
A tight battle is raging in the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT with 12.2s covering the top three. Turkey’s Yigit Timur leads the arrive-and-drive class for the Clio Rally5 on MICHELIN tyres with a 5.1s advantage over Argentine Paulo Soria. Andrea Mabellini is third, 7.1s behind Soria. Ghjuvanni Rossi is fourth after tyre issues. Bastien Bergounhe was forced to retire with a broken driveshaft this morning.

PROVISIONAL TOP 15 ERC POSITIONS (after seven stages, 66.90 kilometres)
1 Andrea Crugnola (ITA)/Pietro Ometto (ITA) Hyundai i20 R5 40m42.7s
2 Giandomenico Basso (ITA)/Lorenzo Granai (ITA) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +5.4s
3 Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Alexey Arnautov (RUS) Citroën C3 Rally2 +21.8s
4 Norbert Herczig (HUN)/Ramón Ferencz (HUN) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +34.8s
5 Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernándes (ESP) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +38.0s M
6 Miko Marczyk (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +43.8s M
7 Yoann Bonato (FRA)/Benjamin Boullloud (FRA) Citroën C3 Rally2 +44.5s
8 Fabio Andolfi (ITA)/Stefano Savoia (ITA) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +45.3s
9 Umberto Scandola (ITA)/Danilo Fappani (ITA) Hyundai i20 R5 +45.7s
10 Damiano De Tomasso (ITA)/Giorgia Ascalone (ITA) Citroën C3 Rally2 +51.0s
11 Simone Tempestini (ROU)/Sergiu Itu (ROU) +52.1s M
12 Craig Breen (IRL)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Hyundai i20 R5 +52.9s
13 Ole Christian Veiby (NOR)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Hyundai i20 R5 +53.6ss
14 Simone Campedelli (ITA)/Tania Canton (ITA) Volkswagen Polo GTi R5 +55.5s
15 Giacomo Scattolon (ITA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) Volkswagen Polo GTi R5 +57.5