Basso, Emperor of Rome in FIA ERC


Giandomenico Basso is the new ruler of Rome following a sensational victory on round three of the FIA European Rally Championship. He defeated Andrea Crugnola in an all-Italian battle for Rally di Roma Capitale glory with Norbert Herczig beating Efrén Llarena to third by 0.3s in a final-stage showdown.

Basso, the two-time ERC champion, started Sunday’s action 5.4s behind overnight leader Crugnola. But he cut that margin to 3.4s after winning the first stage of the day, which ERC Junior graduate Crugnola completed with a rear axle issue on his Hyundai Rally Team Italia-entered i20 R5.

And when Crugnola suffered a front-left damaged tyre five kilometres from the finish of SS8, Basso seized his opportunity to move to the top of the order with a 28.7s advantage over the recovering Crugnola, while Alexey Lukyanuk, the leader of the ERC after two rounds, was now 0.7s behind in third starting SS9.

But Lukyanuk’s pursuit of a podium ended on the final stage of the morning lop when he skated wide on gravel and clouted a tree with the rear of his Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 Rally2. Although it was a tough end to the event for Lukyanuk, there were no such problems for Basso and co-driver Lorenzo Granai.

“Everything is okay, it was a very tricky rally but we are very, very happy,” said Basso. “The final loop was long and we needed to be concentrated because even with the problems for Crugnola and Lukyanuk we could only relax medium because anything can happen on this rally with many kilometres. Thank you to my team, my co-driver and everyone who helped us.”

Llarena, driving a Rallye Team Spain-entered Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo on asphalt for the first time, was 5.3s ahead of Herczig starting the final stage but admitted he had nothing left to give in his pursuit of third place and lost the spot to Škoda Rally Team Hungaria driver Herczig by 0.3s. “It was really hard fighting with him, but my tyres were gone and this was all I could do,” said Llarena. “But it was a really good performance for my first time in this car on Tarmac.”

Herczig, whose last ERC podium was on the Cyprus Rally in 2018, returned to the top three following an outstanding display in his Fabia. “Llarena is very, very fast and very, very young but this is an incredible result for me. We’ve waited a long time and worked very hard. The car was perfect all weekend but in the last stage we damaged the front-right rim and could have had a puncture.”

Miko Marczyk was fifth with two stages remaining, but Roma rookie Fabio Andolfi demoted the ORLEN Team driver on SS12 only to spin one kilometre from the start of the last stage, which allowed former Polish champion Marczyk to round out the top five for more strong ERC points.

Five-time Romanian champion Simone Tempestini started the penultimate stage 3.6s in front of Andreas Mikkelsen after going quickest of all through the test and held on for seventh after the Norwegian spun on a fifth-gear left-hander on SS13. But with Lukyanuk only landing three bonus points for finishing leg one in third, Mikkelsen’s eighth place means he cuts Lukyanuk’s title lead to one point after three rounds. “I went off and had to come back,” he said. “I made a mistake, I was too fast and I’m lucky to be here.”

Mikkelsen’s final-stage spin rounded out a weekend of frustration for the Toksport WRT driver, who reported a two-wheeled moment on SS2 following a knock and was never truly at ease with the set-up of his Škoda Fabia Rally2 or his pacenotes on his Rally di Roma Capitale debut. “It’s better today but there has been a lot of gravel [rallies] lately and our test was very limited before here,” he said. “I don’t think I had the aggressivity and the speed in the corners which you need to have on Tarmac.”

Simone Campedelli was all set to head home his fellow Team MRF Tyres’ driver Craig Breen in ninth but a damaged tyre on a gravel section on the final stage dropped the dejected Italian to P17. Campedelli’s bad luck promoted Irishman Breen to ninth after both drivers had focused on the Indian manufacturer’s ongoing but fast-paced tyre development programme.

Erik Cais was P19 after leg one but a charging display throughout Sunday’s route enabled the Yacco ACCR Team driver to finish P10, his second-fastest time on the final stage helping his cause. Giacomo Scattolon took P11 followed by Hyundai Rally Team Italia’s Umberto Scandola, Grégoire Munster, Iván Ares and ERC newcomer Dominik Štríteský.

Yoann Bonato went wide in fifth gear on Sunday’s opener but avoided damaging his CHL Sport Auto entry and was on course to finish P11 only for a damaged front-right tyre on the final stage to leave him P16. Damiano De Tommaso was P18 following a puncture. Callum Devine fought back to P19 after he was delayed by tyre damage on day one.

Nikolay Gryazin won the Qualifying Stage on Friday morning, but the Russian’s challenge was undone by a spate of punctures. Rachele Somaschini was P27 on her return to ERC action and her first start in the championship at Rally2 level following intercom issues this morning. Luis Vilariño was P23, while Aloísio Monteiro placed P32.

Italian youngster Alberto Battistolli retired from P16 when his Fabia lost first gear after 12 stages. Following transmission problems this morning, Roma first-timer Josh McErlean crashed his Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy Hyundai on SS11. Ole Christian Veiby’s bid for his first ERC points ended on with a moment on SS7. “We were caught out on some dirty gravel in a corner, touched a small concrete block and damaged the radiator,” Veiby explained. “Very disappointed right now, we’ve shown good progress on these tricky asphalt stages, and the set-up changes we did last night were working a bit better.”

Lukyanuk explains ERC Roma exit
Defending ERC champion Alexey Lukyanuk explained what caused him to crash out of a podium spot on Rally di Roma Capitale this morning. Lukyanuk was 0.7s behind Andrea Crugnola starting stage nine following the Italian driver’s delay due to a damaged tyre on SS8. But the Saintéloc Junior Team driver’s hopes of a podium finish evaporated when his Citroën C3 Rally2 struck a tree, as he explained: “On a left-hander we had some gravel it seems and I lost the rear suddenly and there was no chance to control. We went a bit wide and on the exit there was a tree and we touched it with the rear and we get stuck on the side of the road.” Asked if his accident was the result of trying to keep pace with leader Giandomenico Basso and second-placed Crugnola, Lukyanuk responded: “It’s not the Italians. Herzcig and Llarena were really closing from behind and it was obvious that we need to keep pushing so we were on a good pace I think, bad luck.”

Pardo makes it two from two in ERC2, while Poloński scores an Abarth Rally Cup hat-trick
Spaniard Javier Pardo made it two wins out of two starts in ERC2, heading home Suzuki Motor Ibérica team-mate Joan Vinyes from Andorra. After winning the opening gravel-based Abarth Rally Cup rounds in Poland and Latvia, Dariusz Poloński completed a hat-trick of triumphs in the one-make series for the Abarth 124 rally on Pirelli tyres with the Pole also taking third place in ERC2. Dmitry Feofanov took his Suzuki Swift Rally2 Kit to fourth on his first start on asphalt in the Japanese car, a spin and a puncture on the last day not denting the Latvian driver’s bid to keep his championship lead intact. After an electrical issued hampered his progress on Saturday, Victor Cartier responded at the wheel of his self-built Toyota Yaris Rally2 Kit to finish fifth. Roberto Gobbin was sixth and second in the Abarth Rally Cup. Csaba Juhász battled an overheating Mitsubishi Lancer to finish seventh as a puncture restricted Polish Subaru driver Michał Pryczek to eighth.

Top three covered by 2.8s as Basso wins ERC3, Franceschi beats Cachón in ERC3 Junior by 0.1s
The battle for ERC3 gold was decided on the final stage with Pep Bassas taking top honours in his Rallye Team Spain Peugeot 208 Rally4. Run by The Racing Factory from Portugal, Bassas beat Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (Toksport Renault Clio Rally4) by 2.7s with Aléjandro Cachon third in a second Rallye Team Spain-entered Peugeot. Franceschi was a mere 0.1s ahead of Cachon and secured Pirelli-supported ERC3 Junior honours by the same margin after the pair had swapped places several times on the final leg. Sami Pajari was fourth in a Ford Fiesta Rally4 to preserve his title credentials following earlier brake and confidence issues on a rare start on asphalt with Łukasz Lewandowski scoring more ERC3 points in his Opel Corsa Rally4. Martin László had been third in ERC3 Junior but was sixth following a puncture. Adrienn Vogel completed the ERC3 top 10 behind Nick Loof, Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT winner Andrea Mabellini and runne-up Paulo Soria. Daniel Polášek crashed into a tree on the last stage while running fifth. Fellow ERC3 Junior Norbert Maior was in the podium battle when he stopped with a broken wheel.

Torn moves a step closer to big prize drive chance with ERC Junior victory
Ken Torn scored more valuable points in his quest for the FIA ERC Junior Championship crown – and an FIA Junior World Rally Championship prize drive in 2022 with a second category win, this time with stand-in co-driver Timo Taniel. He was comfortably ahead of Oscar Solberg when the Norwegian retired his identical Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3 on the final stage.

Mabellini wins after Timur tops tight Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT battle
It was another rally of what might have been for Yigit Timur. After a time penalty cost him the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT victory on Rally Liepāja, an off while leading the class on Rally di Roma Capitale this morning meant he went OTL despite his best efforts to remain in the classification. It meant Italian Andrea Mabellini moved into a deserved lead he wouldn’t relinquish and the Italian battled brake issues to head home asphalt newcomer Paulo Soria from Argentina and Ghjuvanni Rossi from France. Bastien Bergounhe restarted after stopping with a broken driveshaft on day one to place fourth in the arrive and drive category for identical Renault Clio Rally5s on MICHELIN tyres.

ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory members impress on Rally di Roma Capitale
Efrén Llarena was once again the best of the ERC-MICHELIN Talent factory members in fourth overall. An incentive scheme for young stars in Rally2 cars, Miko Marczyk placed fifth overall with Simone Tempestini seventh, Erik Cais P10 and Grégoire Munster finally scoring in P13.