Mikkelsen takes the Portuguese double in the FIA ERC


Andreas Mikkelsen and Elliott Edmondson have completed the FIA European Rally Championship’s Portuguese double-header in style, adding to their 55th Azores Rallye triumph from last month with victory on Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras this afternoon.

Driving a MICHELIN-equipped Škoda Fabia Rally2 for Toksport WRT, Mikkelsen was able to pull clear of Alexey Lukyanuk during the afternoon loop to top the order in northern Portugal as a mechanical issue slowed the defending ERC champion, who was 0.7s behind Mikkelsen after today’s second stage, such was the intensity of the earlier fight.

But there were no problems for Norwegian Mikkelsen, who completed the iconic Lameirinha stage, with its famous Pedra Sentada jump, live on Facebook and YouTube more than two minutes in front of his Russian rival to extend his advantage at the top of the ERC standings to 71 points with two events left.

“It’s looking really, really good [for the championship],” said Mikkelsen. “I’m very happy with this weekend even though it’s a shame we couldn’t fight with Alexey to the end. It was really difficult conditions, especially yesterday. Elliott did an amazing job, my Toksport team also. The car was so reliable the whole weekend and it was a pleasure to drive and a nice experience. We managed to stay out of trouble, drove clever and pushed where we had to. It was the recipe for success this weekend.”

Despite carrying a broken front-right driveshaft on his Saintéloc Junior Team-run Citroën C3 Rally2 on Sunday afternoon’s loop, Lukyanuk was able to hold on to second ahead of Portuguese championship duo Armindo Araújo and Bruno Magalhães who were third and fourth after 16 action-packed stages.

Rallye Team Spain’s Nil Solans won the battle for fifth place ahead of Norbert Herczig (Škoda Rally Team Hungaria) and Erik Cais (Yacco ACCR Team), who was slowed by a damaged rear-left tyre on SS16. Yoann Bonato (CHL Sport Auto), Miko Marczyk (ORLEN Team) and Benito Guerra completed the top 10, despite Guerra picking up a front-right damaged tyre on SS15. By finishing ninth overall, Marczyk is the leading ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory member after six rounds and wins the full tyre allocation for the remaining two rounds of the ERC season as his prize.

Javier Pardo took his fourth ERC2 win in as many starts in his Suzuki Motor Ibérica-entered Swift R4lly S as Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas hit back from his Azores crash to claim the ERC3 laurels in a Peugeot 208 Rally4 run by local team The Racing Factory.

Dani Sordo restarted on Sunday morning after crashing out on Saturday’s closing stage. The Spaniard gave a clear glimpse of what might have been by claiming four stage wins for Team MRF Tyres.

How the ERC fight in Fafe unfolded
Sunday’s deciding leg began under bright, blue skies in contrast to the fog, mud, wind and rain of day one with a mere 0.9s covering the fastest three drivers on SS9, Seixoso. There Andreas Mikkelsen edged Miko Marczyk to the stage win by 0.3s with Alexey Lukyanuk just 0.6s slower than Marczyk, who was running first on the road.

Dani Sordo then went fastest on SS10, Sta Quitéria, by a slender 0.1s over Lukyanuk, who was able to cut Mikkelsen’s overall lead to 0.7s heading to SS11, Montim. Marczyk, meanwhile, was 0.4s off Sordo’s stage-winning pace.

Mikkelsen scored his second stage win of the day with a 1.2s margin over Lukyanuk on SS11 to head to the iconic Lameirinha test and the famous Pedra Sentada jump with a 1.9s advantage. And that advantage increased to 9.3s when Mikkelsen scored his third stage win of the day by 0.5s ahead of Sordo with Nil Solans third fastest followed by Lukyanuk, who now trailed Mikkelsen by 7.4s.

Lukyanuk’s bid for victory would suffer a huge setback when the defending ERC champion completed the rerun of Seixoso, SS13, with the hazard lights flashing on his Citroën C3 Rally2. Having started the 10.01-kilometre stage 9.3s behind leader Andreas Mikkelsen, Lukyanuk was now 57.0s adrift of Toksport WRT’s pacesetter and the gap would increase to the end of the rally. “The hazard lights are on, we have no driveshaft on the front right,” a dejected Lukyanuk said at the end of SS13.

Mikkelsen revealed he was aware of Lukyanuk’s plight prior to the stage getting underway and didn’t go on maximum attack in his Škoda Fabia Rally2 as a result. “We didn’t really push, it’s a shame for Lukyanuk,” he said.

Behind Mikkelsen and Lukyanuk, Armindo Araújo continues to top the Portuguese championship order by finishing third ahead of title rival Bruno Magalhães, who was making his debut in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 run by Team Hyundai Portugal.

The three-time Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras winner conceded that he’s yet to find the perfect set-up for the all-new car on the back of limited testing. “The car is too soft and is moving a lot,” Magalhães said after the first run through Lameirinha.

Solans, meanwhile, reckoned a first ERC podium would have been possible without the radiator damage his Fabia suffered in the treacherous conditions that struck on Saturday’s opening leg. He demoted Norbert Herczig for fifth on SS12 with Herczig beating Erik Cais to sixth followed by Yoann Bonato in eighth. For Cais and Bonato, reaching the finish brought some relief after recent high-profile accidents.

Miko Marczyk demoted Benito Guerra for ninth on Sunday’s first stage when the Mexican had to reverse after overshooting a junction.

Ricardo Teodósio held onto P11 despite persistent overheating issues with Sordo fighting back to P12 following his Saturday dramas. Alberto Battistolli’s continued progression enabled him to climb from P15 to P13 with Miguel Correia and José Pedro Fontes following him home in the final points-paying places. Igor Widłak brought his M-Sport Poland-built Ford Fiesta Rally3 home in P22.

Rallye Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena’s hopes of winning the ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory’s top prize ended when he rolled into retirement on SS6. Both he and co-driver Sara Fernández were uninjured although their Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo sustained significant damage.

Although Llarena was a non-starter on leg two, Iván Ares, Simone Campedelli (Team MRF Tyres) and Umberto Scandola (Hyundai Rally Team Italia) all returned after stopping with mechanical breakages on Saturday. Campedelli completed his Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras debut with a succession of top-five stage times, including the second fastest time on SS14, and placed fourth on leg two, but Ares retired after the finish of the final stage.

ERC2: Pardo’s quadruple boosts title hopes
Javier Pardo made it an ERC2 quadruple to edge ahead of Dmitry Feofanov in the battle to win the production-based title. After a troubled opening morning when the young Spaniard admitted making an “idiot mistake”, Pardo soon got into his stride in his Suzuki Motor Ibérica-entered Swift R4lly S to pull ahead of team-mate Joan Vinyes. His win alongside co-driver Adrián Perez was his fourth from four starts and underlined his obvious talent behind the wheel. “Yesterday was horrible, but today it was relaxed with beautiful stages. Thanks to the team for the perfect car. I am very happy for me but for the team to have two cars on the podium.” Feofanov moved into third when Victor Cartier was forced to retire on SS10 with a broken fuel pump on his self-built Toyota Yaris Rally2 Kit.

ERC3: Bassas stands firm to secure hit-back victory
Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas hit back from his Azores Rallye crash to beat Jean-Baptiste Franceschi for his third ERC3 victory, a result that keeps the Peugeot 208 Rally4 driver firmly in the title fight. Bassas moved in front when a minor electrical issued slowed Franceschi’s Renault Clio Rally4 on Saturday’s final stage and spent Sunday’s action maintaining his advantage out front for local team, The Racing Factory. “It was an amazing rally,” Bassas said. “Yesterday was very difficult with the weather but today was very different. This result is important for the championship because Franceschi did a good job.” Pedro Almeida made full use of Fafe-based co-driver Hugo Magalhães’ stage knowledge for to secure third place, as Almeida’s talent also shone through with a number of stage wins. Ernesto Cunho finished fourth on his ERC debut with Łukasz Lewandowski fifth in his Opel Corsa Rally4.

ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory members impress as Marczyk lands the big prize
Erik Cais was the best-placed ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory member in seventh overall on Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras. But with Miko Marczyk the highest-placed member in the provisional FIA European Rally Championship standings after six rounds, it’s the ORLEN Team-run Pole who lands the prize of the full tyre allocation for the ERC season-closing Rally Hungary and Rally Islas Canarias. Efrén Llarena crashed out on SS6, while Simone Tempestini’s impressive podium challenge came undone with a steering issue on SS8. The ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory is an incentive scheme for young stars in Rally2 cars and is new for 2021. A press release highlighting the performances of the first ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory intake will be issued soon. Click HERE for more information.

P1 Racing Fuels Podium Challenge rewards ERC drivers
The 2021 P1 Racing Fuels Podium Challenge continued on Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras this weekend. It rewards the top three finishers in ERC1 and ERC2 on all rounds of the championship 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. More information: www.p1racingfuels.com

PROVISIONAL TOP 15 ERC POSITIONS (after 16 stages, 197.08 kilometres)
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Elliott Edmondson (GBR) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo 2h19m10.1s
2 Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Alexey Arnautov (RUS) Citroën C3 Rally2 +2m01.8s
3 Armindo Araújo (PRT)/Luís Ramalho (PRT) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +2m38.9s
4 Bruno Magalhães (PRT)/Carlos Magalhães (PRT) Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +3m07.4s
5 Nil Solans (ESP)/Marc Martí (ESP) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +3m41.4s
6 Norbert Herczig (HUN)/Ramón Ferencz (HUN) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +4m07.0s
7 Erik Cais (CZE)/Jindřiška Žáková (CZE) Ford Fiesta Rally2 +4m24.2s M
8 Yoann Bonato (FRA)/Benjamin Boulloud (FRA) Citroën C3 Rally2 +4m57.0s
9 Miko Marczyk (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +5m47.8s M
10 Benito Guerra (MEX)/Daniel Cué (ESP) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +7m31.6s
11 Ricardo Teodósio (PRT)/José Teixeira (PRT) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +1m26.9s
12 Dani Sordo (ESP)/Cándido Carrera (ESP) Hyundai i20 R5 +10m48.5s
13 Alberto Battistolli (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +11m56.1s
14 Miguel Correia (PRT)/António Costa (PRT) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +12m12.0s
15 José Pedro Fontes (PRT)/Inês Ponte (PRT) Citroën C3 Rally2 +12m29.9s
M = Eligible for ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory incentives