ERC – 2020 Rally Hungary – Mikkelsen wins, Lukyanuk fights back like a champion

While Andreas Mikkelsen celebrated a winning return to the FIA European Rally Championship, Alexey Lukyanuk fought back like a champion with a charging display on Rally Hungary’s deciding leg today, scoring eight potentially crucial points in his bid to win the coveted title for a second time.

Lukyanuk was firmly in the victory fight, a mere 5.1s behind Mikkelsen after five stages on Saturday. But when he was erroneously checked in five minutes early for stage six, his hopes of a third 2020 ERC win came crashing down as a five-minute penalty was applied to the Saintéloc Junior Team driver’s total time.

Despite languishing in a distant P18 at the overnight halt in host city Nyíregyháza, Lukyanuk didn’t give up and went on a flat-out charge to win leg two courtesy of four stage wins in P13 overall. His performance cut the margin to winner Mikkelsen to 4m53.5s in the ultimate case of what might have been.

“We won the day so the mission is complete,” said Lukyanuk, who was competing in a Citroën C3 R5 on Pirelli tyres with co-driver Dmitry Eremeev. “Risk management is something to learn of course and we see it’s possible to be faster. All in all, we tried to concentrate on speed and consistency and it feels good.”

For Mikkelsen, his victory alongside co-driver Ola Fløene, came on the back of seven stage bests, a remarkable performance given this was the Norwegian’s first rally of 2020 and his first in his Pirelli-equipped, Topp-Cars Rally Team-run Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo.

“I’m undefeated in 2020 so far!” said a jubilant Mikkelsen, a winner of three World Rally Championship events in the past. “It’s been a good weekend. As I said I haven’t been competing, only testing as most of you know, for the last couple of years on Tarmac has been really difficult for me and I think maybe people thought I couldn’t drive on Tarmac any more so it’s nice to come here and show we’ve still got it and we’re still fast. I have to say a huge thanks to our team, Topp-Cars, for delivering me this car, it’s been working flawless all weekend and as well to Skoda for making this really, really nice car. I tried it in 2017, I loved it then but a lot has happened since then and now it’s even better. I feel so comfortable driving and it’s all about confidence. I felt I’ve pretty much been in control all the rally. I felt very good,. We drove a clever strategy, not taking too big risks but we were still quick so it’s really enjoyable.”

BMA Autosport Hyundai i20 R5 driver Grégoire Munster won ERC1 for the second rally in succession in a career-best second overall with Efrén Llarena, the ERC3 Junior champion from 2019, also landing a personal best in third for Rallye Team Spain having completed leg one in fifth spot.

MOL Racing Team’s Norbert Herczig was third with two stages remaining but a puncture on SS15 denied the Hungarian a home podium. “I’m really sad, we had a puncture but I don’t know how because we drive carefully,” said the four-time national champion, who drives a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. “Unfortunately, we lose the podium and I’m sorry for everybody. I wanted very much the podium, but life is life. Next time.”

As well as benefiting Llarena, Herczig’s delay promoted Oliver Solberg – who was ninth overnight after two punctures on Saturday – to fourth and Niki Mayr-Melnhof to fifth, the Austrian dropping time with a moment through a ditch on SS14.

Callum Devine was seventh for the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy to continue his strong recent run, while Erik Cais produced a succession of rapid stage times as he recovered from his second-stage off to finish eighth for the Yacco ACCR Team. Double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel overcame a high-speed spin this morning to finish ninth for Saintéloc Junior Team. András Hadik, from Hungary, completed the top 10 with Josh McErlean marking his ERC debut with an impressive P11 for the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy.

Dominik Dinkel (Brose Motorsport) battled back from several delays – plus no working intercom for several Saturday stages – to finish P12 ahead of the recovering Lukyanuk and Yoann Bonato. The Michelin-supported Citroën driver was delayed going off the road on the opening morning then received a one-minute penalty for an early check-in. ORLEN Team’s Polish champion Miko Marczyk, who led after SS1 but lost out on a top result due to a puncture, was P15 with Albert von Thurn und Taxis taking P16.

More Munster magic in ERC1 Junior
Grégoire Munster staked his claim on the FIA ERC1 Junior title with a second successive victory as a double puncture hit rival Oliver Solberg’s hopes hard on day one. But Luxembourg driver Munster, in his family-run BMA Autosport Hyundai i20 R5, had issues of his own when his car failed to start prior to leaving overnight parc fermé and then service this morning.

“It was maybe something to do with the cold night we had,” said Munster. “Today we tried to keep the car always running to not get any more problems. I’m really happy with our weekend, it was a really, really tricky rally. On the first day we pushed and showed some great pace. On the second day we had to manage the gap we had. I did not want to take any risk this morning and we managed it a bit better in the second loop when we showed we were capable of driving fast without making any mistakes.”

Like Munster, Efrén Llarena was also competing on Rally Hungary for the first time but shrugged off his lack of experience of the event and his Rallye Team Spain-entered Citroën C3 R5. “We tried to have a good pace to do all the stages at 80/85 per cent,” said the ERC3 Junior champion. “This afternoon we were in the fight and saw we could be on the podium so we tried to attack. It was a fantastic podium for the team and also Rallye Team Spain and all the guys that support me.”

Behind Solberg in third, Callum Devine took fourth ahead of Erik Cais, Dominik Dinkel and Miko Marczyk. Emil Lindholm restarted on day two after he went off the road on SS9 while in the thick of the ERC1 Junior podium battle for Team MRF Tyres. He placed eighth. Hungarian category newcomer Ádám Velenczei retired with a technical issue on leg one and did not restart on Sunday.

Érdi Jr takes clear ERC2 win as Mabellini makes up for lost time in Abarth Rally Cup
For the second rally running, Hungarian hero Tibor Érdi Jr was fastest in ERC2 on all but two stages to take a dominant triumph, his third of 2020. Zelindo Melegari finished second with Andrea Mabellini third after Dmitry Feofanov stopped on the final day with an oil leak. Mabellini retired on Friday evening’s superspecial with suspension failure but fought back to complete the ERC2 podium and win the Abarth Rally Cup section for a third time. Martin Rada finished second but Mihnea Mureșan and Roberto Gobbin were non-starters on leg two after crashing out on Saturday. “We are very happy to win our home race,” said Érdi Jr. “We had no problems apart from a slow puncture on SS12. The feeling is amazing and we are very happy, it’s a good job. We tried to be safe without risk and this is what we did.”

Torn turns on the heat in ERC3/ERC3 Junior title bid
Ken Torn did his chances of a combined ERC3/ERC3 Junior title triumph the power of good with his third win of the season at the wheel of the Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally4 he shares with co-driver Kauri Pannas. The Estonian Autosport Junior Team driver was embroiled in a close battle with Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas, which ebbed and flowed for much of the event.

“For sure the result is brilliant,” said Torn. “It was a tough weekend, one of the hardest weekends we’ve had, but a big job is done. It’s good experience in the pocket for the future. We had a front-right puncture on stage 15, it was not the best news but we did not lose too much time. The chances of winning the title seem good but there is a lot more to do, we can’t be lazy and we need to keep working and be stronger on the next event.”

Romanian Raul Badiu completed the ERC3 podium behind Bassas with Norwegian rookie Ola Jr Nore third in ERC3 Junior in Toksport’s all-new Renault Clio RSR Rally5. Hungarian lady driver Adrienn Vogel was a strong fifth in ERC3 with Amaury Molle battling an engine issue for much of the event to finish fourth in ERC3 Junior and sixth in ERC3.

Csaba Juhász was next up followed by impressive Romanian newcomer Norbert Maior, who was in the ERC3 Junior lead battle until a driveshaft failure forced him out on Saturday. Martin László also showed strong form but his hopes were undone by a trip into a ditch on SS5 and a gearbox issue. Csaba Viszlo crashed out, while Rachele Somaschini retired with the recurrence of an old shoulder injury.

Breen explains podium heartache
Craig Breen was firmly on course for a podium finish for Team MRF Tyres only for a mechanical failure to force him to retire his Hyundai i20 R5 on SS12 while running in second. The Irishman, a five-time winner in the ERC, explained what went wrong. “Unfortunately, a few kilometres from the end of the third stage of the loop we had an engine failure. There’s no point to point fingers and blame anyone. There was little warning and I think by the time the warning came, the damage [was] already done. There was not a whole lot more that we do to be honest. Today was very simple just to bring it home. That was the task. We took it very easy over the stages. It’s really disappointing, considering all the work that everybody has done, but it is life unfortunately. The progress of MRF Tyres has definitely been impressive. We’ve been we’ve been trying very, very hard and all the tests in the meantime to make tyre more and more competitive and we’re definitely making big improvements and we are going to try and make it even better in the future.”

P1 Racing Fuels Podium Challenge awards drivers
The P1 Racing Fuels Podium Challenge, run for the first time during the 2019 ERC season finale in Hungary, continued on this year’s event. 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.

LEG ONE REPORT: Click HERE for leg one report
DAY TWO NEWSFEED AVAILABLE BY EMAILING: Paula_Dequidt@discovery.com

PROVISIONAL TOP 15 ERC POSITIONS (after 16 stages, 191.06 kilometres)
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Fløene (NOR) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo 1h48m31.1s
2 Grégoire Munster (LUX)/Louis Louka (BEL) Hyundai i20 R5 +1m32.2s
3 Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Citroën C3 R5 +2m00.3s
4 Oliver Solberg (SWE)/Aaron Johnston (IRL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +2m04.8s
5 Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT)/Poldi Welsersheimb (AUT) Ford Fiesta R5 MklI +2m08.2s
6 Norbert Herczig (HUN)/Ramón Ferencz (HUN) Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +2m31.4s
7 Callum Devine (IRL)/James Fulton (IRL) Hyundai i20 R5 +2m50.3s
8 Erik Cais (CZE)/Jindřiška Žáková (CZE) Ford Fiesta R5 MkII +3m24.3s
9 Marijan Griebel (DEU)/Tobias Braun (DEU) Citroën C3 R5 +3m32.4s
10 András Hadik (HUN)/Krisztián Kertész (HUN) Ford Fiesta R5 MkII +4m13.6s
11 Josh McErlean (IRL)Keaton Williams (GBR) Hyundai i20 R5 +4m16.8s
12 Dominik Dinkel (DEU)/Ursula Mayrhofer (AUT) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +4m35.1s
13 Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Dmitry Eremeev (RUS) Citroën C3 R5 +4m53.5s
14 Yoann Bonato (FRA)/Benjamin Boulloud (FRA) Citroën C3 R5 +4m57.7s
15 Miko Marczyk (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +5m44.5s

FIA ERC2: Tibor Érdi Jr (HUN)/Zoltán Csökő (HUN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
FIA ERC3: Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta Rally4
FIA ERC1 Junior: Grégoire Munster (LUX)/Louis Louka (BEL) Hyundai i20 R5
FIA ERC3 Junior: Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta Rally4
Abarth Rally Cup: Andrea Mabellini (ITA)/Nicoló Gonella (ITA) Abarth 124 rally

Click here for full provisional results, stage classifications, retirements and other data or follow this link: https://www.fiaerc.com/live-timing/.

RALLY LEADERS
SS1: Marczyk/Gospodarczyk
SS2-SS16: Mikkelsen/Fløene

STAGE WINNERS
A list of stage winners is available in the attached PDF.

KEY STATISTICS:
ERC rally wins in 2020: Lukyanuk 2; Mikkelsen, Solberg 1
ERC stage wins in 2020: Lukyanuk 20; Solberg 11; Mikkelsen 7; Crugnola 6; Basso and Breen 3; Ares, Bonato and Østberg 2; Gryazin, Marczyk and Munster 1

CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS: Click here the provisional positions after 4/6.

What’s next? Round 5 of 6, Rally Islas Canarias, November 26-28: With the stages climbing and descending at a frequent rate, drivers pay close attention to corner speed and lines to ensure optimal momentum is maintained, while precise car set-up and pacenote accuracy are vital. One of the notable features of the sealed stages is the abrasive surface, constructed partly from volcanic lava. It means grip levels are high and remain constant if it rains, although tyre wear can increase. However, with the opportunity to take ‘cuts’ through corners limited, the roads remain relatively debris-free. Returning to the ERC schedule in 2016, it’s a rally big on challenge and constant action. Media information and accreditation: Roberto Martí and Javier Viera, prensa@rallyislascanarias.com Event information: https://www.rallyislascanarias.com/index.php/en/

ENDS

Source : Fia