FIA European Rally Championship 2017: Round 3 of 8
SEAJETS Acropolis Rally: Leg one report, 3 June
*Car fire puts pacesetter Gryazin out of top spot
*ERC title leader Magalhães in contention
*Érdi Jr and Remennik out of luck in ERC2 as Banaz bounces back in ERC3
Nasser Al-Attiyah leads the SEAJETS Acropolis Rally following a day of high drama on Greece’s round of the FIA European Rally Championship.
Nikolay Gryazin was 11 seconds in front heading to the closing stage of leg one when fire engulfed his ŠKODA Fabia R5. Although the 19-year-old and co-driver Yaroslav Federov escaped injury, their Sports Racing Technologies machine was all but destroyed in the blaze and the Russians will go no further on the iconic gravel event.
“We don’t know what happened,” said Gryazin, who normally competes in the ERC Junior Under 28 category. “We drive on the road section like normal then on a corner the car was sliding at the rear. There was fire from the bottom of the car, maybe the fuel tank. We tried to stop the fire but it was impossible. Thank you for the others who tried to help, we tried to do the maximum.”
Having spent much of the day focusing on tyre strategy, using a combination of hard and soft compound covers in order to save as many of the favoured hard tyres as possible for Sunday’s longer leg, Al-Attiyah’s advantage over European championship leader and SEAJETS ambassador Bruno Magalhães is a slender 8.4s with defending ERC champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz in third having punctured twice during the day.
“We are leading the rally, which is good but I am sorry for [Gryazin],” said Al-Attiyah. “We have improved our time from this morning but we will see for tomorrow.”
Magalhães, who is competing on the Central Greece stages for the first time, said: “We improve a lot the set-up and the pacenotes and I have saved my tyres for tomorrow. I did not expect to be in this position. For the moment it’s good for the points, it’s like a dream.”
In typical Kajetanowicz fashion, the LOTOS Rally Team driver went fastest of three of the day’s six stages in his bid to remain in contention for his first win of 2017. But with a deficit of 29.5s to Al-Attiyah, the Polish driver will have to be at his back-to-back ERC title-winning best if he’s to get ahead of the motorsport all-rounder from Qatar.
Socratis Tsolakidis is the top Greek driver in fourth overall following a “perfect day” in his Fabia. Murat Bostanci is on course to achieve his target of finishing in the top five in fifth, hitting back from a spin, a puncture and brake issues on his Castrol Ford Team Turkey Fiesta. Polish champion Grzegorz Grzyb is sixth on his SEAJETS Acropolis Rally debut, one place ahead of Greek title holder George Philippedes who suffered a “soft roll” in the Team Greece Fabia R5 he’s using in competition for the first time. Cypriot Alexandros Tsouloftas is eighth, Albert von Thurn und Taxis ninth and Efthimios Halkias P10.
Antonín Tlusťák dropped time stopping to repair a damaged right-rear suspension arm on SS1 before he stopped for good on the road section to SS3 with a fuel tank issue that caused a brief fire. He won’t restart.
ERC2: Melegari still standing as rivals drop out
Zelindo Melegari can claim his maiden ERC2 win – providing he keeps going to the finish in Lamia tomorrow afternoon. That’s because the Italian’s main rivals, Tibor Érdi Jr and Sergey Remennik, both hit trouble during a dramatic day in Central Greece. Russian Remennik was 4.0s behind Érdi Jr when he stopped prior to the start of SS2 with a fuel pressure issue on his Mitsubishi Lancer. That left Érdi Jr in the clear only for the Hungarian to slide off the road on route to SS5 and damage his similar car beyond immediate repair. Both drivers will restart under Rally 2 rules on Sunday but have lost considerable ground to Melegari.
ERC3: Banaz hits back to head Turkish team-mate
Buǧra Banaz suffered an early setback in his bid to win ERC3 when he stopped on SS1 to rectify an ECU fault on his Ford Fiesta R2T. But the ERC Junior Under 27 contender kept his composure to catch and pass fellow Castrol Ford Team Turkey driver Ümitcan Özdemir on SS5, reaching the overnight halt in Lamia leading the category by 21s. Ismet Toktaş is third on his European championship debut.
ERC SEAJETS Acropolis Rally goes all Roland Garros
FIA European Rally Championship drivers Nasser Al-Attiyah and Kajetan Kajetanowicz swapped their steering wheels for tennis rackets ahead of the SEAJETS Acropolis Rally, as the Fthiotikos Tennis Club Academy in Lamia got into the Roland Garros mood on Friday afternoon. The French Open tennis grand slam enjoys extensive coverage on Eurosport, which is also the home to the ERC on TV. And to highlight the fact, Al-Attiyah and Kajetanowicz showed off their racket skills on a clay court close to the SEAJETS Acropolis Rally service park in Central Greece as part of a feature that will be aired during Eurosport’s coverage of day one of the ERC counter at 22h30 CET. “That was my first time playing tennis,” said Kajetanowicz, the defending ERC champion from Poland. “Many years ago I played squash with my friends. Of course it's not the same, but I liked it. That was great fun. I don't know the rules, so it's difficult to say who won. Definitely, rallies are better than tennis and that's why I'm here. Tennis is good fun, but I'm not sure if it was good for me before rally.” Qatari Al-Attiyah said: “It's really nice to be playing tennis with Kajto. We are so happy about it. We weren't counting, but I think both of us won! It was the first time I played tennis and I think it wasn't bad. It's also great that we played on clay court, like the Roland Garros.”
Sunday’s route features three stages run twice over a combined competitive distance 126.68 kilometres. The action begins with EKO RACING Eleftherohori 1 at 08h55 local time and concludes with the longest stage of the event, the 33.86-kilometre Elatia/Karya test, from 14h27. The finish in Lamia is scheduled for 16h04. Follow this link for live timing and provisonal results: https://www.fiaerc.com/live-timing/
WATCH DAY ONE HIGHLIGHTS ON EUROSPORT AT 22h30 CET AND ON EUROSPORT PLAYER.