FIA European Rally Championship 2018: Round 6 of 8
Barum Czech Rally Zlín: Leg one report, 25 August
*European championship pacesetter heads former champion
*Changeable conditions add to the challenge in Czech Republic
*World star Sordo trails ERC Junior Under 28 leader Gryazin
*Sesks on top in ERC Junior U27, Érdi Jr on course for ERC2 glory
Alexey Lukyanuk completed leg of Barum Czech Rally Zlín with a 16.8s lead over home hero Jan Kopecký, the ŠKODA Motorsport driver closing in on FIA European Rally Championship glory after earlier delays.
Though Kopecký won four of Saturday’s eight stages he finished leg one as runner-up to ERC championship leader Lukyanuk, suffering three punctures across both the morning and afternoon loops. The 2013 ERC champion recovered 5.8s across the final two stages of the day, taking soft tyres in mixed conditions which dried as the day progressed.
FIA ERC Junior Under 28 leader Nikolay Gryazin had started the day fighting Lukyanuk and Kopecký but, seeing how treacherous conditions had been earlier, elected to back off and secure his class lead, allowing Lukyanuk a 33.2s advantage by the end of the day.
“It was really tough and demanding today and hard to manage and pick the right tyre compound,” said Lukyanuk, whose Pirelli-shod Russian Performance Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5 is co-driven by Alexey Arnautov. “I was not on the optimum compound but in the end I’m happy.”
Hyundai Motorsport's factory world championship driver Dani Sordo capped a challenging debut leg of ERC action with fourth position, 50.5s behind Lukyanuk. Like Kopecký, he picked up a puncture in the second pass of Březová, though also cracked the rim of another wheel. With only one spare aboard his Hyundai i20 R5, he nursed the compromised wheel for three further stages.
Sordo's necessary cautious approach allowed local expert Miroslav Jakeš to close in, ending the day in fifth, 10.5s in arrears to the Spaniard. Jakeš was surprisingly unaffected by punctures on each running of Březová, much like his compatriot Kopecký, with negligible time loss each time.
ACCR Czech Rally Team's Filip Mareš, a graduate of the Pirelli-supported FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship, consolidated both second place in ERC Junior U28 and sixth overall. He remains at risk from ERC Junior U28 championship leader Fabian Kreim behind, trading faster times with each other throughout leg one's afternoon loop and ending with a 11.3s gap between the pair.
Behind Rufa Sport's Jaromír Tarabus in eighth, who is also within striking distance of Kreim, Chris Ingram shored up fourth place in ERC Junior U28, rediscovering his confidence with a stiffening of his Fabia's set-up after wayward moments during the morning loop had set him back.
SEAJETS-backed Bruno Magalhães' championship challenge against Lukyanuk is in danger of faltering, finishing the day down in P10. Not even a revised suspension set-up could help the Portuguese driver make significant progress up the leaderboard, though given how difficult the wet, slippery road conditions had been, he was happy to have finished at all.
Tibor Érdi Jr is still pushing flat out in the lead of the ERC2 production category. Although victory would wrap-up a second consecutive title, the Hungarian still pushed his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X to the limit, taking a trip off-road on stage eight and continuing without damage. Mārtiņš Sesks leads Simon Wagner in ERC Junior U27 with Tom Kristensson completing top three at the overnight halt.
Leg one recap: Punctures deflate Kopecký's charge
Friday night's opening Zlín superspecial gave fans a taste of what was to come, with Jan Kopecký setting the pace but Qualifying Stage winner Gryazin and championship leader Lukyanuk close behind. EuroOil - Invelt Team driver and multiple Zlín winner Václav Pech was also an early pacesetter but retired after stage two this morning with a broken wheel hub.
Slippery conditions caught several drivers out in stage two. British ERC Junior U28 pair Chris Ingram and Rhys Yates ran wide and into a bank on the same corner, while PEUGEOT Rally Academy youngster Laurent Pellier spun after landing awkwardly from a jump.
Stage three, Semetín, brought further changes to the lead fight. Kopecký hit trouble with a front-left puncture, handing Lukyanuk the lead. ERC Junior U28 ace Gryazin won the stage, hovering 2.7s behind the new rally leader. It was also the start of SEAJETS-backed Bruno Magalhães difficulties, an overheating car dropping him out of the top 10.
Yates, who switched to a Kresta Racing-prepared Fabia for this event, crashed out in stage four, as did Hungarian driver László Német.
ŠKODA Motorsport factory driver Kopecký retaliated for his earlier time loss in SS5, taking an emphatic stage win by 13.1s from next quickest Dani Sordo, the Hyundai world championship driver making his ERC debut this weekend. That fastest time handed Kopecký second place at Gryazin’s expense.
At the other end of the scale, MOL Racing Team’s Nobert Herczig’s difficult rally came to an abrupt halt in SS5. Herczig had suffered a double puncture in Friday’s superspecial, only to then crash out entirely on Kudlovice’s morning pass.
There was a second setback for Kopecký immediately after mid-leg service with a double puncture on Březová’s afternoon re-run, costing him 12.8s to Lukyanuk. But rather than back off for the rest of the day he pushed on, winning stages eight and nine to pass Gryazin for second again and finish Saturday’s eight tests 16.8s behind the Russian Rocket Lukyanuk.
Gryazin’s approach had been a conservative one as a combination of rainfall and slick roads made conditions treacherous for many. Rather than try to get involved in Lukyanuk and Kopecký’s unpredictable duel he focused on his ERC Junior U28 lead, turning in a mature performance that belied his 20 years.
Sports Racing Technologies youngster Gryazin was one of the few ERC’s R5 crews to come through stage six as fresh as they’d entered. Hermann Neubauer crashed out along with Albert von Thurn und Taxis, who broke a wheel on his BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Fabia.
ERC Junior U28 championship leader Fabian Kreim had dropped to ninth just before service but was in the ascendancy during leg one’s afternoon loop, picking off category rival Chris Ingram and then Jaromír Tarabus in stages six and seven respectively.
He spent the remaining two stages closing up on sixth placed ACCR Czech Rally Team driver Filip Mareš, who had conceded fifth place to compatriot Miroslav Jakeš during the morning loop.
Though his set-up improved, Magalhães’ times were not enough to make progress up the leaderbord, finishing leg one in P10, 48.2s behind Ingram. Despite his earlier spin PEUGEOT Rally Academy racer Pellier was P11 by day’s end, followed by Ingram’s Toksport WRT team-mate Orhan Avcioğlu.
ERC Junior U28: Supreme Gryazin heads class for young stars in R5 cars
Sports Racing Technologies' Nikolay Gryazin reigned supreme in the FIA ERC Junior Under 28 Championship category on Barum Czech Rally Zlin’s opening leg, battling outright leaders Alexey Lukyanuk and Jan Kopecký.
Winning SS2 outright and keeping both the current ERC championship leader and 2013 series champion on their toes, Gryazin opted for a more cautious approach thereafter, cultivating a healthy lead in ERC Junior U28 instead. “The day has been quite good because we are not pushing everywhere but we have a good position," said Gryazin.
Gryazin won all but two stages on Saturday, with ERC Junior U28 championship leader Fabian Kreim topping stage seven and ERC Junior Under 27 graduate Filip Mareš fastest on stage eight.
That pairing finished leg one in third and second respectively, while ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland pilot Kreim jumped up and down the ERC Junior U28 leaderboard throughout Saturday’s eight stages.
Nabbing second place straight away on SS2, he was then swiftly nudged down to third by Mareš, who escaped 23.8s up the road from Kreim before midday service.
Kreim retaliated with his only stage win on SS6 and, though he dropped nearly 10s to Mareš in SS8, made significant gains during the afternoon loop’s other three stages, finishing 11.3s in arrears.
A relieved Chris Ingram is fourth, much happier with his stiffer afternoon car-setup after a confidence-sapping morning. Both he and fellow Briton Rhys Yates ran wide and into a bank on SS2, with their paths diverging dramatically afterwards.
With no experience in four-wheel-drive machinery on wet Tarmac Ingram went into safety mode, unwilling to push and risk crashing. Instead it was Yates that flew off the road, crashing out of fifth place on SS4.
“We did something massive on the set-up and my time [on SS9] is much more like it. I’m happy with that one and looking forward to tomorrow,” said Ingram. “Now it’s much more like a go-kart, it’s much stiffer and gives me a much better feeling.”
PEUGEOT Rally Academy driver Laurent Pellier’s day began in dramatic fashion, landing awkwardly after a jump and spinning 50 metres before where Ingram and Yates had gone off.
Coping with treacherous conditions that “would be faster in a normal road car,” Pellier brought his PEUGEOT 208 T16 home in fifth, 1m16.3s behind Ingram.
Jan Černý, team-mate to ACCR’s Mareš, had started on the back foot when a wheel fell off his car on Friday evening’s Zlín city superspecial. Starting on Saturday with what amounted to a five-minute handicap, he completed every stage successfully to hold sixth place.
ERC Junior U27: Advantage Sesks in Zlín
ADAC Opel Rallye Junior driver Mārtiņš Sesks kept his FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship challenge on track by leading Barum Czech Rally Zlín after leg one, keeping Saintéloc Junior rival Simon Wagner at arm’s length.
Sesks assumed the lead of the Pirelli-supported category from Wagner on SS4 and didn’t look back, capitalising on a puncture for the Austrian driver to extend is lead further on SS6 and ending Leg One with 41.5s advantage over Wagner.
Opel’s other junior driver Tom Kristensson is third, elated to finish a day of extremely treacherous wet tarmac stages without any mistakes. His quest for a podium was made easier by Rally Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena retiring from third place, his engine refusing to fire up after midday service.
PEUGEOT 208 R2 driver Kristóf Klausz put his head down after losing second place to a puncture on SS2, turning in several top three stage times to move from ninth post-puncture to fourth by day’s end. Mattia Vita completes the top five.
Roland Stengg brought his badly dented car to the end of leg one despite a rollover in SS5. Though looking worse for wear cosmetically, his Opel ADAM R2 was solid as a rock mechanically following midday service repairs, allowing him to continue and hold sixth place.
ERC Ladies’ Trophy leader Catie Munnings is seventh in ERC Junior U27, still driving while recovering from a virus she picked up on Thursday. Her main rivals for ERC Ladies’ Trophy honours Emma Falcón fell by the wayside on SS7 when she hit a bridge and retired.
Munnings’ Saintéloc team-mate Miika Hokkanen retired on SS3 when his car ended up in a ditch with terminal gearbox damage. Also forced to call it a day early were Sindre Furuseth with a broken steering arm on SS2 and EBRT’s Grégoire Munster – on his category debut – with a broken damper on SS6. Dominik Brož failed to start Saturday’s stages with a broken gearbox.
Two ERC3 campaigners squeeze in between Vita and Stengg in the overall two-wheel-drive category. Matěj Kamenec had beaten every ERC3 driver during Friday’s Qualifying Stage but his car began leaking oil at the end of SS4, losing over four minutes in the next stage. Despite his mechanical woes he finished leg one sixth, ahead of seventh placed Martin László.
Credobus LPWM Sport are plotting an expanded ERC programme for next year but their ERC3 entrant this weekend Miklós Csomós did not get the result he wished for, crashing out on SS4. Julian Wagner did not start due to a technical problem, while ERC Junior Experience student Erik Cais and local teenage promise is second in the RC4 class, 3.7s behind Sesks on the back of an impressive display.
What’s next? Sunday’s final leg is made up of six sealed-surface stages over a competitive distance of 93.50 kilometres. The rally’s closing test, Kašava, is also the longest and is scheduled to begin at 14h46 local time ahead of the finish in Zlín’s Námĕstí Muru from 16h58. Click here for results and live text updates: https://www.fiaerc.com/live-timing/.
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