ERC SATA Rallye Açores Day Report: Breen and Kajetanowicz in huge fight for SATA Rallye Açores victory

The incredibly close battle between Craig Breen (Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16) and Kajetan Kajetanowicz (LOTOS Rally Team Fiesta R5) continued on day two of the SATA Rallye Açores – with Breen regaining the lead on the day’s final stage to lead overnight by just 2.3 seconds.

Breen lost the lead when he spun on the first run over the signature Sete Cidades volcano stage, but a great drive saw him chip away at Kajetanowicz’s advantage until the Irishman regained first place on the second run through Sete Cidades. “I’m not taking any silly risks and keeping the car in the middle of the road,” said Breen. “It’s so easy to get a puncture or to go off line and knock a tyre off a rim.”

With very little experience of the challenging São Miguel island gravel roads, Kajetanowicz has driven brilliantly – including setting fastest time on the first run over Sete Cidades, during which the Polish driver admitted, “my heart rate must have been close to maximum!” He is now 1m18.6s ahead of third-placed Ricardo Moura (Fiesta R5) – the seven-time Azorean rally champion running out of brakes on Sete Cidades, yet still maintaining a strong podium position.

Two-time event winner Bruno Magalhães changed the turbo for today in his Peugeot 208 T16, but went out on soft Pirellis in the morning, when he felt harder ones would have worked better. He also overshot a junction on Sete Cidades and had to reverse, but wasn’t too unhappy to finish the day in fourth – 1m21.1s ahead of fellow Portuguese driver José Pedro Fontes, who lost his Citroën DS3 R5’s rear bumper after a close encounter with a bank on the day’s final stage.

Robert Consani’s first gravel rally in his stunning Citroën DS3 R5 continues to go well – the Frenchman lying sixth, despite being delayed after Giacomo Costenaro  (Peugeot 207 S2000) crashed and blocked SS9. Sam Moffett (Fiesta RRC) was also held up in the same incident, and is seventh tonight. Sam’s brother Josh Moffett was fourth until he crashed his Fiesta RRC at high speed after the flying finish of SS4, while Jean-Michel Raoux, who finished third on SATA Rallye Açores last year, crashed his Ford Fiesta R5 near the start of SS7. João Barros crashed his Fiesta R5 and temporarily blocked SS11, while the same stage saw the retirement of Antonín Tlusťák (ŠKODA Fabia S2000).

Jaroslav Orsák (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) was delighted to reach the finish of Sete Cidades for the first time in three Rallye Açores starts. He hit a wall and broke a rear wheel near the start of SS9, but completes the top 10 tonight, behind the two leading ERC2 drivers.

Butvilas extends ERC2 advantage
Four fastest stage times today, added to the three he set yesterday, sees Dominykas Butvilas continue to lead ERC2 in his Subaru Poland Rally Team WRX STI. He hit a rock on the day’s opening stage, which put him off his stride, and then he was delayed behind Costenaro’s crashed 207 S2000 on SS9, yet still increased his lead to 39.5s at the end of leg one. Butvilas is also eighth overall. Last year’s SATA Rallye Açores class winner, Luis Rego, is second (and ninth overall) in a Mitsubishi, but had to stop briefly on SS11, as Barros’ car was blocking the stage. Dávid Botka is third and heading for a good haul of ERC2 points, despite a morning problem with his handbrake, which was locking all four wheels on his Lancer Evolution IX. Vojtěch Štajf is learning all the time on his first ever gravel rally, but what is really unusual is driving the Tarmac sections on gravel tyres in his Subaru Duck Czech National Team WRX STI.

Full commitment sees Ingram take charge in ERC Junior
Chris Ingram has extended his lead in the ERC Junior category on SATA Rallye Açores, despite a “massive off” on Sete Cidades that damaged the front of his Peugeot UK 208 R2. It didn’t dent his confidence though; on the contrary, Ingram’s speed and flair has seen him increase the lead he shared with Ralfs Sirmacis last night to a heathly 22.4s.

Ingram, Sirmacis, Steve Røkland (208) and Emil Bergkvist (Opel Adam) had pulled slightly away from the rest of the field, although it has come more of a three-horse race after Sirmacis hit a wall on today’s final stage and lost seven minutes driving to the end of the test with an engine that refused to rev over 3,000rpm.

Røkland goes to bed tonight in second – a truly fantastic position, considering he had no pre-event test and hasn’t driven the car at all for six weeks. Bergkvist is third, with his thoughts very much on maintaining his ERC Junior lead come the finish of the event tomorrow. Diogo Gago hit a bank and had to stop briefly on SS7, but the Portuguese 208 driver is fourth, 53.4s behind the leader. The ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team replaced the rear beam on Marijan Griebel’s Adam R2 in mid-day service, as his second ever gravel rally continues to go extremely well. He is fifth, ahead of the similar car of Aleks Zawada, who enjoyed one of the very few trouble-free runs today.

Having misheard a pace note and hit a wall on the Qualifying Stage, Mattias Adielsson took the ERC Junior lead with fastest time on SS1. He settled into a good rhythm and, despite running out of brakes on Sete Cidades, is seventh – one place ahead of Emīls Blūms, who spun his LMT Autosport Academy Fiesta R2 after a jump on SS5. Jon Armstrong clipped a rock on SS3 and broke the front right suspension on his 208, which resulted in lengthy repair work and him booking out of mid-day service nine minutes late. Florin Tincescu lost time on the day’s final stage after hitting a bank and picking up a puncture, while Gino Bux hit a rock in his similar 208 on the same stage, picking up a flat tyre too. Łukasz Pieniążek was enjoying his first gravel rally and was driving well, despite only 100kms of pre-event testing. Unfortunately, his 208 didn’t complete the final stage.

It was a frustrating day for Vasily Gryazin. Having crashed on SS3 yesterday, his 208 sat in the Sports Racing Technologies service area all day – waiting for leg one to finish, so he can rejoin on tomorrow’s leg two under Rally 2 regulations.

WHAT’S NEXT?
​Saturday’s route contains six stages (totalling 100.89kms). This includes the 21.38km Tronqueira stages, which is lined with the island’s famous hydrangea bushes, making it one of the most beautiful stages in the ERC. The finish will take place at Praça Gonçalo Velho in Ponta Delgada from 19h00.

MEDIA EVENTS AND INFORMATION (all timings local for Saturday 6 June)

Media centre: Pavilhão do Mar, Portas do Mar, Av. Infante D. Henrique, 9500 Ponta Delgada

Opening times: 08h00-22h30,

Post-event press conference: 20h15, Podium, Praça Gonçalo Velho. Top three drivers and co-drivers and leading ERC Junior crew in attendance

Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy presentation: Immediately following the post-event press conference, Media Centre

Event media contact: Rui Anjos, media@satarallyeacores.com, +351 296960400

Television coverage: A preview show, daily highlights and the post-event Inside ERC magazine programme will be broadcast on Eurosport

ERC Rally Radio: Live throughout the event at www.fiaerc.com or through the ERC app

Results, standings, live timing and text commentary: www.fiaerc.com

Rights-free images: Register at the new media section of www.fiaerc.com

Follow the ERC on Facebook and Twitter