Alexey Lukyanuk has scored 62 points from the last two ERC rounds thanks to a victory on gravel at auto24 Rally Estonia and fourth on the Tarmac of Barum Czech Rally Zlín. Fiaerc.com caught up with the Russian as he prepares for his first visit to Cyprus.
You’ll start the Cyprus Rally as one of the pre-event favourites, even though you have never contested it before! What will you do to prepare for this new event given the high expectations?
“It’s another demanding challenge for us as we are normally used to driving in well-known conditions in the Baltic. We still struggle with a lack of experience, but we are learning fast. About the preparation, it’s simple, as we tested ourselves well at a pretty hot Czech event to be ready to face the extremely hot conditions at Cyprus. It’s also great to have a lot of video footage from previous rallies, starting from old WRC events to last year’s ERC. It gives a good explanation of what we should be ready for. We are still developing and enhancing our pace note system and analysing our performance through on-board video. It also helps to train concentration and focus. Finally, I’m going to ride my bicycle each day and buy a new set of the lightest racing underwear with cooling effect.”
Last time out on gravel in Estonia you won in your Mitsubishi. Were you tempted to bring your Lancer Evolution X to Cyprus and why instead are you driving your Ford Fiesta R5?
“Estonia is a different story – it’s fast and flowing, so even heavy N4 cars can provide a chance to set good times. It’s not only because of higher top speed, as we were going 180kph only on a few stages, but also the profile of the road does not require a lot of hard braking from high to low and acceleration, mostly you cruise fast corners with just slight braking. When it comes to technical roads where you have a lot of slow curves, you need more stopping power, more lateral grip, more agility and so on; so it’s definitely better to tackle such roads with R5, S2000, RRC or WRC cars. After all, I’d prefer to go with the R5 Fiesta in Estonia also, but it was a matter of budget and we had to go with N4 Mitsubishi. I love this car, we had a lot of success with it, but I love the Ford even more!”
Are you going for the win in Cyprus, or will any other result please you?
“We should be realistic, because rallying is not about deciding if a driver wants to win or not. We are learning, and it’s more important to show we are reasonable and can go smart with our pace according to the situation. Yes, it is a good surface for me, but it’s different from rally to rally, and it’s my second event with R5 on gravel. So we are going to start carefully and increase our speed step by step, as we did at the Barum rally. Maybe it would be enough to be in top three, that will make us happy.”
Who do you see as your main rivals in Cyprus and why?
“The main challenge will be between Kajto, Robert, Bruno and me, and I hope we all have a trouble-free rally with good competition. Everyone has been there before, Kajto was close to winning last year, and this experience is vital so they have some advantage. We are looking forward to testing our abilities.”
You have scored a total of 62 points on your last two ERC appearances, more than anyone else, and you could still be ERC champion. Can you continue your great form and win the ERC title?
“I think we should stay calm and see how things go. I am not ready to go all in at the moment as we do not have any test programme and we’re not even sure about two last rounds yet. To come and win ERC in one year is an odd thing. We need experience, testing, training, etc. But if there will be a chance to step up, no worries, I’ll be there.”
How important is the support you have received from Russian Performance Motorsport, H-Racing and Pirelli?
“You cannot even imagine how important it is for us. Each member in this party does a lot for us. RPM provides basic budget for car rental, H-Racing gives us best price, car and service and Pirelli supply great tyres. All this makes our participation in ERC real, and we say to everyone who supports us many, many thanks!”