ERC - Azores Rallye: Champion crashed out, victory for Lukasz Habaj
Polish rally driver Lukasz Habaj clinched his maiden ERC victory in the European Rally Championship this weekend at the 54th Azores Rallye in Portugal, the opening round of the 2019 European Rally Championship season.
Habaj and his navigator Daniel Dymurski triumphed in the #6 Škoda Fabia R5 of Sports Racing Technologies by defeating Portuguese crew Ricardo Moura/Antonio Costa in another Škoda. The gap was just 8.4 seconds after 15 stages and 223 kilometers on muddy gravel roads. It was the 1-2-3 finish for the Czech brand as British driver Chris Ingram finished third overall (and first in ERC1 Junior class) in the #3 Škoda Fabia R5.
The defending ERC champion Alexey Lukyanuk, who was sharing his new car Citroen C3 R5 with Alexey Arnautov, was in a dominant lead after thirteen stages, having a 43sec advantage over Habaj. But then, catastrophe followed.
He suffered a front-right-tyre puncture on SS14, losing a minute and a half and dropping to P3. It would be a good result but on the last stage, Lukyanuk had a heavy crash immediately after the start, caused by a brake failure. The car was destroyed but the crew was OK. Lukyanuk’s misfortune promoted Ingram to third place overall.
Fifty-seven crews participated in the first ERC round, which also counted for the Portuguese championship. The second-placed Ricardo Moura took the maximum points in the national championship. ERC2 class victory went to Argentinean Juan Carlos Alonso in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. The best in the ERC3 class was Spanish driver Efren Llarena in a Peugeot 208 R2.
The next ERC round would be the 43rd Rally Islas Canarias, scheduled for May 2-4 at Spain’s Canary Islands.
Parallel to the first ERC round, some national rally championships had their events this weekend. In Italy, Giandomenico Basso was the winner of the 42. Rally Il Ciocco e Valle del Serchio in a Škoda Fabia R5. It was the first round of the Italian championship. Among 64 entrants, there was former WRC driver Craig Breen in a Škoda Fabia R5. He finished fourth, 16.5 seconds behind Basso, who was sharing a podium with Simone Campedelli and Luca Rossetti.
In Spain, the 37th Rallye Sierra Morena was the opening round of the Spanish championship and the second round of the Iberian Rally Trophy. The winner was Pepe Lopez in a Citroen C3 R5.