- Norwegian driver returning to FIA European Rally Championship with world class performance at Rally Hungary
- Lukyanjuk, the Russian rocket, scored four stage wins after his penalty
- Herczig loses podium place in Nyíregyháza due to puncture in penultimate stage
- Tibor Érdi Jr. won all the stages to take first place in the ERC2 category
Andreas Mikkelsen celebrated a triumphant return to the European Rally Championship, while Alexey Lukyanuk fought back doubters as champion on Rally Hungary, winning stages and scoring seven valuable points to take a big step towards his coveted second European title.
The Russian rocket could have fought a thrilling battle with Mikkelsen for victory, as he was just 5.1 seconds behind the Norwegian after five stages on Saturday, but then arrived at the next time check five minutes early, which resulted in a five-minute penalty. This dashed his hopes of victory, but he didn’t give up, winning four stages to move up from 18th to 13th.
The Mikkelsen-Floene pair won their first race of the year with seven stage wins and a convincing performance, and they did it in a Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo for the Hungarian team Topp-Cars Rally Team.
“I’m unbeaten so far in 2020, it’s been a great weekend,” said Mikkelsen, winner of three World Championship races, jumping on top of his car at the finish of the final stage. “I haven’t raced in the last few years, I’ve only been testing and the tarmac hasn’t been my thing, so maybe some people thought I couldn’t drive on this type of surface anymore. I’m glad I came here and showed that I can still go and that we are fast. I have to say a huge thank you to my team, Topp-Cars, for bringing me this car, it ran flawlessly all weekend, as well as to Skoda for building it. I tried it in 2017 and I loved it then, but a lot has happened since then and it’s even better now. I felt in control of the car all weekend, it was great to race. We had a good strategy, we didn’t take too many risks, but we were still fast, so it’s quite enjoyable!”
Grégoire Munster, driving his BMA Autosport Hyundai i20 R5, finished second in the absolute and won the ERC1 Junior category, ahead of Spain’s Efrén Llarena, who had a stunning drive and achieved a career-best result.
“I’m very happy with our weekend, it was a very tricky race,” said Munster, “We pushed hard on the first day, setting a good pace at times, and then the plan was to keep the lead. We didn’t want to take any risks, we’re happy with the result, happy with the progress we’re making and thank the team for a fantastic job.”
The Hungarian fans were most focused on Norbert Herczig, especially after the MOL Racing Team driver had caught up to third place and held it for quite some time. But a puncture on the penultimate fast stage put paid to his podium dreams.
He had been doing great up until then, he had no problems at all on Saturday, and although he had two slow punctures on Sunday morning, it didn’t stop him from holding on to third place, and he went into the final lap pushing the throttle where he could and trying to keep on his toes where he couldn’t. It was the only tactic that worked, but he still couldn’t avoid a puncture on the penultimate gravel section of the fast lap, which dropped him to sixth place in the standings.
“I’m extremely disappointed that a puncture in a race with good pace cost us a podium place,” said Herczig. – But we had a tactic for the last lap, we got on the gas in the clean section and our pace was good in the next one, and I decided to go like I was walking on eggs in the gravel section at the end. But we still had a puncture on the left front… It’s a great thing to be on the podium at the European Championships anyway, and it would have been even better in front of a Hungarian crowd. We got a lot of encouragement, so I’m sorry about what happened.”
András Hadik and Krisztián Kertész, who won the Hungarian championship race on Saturday, were the second best Hungarian pair in the ERC – they finished 11th, but were even happier to take the lead in the domestic championship.
“We had a small problem on Sunday, the brake pedal kept falling in, which made us go slower, but the guys in the service after the first lap tried to solve the problem. We’re collecting the kilometres because we need them, and with a car like this it’s always a pleasure to race,” said the winner of the Nyíregyháza race last year.
In the ERC2 category, the duo of Tibor Érdi and Zoltán Csökő left no doubt that they dominated the home track – winning all 16 speed stages to take a total victory and a big step towards their third ERC2 title.
“It was easy this weekend, you could say it was our easiest race of the year despite the difficult stages. We enjoyed the race, we didn’t stress at all, going into the last lap we were going into the last lap with the idea that if the car was OK, I’d catch up. We are incredibly happy that we did it,” said Érdi.
Provisional result of Rally Hungary (after a total 16 stages, 191.06 km of distance)
- Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Fløene (NOR) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo 1h48m31.1s
- Grégoire Munster (LUX)/Louis Louka (BEL) Hyundai i20 R5 +1m32.2s
- Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Citroën C3 R5 +2m00.3s
- Oliver Solberg (SWE)/Aaron Johnston (IRL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +2m04.8s
- Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT)/Poldi Welsersheimb (AUT) Ford Fiesta R5 MklI +2m08.2s
- Norbert Herczig (HUN)/Ramón Ferencz (HUN) Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +2m31.4s
- Callum Devine (IRL)/James Fulton (IRL) Hyundai i20 R5 +2m50.3s
- Erik Cais (CZE)/Jindřiška Žáková (CZE) Ford Fiesta R5 MkII +3m24.3s
- Marijan Griebel (DEU)/Tobias Braun (DEU) Citroën C3 R5 +3m32.4s
- András Hadik (HUN)/Krisztián Kertész (HUN) Ford Fiesta R5 MkII +4m13.6s
- Josh McErlean (IRL)/Keaton Williams (GBR) Hyundai i20 R5 +4m16.8s
- Dominik Dinkel (DEU)/Ursula Mayrhofer (AUT) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +4m35.1s
- Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Dmitry Eremeev (RUS) Citroën C3 R5 +4m53.5s
- Yoann Bonato (FRA)/Benjamin Boulloud (FRA) Citroën C3 R5 +4m57.7s
- Miko Marczyk (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +5m44.5s
FIA ERC2: Tibor Érdi Jr (HUN)/Zoltán Csökő (HUN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
FIA ERC3: Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta Rally4
FIA ERC1 Junior: Grégoire Munster (LUX)/Louis Louka (BEL) Hyundai i20 R5
FIA ERC3 Junior: Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta Rally4
Abarth Rally Cup: Andrea Mabellini (ITA)/Nicoló Gonella (ITA) Abarth 124 rally