Champions attack: Lukyanuk, Vincze level after thrilling 8000 fans on ERC opener
Alexey Lukyanuk has begun the deciding round of the FIA European Rally Championship by setting the joint-fastest time with Ferenc Vincze following the opening superspecial stage of Rally Hungary in front of 8000 fans.
Lukyanuk (Saintéloc Junior Team), the defending ERC champion, and Korda Racing Team’s Vincze, who claimed his first Hungarian title last month, set exactly the same time of 1m53.1s on the 2.40km Rabócsiring test and enter Saturday’s loop of stages tied for the rally lead, just two-tenths of a second ahead of the ACCR Czech Rally Team ŠKODA Fabia of ERC1 Junior champion Filip Mareš.
Overall ERC points leader Chris Ingram (Toksport WRT) lies in sixth, tied with four-time Hungarian champion Norbert Herczig, while Łukasz Habaj is P10 after his Sports Racing Technologies team heroically completed the repair of his Fabia R5 with just moments to spare.
Qualifying Stage pace-setter Ingram survived a slight drama on his run, after the headlamps failed to switch on, leaving the British driver literally in the dark.
Despite ending the opening stage on top of the times, it was far from an easy start for Lukyanuk who struggled to switch his wipers back on following the water splash which resulted in him “sliding sideways for 50 metres.”
Behind Mareš came American Sean Johnston, who was fourth quickest on his first competitive outing in an R5 car, just seven-tenths off the pace of Lukyanuk. Fellow R5 debutant Callum Devine (Hyudai Motorsport N) failed to receive a time however after he and Brazilian Paolo Nobre (Palmerinha Rally) had their runs red flagged.
Hungarian locals Kristóf Klausz and Ádám Velenczei posted solid top 10 times, ahead of Habaj, with the latter ending up tied with József Róbert Trencsényi.
Marijan Griebel marked his return to the championship in fine style by topping the ERC3 class on the opening stage. The German, who has been a regular in the ERC1 category, beat Erik Cais, whose ACCR Czech Rally Team Fiesta developed a gearbox issue during the run.
The battle for the ERC Ladies’ Trophy title got off to a somewhat anti-climatic start as Nabila Tejpar and Ekaterina Stratieva’s head-to-head was red flagged, leaving both on the same time heading into Saturday’s stages.
Abarth Rally Cup title contenders Andrea Nucita and Dariusz Polónski began their weekend with contrasting fortunes as Nucita headed his Polish rival by nearly 10 seconds despite falling ill earlier.