Marvellous Mikkelsen on „Topp”, Herczig stands fourth
*Norwegian leads on European championship return for newcomer Topp-Cars Rally Team *Title pacesetter Lukyanuk picks up five-minute time penalty for early check-in *Herczig stands fourth, but aims for podium *Hadik won Hungarian National Championship event and leads in overall standing *Torn heading to victory in ERC3/ERC3 Junior, Érdi Jr on course for home triumph in ERC2
Andreas Mikkelsen came, saw and has so far conquered Rally Hungary, leading on his return to the FIA European Rally Championship as part of a high-quality, multi-national entry.
The world championship event winner, competing in a Topp-Cars Rally Team-run, Pirelli-equipped Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, was a contender from the start alongside co-driver Ola Fløene.
After trailing ORLEN Team’s Polish champion Miko Marczyk through Friday’s opening superspecial, Mikkelsen was second to Alexey Lukyanuk on SS2, but able to take a lead he has yet to relinquish, despite a spin on SS3.
“It’s been a very good day,” said Mikkelsen, who has been fastest on five stages. “We’ve been driving within the limits and have a good gap for tomorrow, we can’t ask for much more. It’s one thing going testing with Pirelli, it’s great and keeps me fit but I’m a competitive guy, I love sports and I like to challenge myself and see where I am against the others. This is a good opportunity to do that.”
European championship leader Lukyanuk was 5.1s behind Mikkelsen at the midday service halt in Nyíregyháza but far from happy at the completion of SS6, reporting live on Facebook and YouTube that he’d been checked in to the stage start control five minutes early. The ensuing five-minute penalty has dropped the Russian firmly out of contention to the extent he’s unlikely to score ERC points of the first time this season in his Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 R5. Lukyanuk hinted he might not start Sunday’s stages. “I will decide later,” the dejected Russian said.
Craig Breen is second overnight, 23.6s behind Mikkelsen after an overshoot and a spin this morning. However, the Irishman underlined his star quality and the progress of his MRF Tyres by claiming a brace of stage wins in his Hyundai i20 R5. “To get a podium for MRF Tyres and the team is very important, they’ve been working so hard. It’s quite incredible to be getting stage wins after a short period of time.”
Norbert Herczig, Ramón Ferencz, permanent Hungarian competitors of ERC completed a faultless day and they are aiming for podium position by starting Sunday from fourth position.
“Only the first of eight stages on Saturday did not go as we expected. I was too cautious and we also caught up a rival, who came back in front of us following an overshoot,” the four-time Hungarian Champion said. “Our speed was great later on, we had no adventure at all, and it was very emotional how the fans treated us. There are a lot of spectators alongside the roads, and it is an awesome feeling to drive in front of them.”
Oliver Solberg dropped down the order with a front-right puncture on SS7 then lost more time with a left-rear deflation on SS9. “I was running in the middle of the road, I honestly don’t know how it happened,” he said. “It’s so annoying to have two punctures now. The other drivers have moments and they don’t get anything.”
Solberg’s double delay in his Eurosol Fabia demoted him from third to ninth.
Érdi Jr on course for a third ERC2 victory at home
Hungarian hero Tibor Érdi Jr is on course for a third ERC2 win this season after he completed leg one with a comfortable margin ahead of Zelindo Melegari.
“We had a sensational day, everything went according to our plans. The car is great, the strategy works well, and we had even time to entertain the spectators at some stages. In Mád we drifted more than going straight. We had absolutely no problem today, we are leading our category by more than 4 minutes, so we are very happy,” Érdi said.
Hard day for Hungarian title hopefuls
It was a disastrous start to the day for reigning Hungarian champion Ferenc Vincze Jr, who retired 300 metres from the beginning of SS3 with a turbo issue. As well as chasing ERC points, Vincze Jr began Rally Hungary locked in a close fight with Ádám Velenczei in his bid to defend his title. Velenczei, who is making his ERC1 Junior debut this weekend, was P15 after five stages but retired following SS6 with broken right-rear suspension.
Finally, András Hadik claimed first position in the Hungarian national classification, and took over the lead in overall standing.
“We were lucky, but we also prepared well for this race, because we knew that it was going to be a very difficult event. Firstly, because of the weather, secondly, the because of the muddy and slippery stages. We are very happy for winning the Hungarian Championship event and taking the lead in the overall standing. We were focusing on the national classification up to now, but we will try to push a bit more on Sunday.”
Rally Hungary will continue and finish with 7 stages on Sunday.
PROVISIONAL TOP 15 ERC POSITIONS (after 9 stages, 118.88 kilometres)
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Fløene (NOR) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo 1h07m55.9s
2 Craig Breen (IRL)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Hyundai i20 R5 +23.6s
3 Grégoire Munster (LUX)/Louis Louka (BEL) Hyundai i20 R5 +1m21.3s
4 Norbert Herczig (HUN)/Ramón Ferencz (HUN) Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +1m57.0s
5 Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Citroën C3 R5 +2m13.1s
6 Marijan Griebel (DEU)/Tobias Braun (DEU) Citroën C3 R5 +2m15.2s
7 Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT)/Poldi Welsersheimb (AUT) Ford Fiesta R5 MklI +2m15.9s
8 Callum Devine (IRL)/James Fulton (IRL) Hyundai i20 R5 +2m31.7s
9 Oliver Solberg (SWE)/Aaron Johnston (IRL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +2m36.8s
10 Simon Wagner (AUT)/Gerald Winter (AUT) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +2m48.4s
11 Josh McErlean (IRL)Keaton Williams (GBR) Hyundai i20 R5 +3m09.6s
12 András Hadik (HUN)/Krisztián Kertész (HUN) Ford Fiesta R5 MkII +3m13.2s
13 Erik Cais (CZE)/Jindřiška Žáková (CZE) Ford Fiesta R5 MkII +3m42.1s
14 Dominik Dinkel (DEU)/Ursula Mayrhofer (AUT) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +3m43.0s
15 Yoann Bonato (FRA)/Benjamin Boulloud (FRA) Citroën C3 R5 +4m06.8s
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: Martin Rada (CZE)/Jaroslav Jugas (CZE) Abarth 124 rally