MIKKELSEN WINS, HERCZIG MISSES PODIUM
*Norwegian delivers world-class performance on FIA European Rally Championship return *Russian Rocket Lukyanuk wins leg in ultimate case of what might have been following penalty *Herczig loses podium on the penultimate stage due to a puncture *Home hero Érdi Jr makes it a hat-trick in ERC2 as Torn tops ERC3/ERC3 Junior for third time
While Andreas Mikkelsen celebrated a winning return to the FIA European Rally Championship, Alexey Lukyanuk fought back like a champion with a charging display on Rally Hungary’s deciding leg today, scoring seven potentially crucial points in his bid to win the coveted title for a second time.
Lukyanuk was firmly in the victory fight, a mere 5.1s behind Mikkelsen after five stages on Saturday. But when he was erroneously checked in five minutes early for stage six, his hopes of a third 2020 ERC win came crashing down as a five-minute penalty was applied to the Saintéloc Junior Team driver’s total time. Despite languishing in a distant P18 at the overnight halt in host city Nyíregyháza, Lukyanuk didn’t give up and went on a flat-out charge to win leg two courtesy of four stage wins in P13 overall. His performance cut the margin to winner Mikkelsen to 4m53.5s in the ultimate case of what might have been.
For Mikkelsen, his victory alongside co-driver Ola Fløene, came on the back of seven stage bests, a remarkable performance given this was the Norwegian’s first rally of 2020 and his first in his Pirelli-equipped, Topp-Cars Rally Team-run Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo.
“I’m undefeated in 2020 so far!” said a jubilant Mikkelsen, a winner of three World Rally Championship events in the past. “It’s been a good weekend. As I said I haven’t been competing, only testing as most of you know, for the last couple of years on Tarmac has been really difficult for me and I think maybe people thought I couldn’t drive on Tarmac any more so it’s nice to come here and show we’ve still got it and we’re still fast. I have to say a huge thanks to our team, Topp-Cars, for delivering me this car, it’s been working flawless all weekend and as well to Skoda for making this really, really nice car. I tried it in 2017, I loved it then but a lot has happened since then and now it’s even better. I feel so comfortable driving and it’s all about confidence. I felt I’ve pretty much been in control all the rally. I felt very good. We drove a clever strategy, not taking too big risks but we were still quick so it’s really enjoyable.”
BMA Autosport Hyundai i20 R5 driver Grégoire Munster won ERC1 for the second rally in succession in a career-best second overall with Efrén Llarena, the ERC3 Junior champion from 2019, also landing a personal best in third for Rallye Team Spain.
"I’m really happy with our weekend, it was a really, really tricky rally – said Grégoire Munster. – On the first day we pushed and showed some great pace. On the second day we had to manage the gap we had. The two guys in front were too much in front except for a puncture or something like that so we were more worried about the guys behind us. We are really happy with the improvement, with the car and with the confidence we are building with it.”
MOL Racing Team’s Norbert Herczig was third with two stages remaining but a puncture on SS15 denied the Hungarian a home podium. Although everything had gone well for him until then, he had no problem at all on Saturday, on Sunday morning he got two slow punctures. He still stood third before starting the last loop, and his strategy was simple: push where he can, and stay safe, where cannot. But on the penultimate stage he could not avoid puncture that took him back to sixth position.
“I’m really sad, we had a puncture but I don’t know how because we drive carefully,” said the four-time national champion, who drives a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. “Unfortunately, we lose the podium and I’m sorry for everybody. I wanted very much the podium, but life is life. Next time.”
András Hadik and Krisztián Kertész, who won the Hungarian Championship event yesterday, being the second best Hungarian team finally finished 11th, but he was even happier for taking over the lead in the national championship.
“The brake went all the way down during the first loop, so we tried to drive a bit safer. But at least we collected kilometres, it is always good to have as many as possible. And on top of it, it is a great feeling to drive a car like this,” Hadik said.
In ERC2 Tibor Érdi and Zoltán Csökő left no room for doubt about their dominance in home event, they won all 16 stages and made a huge step towards their third ERC2 title.
“Everything went very well this weekend. Although the stages were difficult, I think it was our easiest race in the year. We enjoyed racing, we felt no pressure at all, and in the start of the last stage I said that if there was no problem with the car, I would take it home anyway. We are unbelievably happy that we made it happen,” Érdi jr said.
PROVISIONAL TOP 15 ERC POSITIONS (after 16 stages, 191.06 kilometres)
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Fløene (NOR) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo 1h48m31.1s
2 Grégoire Munster (LUX)/Louis Louka (BEL) Hyundai i20 R5 +1m32.2s
3 Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Citroën C3 R5 +2m00.3s
4 Oliver Solberg (SWE)/Aaron Johnston (IRL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +2m04.8s
5 Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT)/Poldi Welsersheimb (AUT) Ford Fiesta R5 MklI +2m08.2s
6 Norbert Herczig (HUN)/Ramón Ferencz (HUN) Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +2m31.4s
7 Callum Devine (IRL)/James Fulton (IRL) Hyundai i20 R5 +2m50.3s
8 Erik Cais (CZE)/Jindřiška Žáková (CZE) Ford Fiesta R5 MkII +3m24.3s
9 Marijan Griebel (DEU)/Tobias Braun (DEU) Citroën C3 R5 +3m32.4s
10 András Hadik (HUN)/Krisztián Kertész (HUN) Ford Fiesta R5 MkII +4m13.6s
11 Josh McErlean (IRL)Keaton Williams (GBR) Hyundai i20 R5 +4m16.8s
12 Dominik Dinkel (DEU)/Ursula Mayrhofer (AUT) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +4m35.1s
13 Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Dmitry Eremeev (RUS) Citroën C3 R5 +4m53.5s
14 Yoann Bonato (FRA)/Benjamin Boulloud (FRA) Citroën C3 R5 +4m57.7s
15 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