Monday, 22 November 2021 17:06

Lukyanuk lands dominant season-closing victory in Canarias

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Rally Islas Canarias leg two report

Alexey Lukyanuk was the class act during the deciding round of the 2021 FIA European Rally Championship with a standout victory on Rally Islas Canarias for the Saintéloc Junior Team.

With fellow Russian Alexey Arnautov co-driving, Lukyanuk was fastest on 16 of the 17 stages in his Pirelli-equipped Citroën C3 Rally2, leading from start to finish and never putting a wheel wrong in his pursuit of glory. The result, which came at the start of the FIA Volunteers Weekend, was his fourth victory on the Las Palmas event and leaves him one win behind rallying legend Carlos Sainz on the all-time list of victors.

“We were really proud of the performance and we need to say many thanks to our team and our engineers for the good car and also to Pirelli for probably the best tyres for the conditions,” said Lukyanuk, the 2018 and 2020 ERC champion. “I need to say thanks to my co-driver for reading the pacenotes that fast on these stages. For myself I am happy with my consistency and my pace. It was almost the perfect weekend.”

Lukyanuk reached the finish 52.3s in front of Efrén Llarena, the Rallye Team Spain driver securing the provisional runner-up spot in the 2021 ERC standings behind provisional champion Andreas Mikkelsen**, who secured the coveted crown on last month’s Rally Hungary. But it was a thrilling climax to the Tarmac-only rally with ORLEN Team’s Miko Marczyk finishing just behind Llarena on the event and in the ERC rankings following a battle that raged until the final stage.

And by partnering Llarena to second place, Sara Fernández becomes the first woman in history to win the FIA European Rally Championship for Co-Drivers** with a two-point margin ahead of Poland’s Szymon Gospodarczyk.

There was more success for Spain on Rally Islas Canarias with Javier Pardo and Adrián Pérez capturing the FIA ERC2 title at their first attempt in a Suzuki Swift R4lly S run by Suzuki Motor Ibérica. They finished their debut season in the championship by claiming a sixth category win after team-mates Joan Vinyes and Javier Mercader retired on the penultimate stage with a mechanical failure.

Driving a Renault Clio Rally4 alongside co-driver Anthony Gorguilo, Jean-Baptiste Franceschi completed an impressive season by winning both the FIA ERC3 and FIA ERC3 Junior championships**. He edged Pep Bassas (Rallye Team Spain Peugeot 208 Rally4) in the former and Finland’s Sami Pajari (Porvoon Autopalvelu Ford Fiesta Rally4) in the latter. His performances during the year also helped Toksport WRT celebrate winning the FIA European Rally Championship for Teams** on the previous round in Hungary.

Behind Lukyanuk, Llarena and Marczyk, Simone Campedelli placed fourth for Team MRF Tyres with Canary Islands champion Enrique Cruz 5.3s behind in fifth. Iván Ares was sixth followed by Surhayén Pernia, Luis Monzón, Jan Solans and Yeray Lemes.

Anthony Fotia won ERC/ERC3 Junior on his Rally Islas Canarias debut to underline his potential following his step up from national competition. Carlos David García secured Abarth Rally Cup honours on his return to the category.

Rally Islas Canarias marked the eighth and final round of the 2021 ERC season and the ninth and final campaign promoted by Discovery Sports Events (formerly Eurosport Events) before it hands over the baton to WRC Promoter to focus on its growing portfolio of championships on two wheels and four.

And it proved a fitting end of a hugely successful era with battles up and down the order between some of rallying’s brightest young talents, plus experienced campaigners and drivers stepping up from national level. The impressive entry list also showcased the FIA Rally Cars Pyramid with Rally2, Rally3, Rally4, Rally5, Rally2 Kit and RGT cars in action over two days of intense competition on the spectacular island of Gran Canaria.

Lukyanuk sets the standard on deciding leg of 2021 ERC season
Alexey Lukyanuk set the super-fast standard on the closing leg of Rally Islas Canarias with the fastest time on all eight Saturday stages.

Starting the day with an overnight advantage of 32.6s, Lukyanuk bettered Nil Solans’ time by 0.5s through SS10, outgunned Efrén Llarena by 1.1s on SS11, was quicker than Llarena again by 1.4s on SS12 before he went 1.5s faster than Miko Marczyk on SS13 to hold a lead of 41.1s at the midday halt at the Estadio Gran Canaria. “We are not backing off and we are doing our pace,” Lukyanuk said. “The set-up of the car is good and the tyres are performing well so thank you to Pirelli and our team, all is good.”

After Solans matched his time on SS14, Lukyanuk edged Marczyk by 3.8s on SS15 before going 4.7s quicker than Llarena on SS16. True to his word, the Saintéloc Junior Team driver did not back off on the 17th and final stage of the season by eclipsing Llarena’s standard by 0.9s for an overall winning margin of 52.3s ahead of Llarena and Marczyk.

Marczyk moved up to third when he outpaced Enrique Cruz on SS10, with Simone Campedelli also demoting the Canary Islands champion for fourth. But Cruz moved back ahead of Campedelli on SS11 before the positions changed again one last time on SS15 when Campedelli got back in front.

Surhayén Pernia was forced to settle for seventh behind Iván Ares after being slowed by a puncture on SS10 and a broken rear anti-roll bar on SS13. Solans was 9.4s behind Ares starting SS15 but hefty contact with a barrier on the next test left his Team MRF Tyres’ Hyundai i20 R5 with extensive damage. “We touched something outside and broke the rear wheel, after that we hit a barrier,” Solans said.

Rapid repairs by he and co-driver Marc Martí ensured they could reach the finish in P12 behind Albert von Thurn und Taxis after a powersteering issue struck on the final stage and caused further delay.

Luis Vilariño placed P13 with 2019 ERC2 champion Juan Carlos Alonso marking his ERC comeback and farewell in P14 on his step to the ERC1 division for the first time. Ken Torn was unchallenged as he took a fourth ERC Junior win in P20 at the wheel of his M-Sport Poland-run Ford Fiesta Rally3 on Pirelli tyres.

Yoann Bonato crashed out of eighth place in the final kilometre of SS10. Engine failure forced Jarosław Kołtun’s exit from P13 on SS12.

Pardo clinches ERC2 title with sixth win after late heartbreak for team-mate Vinyes
Javier Pardo made it six wins out of six starts to clinch the FIA ERC2 title** in style, despite being almost three minutes off the lead when he was slowed by a power loss on SS2. But there were mixed emotions for Suzuki Motor Ibérica after Pardo’s team-mate, Joan Vinyes, retired from a comfortable lead on the penultimate stage after a gearbox failure struck his Swift R4lly S. “This is the work of all the team and of course my co-driver Adrián Pérez,” Pardo said. “It was the perfect season, it was incredible, but I am sorry for Joan and Jordi [Mercader].”

Abarth Rally Cup winner Carlos David García finished second with Dmitry Feofanov third following his puncture delay on day one. Newcomer Serhii Potiiko crashed out of fourth place on the final stage, which promoted Dariusz Poloński to fourth and Tibor Érdi Jr to fifth. Poloński restarted after stopping on SS2 with an electrical fault on his Abarth 124 rally. Érdi Jr also returned to the action following his crash 50 metres from the start of SS1. The three-time ERC2 champion was on impressive form on his comeback with top-three times on all eight stages and three stage bests on his debut in a Proracing Engineering-built Škoda Fabia R4.

Fotia wins ERC3 and ERC3 Junior as Franceschi clinches both titles**
Anthony Fotia described his ERC3/ERC3 Junior victory on his Rally Islas Canarias debut as “amazing”, while Jean-Baptiste Franceschi secured the points he needed to take both titles** in his Toksport WRT-run Renault Clio Rally4. Fotia, who was making only his second start in the ERC following his step-up from national level in a CHL Sport Auto Clio, started leg two 0.9s in front of Franceschi but came out on top despite being handed a 10-second time penalty for a jump start. “It was amazing for us,” Frenchman Fotia said. “I pushed on most stages, the car was really good.” Finn Sami Pajari finished second in his Ford Fiesta Rally4 to secure the runner-up spot in the ERC Junior standings behind Franceschi. Pep Bassas was third to finish second to Franceschi in the final ERC3 title order as Jorge Cagio finished fifth. Martin László found the set-up of his Peugeot 208 Rally4 more to his liking on leg two and placed sixth in ERC3 and fourth in ERC3 Junior ahead of Argentine category newcomer Paulo Soria and Germany’s Nick Loof. Zósimo Hernández was ninth in ERC3 on his first start in the European championship for 20 years. Ekaterina Stratieva retired the Opel Corsa Rally4 she was using in competition for the first time on SS13 following contact with a barrier.

PROVISIONAL TOP 15 ERC POSITIONS (after 17 stages, 197.27 kilometres)

1 Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Alexey Arnautov (RUS) Citroën C3 Rally2 1h59m41.2.s
2 Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +52.3s
3 Miko Marczyk (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +59.5s
4 Simone Campedelli (ITA)/Tania Canton (CHE) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +1m13.9s
5 Enrique Cruz (ESP)/Yeray Mujica (ESP) Ford Fiesta Rally2 +1m19.2s
6 Iván Ares (ESP)/David Vázquez (ESP) Hyundai i20 R5 +1m32.6s
7 Surhayén Pernía (ESP)/Alba Sánchez (ESP) Hyundai i20 R5 +1m49.0s
8 Luis Monzón (ESP)/José Déniz (ESP) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +1m52.5s
9 Jan Solans (ESP)/Rodrigo Sanjuan (ESP) Citroën C3 Rally2 +2m21.7s
10 Yeray Lemes (ESP)/Rogelio Peñate (ESP) Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +2m54.7s
11 Albert von Thurn und Taxis (DEU)/Bernhard Ettel (AUT) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +4m35.0s
12 Nil Solans (ESP)/Marc Martí (ESP) Hyundai i20 R5 +5m27.2s
13 Luis Vilariño (ESP)/José Murado (ESP) Śkoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +6m44.2s
14 Juan Carlos Alonso (ARG)/Juan Pablo Monasterolo (ARG) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +8m14.4s
15 Anthony Fotia (FRA)/Arnaud Dunand (FRA) Renault Clio Rally4 +8m40.9s ...

FIA ERC2: Javier Pardo (ESP)/Adrián Pérez (ESP) Suzuki Swift R4lly S
FIA ERC3: Anthony Fotia (FRA)/Arnaud Dunand (FRA) Renault Clio Rally4
FIA ERC Junior: Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta Rally3
FIA ERC3 Junior: Anthony Fotia (FRA)/Arnaud Dunand (FRA) Renault Clio Rally4
Abarth Rally Cup: Carlos David García (ESP)/Nazer Ghuneim (ESP) Abarth 124 rally