Pieniazek stuns the works Opels
The European Rally Championship Junior category was won by a shock non-opel works team driver as Lukas Pieniazek steered his privateer Adam to victory on his second visit to the Circuit of Ireland.
The 25-year-old Pole finished 11th in the 2015 ERC Junior standings, but a measured weekend meant he benefited from other drivers’ problems to jump up the order on the final day.
Works Opel driver Marijan Griebel led at the end of the first day, and last year’s class event winner looked relatively confident and assured in the lead. There’s never much in it in the ERC Juniors though, and a combatant Pieniazek and Nikolay Gryazin (Peugeot 208 R2) challenged the German, both winning stages on the opening day. Pieniazek was 19.3s down in second come the end of leg one.
Griebel’s team-mate Chris Ingram had a tricky Friday, his first time in the car and he had a complete lack of confidence in the Adam and could only manage fourth overnight.
Griebel opened the second day by extending his lead over Pieniazek, but on the second stage of the day disaster struck. A hefty cut had caused a puncture and he was out of the lead battle to the shock of his competitors. Last year’s win and the German’s superiority had an air of inevitability about it, but now he was out of winning contention.
With Pieniazek in the lead, he quickly consolidated it over the next few tests and all eyes turned to the battle for second, with Gryazin ahead of Ingram. It took the Brit two stages to overturn the 7.2s lead Gryazin possessed with a new set-up on the Adam. It was looser at the rear and Ingram had the car dancing through the afternoon. After a struggle on Friday, the 21-year-old showed his mettle to stay focused on the event, and he reaped the rewards justly. More importantly, he leads Griebel in the points heading to one of his favourites, the Azores.
Griebel overturned his half a minute deficit to Gryazin to take the final podium spot and earn the ERC’S Colin Mcrae Flat Out Trophy. The Scot, who won 25 years ago on the same event, would have almost certainly enjoyed such a first class effort from the German driver.
The juniors will return in Azores in June, with the overall prize of a drive in an R5 car on the last round in the senior division in Cyprus.
The British Rally Championship Juniors produced an equally brilliant battle, with Robert Duggan coming out on top in a Vauxhall Motorsport 1-2 with Swede Mattias Adielsson finishing second.
Duggan competed on the National event last year and last year’s Road to Wales winner in the Northern Irish Championship was supreme from the outset. He topped the first five stages only being ousted by Adielsson on the Newtownards TT spectator test. In total he headed nine of 14 stages, with Adielsson taking the other five, and he was noticeably quicker through the second day.
Adam Bustard finished on the podium despite entering in Rally2 after a driveshaft went on day one. With Aaron Johnston on the notes they almost didn’t make the rally after problems on the Circuit of Kerry, but the never-giveup attitude from the crew was a highlight.
Meirion Evans/jonathan Jackson and team-mate Josh Cornwell/ Dai Roberts both suffered turbo issues on their Ford Fiesta R2TS and retired, and Blair Brown suffered a broken clutch. Nabila Tejpar/ Emma Morrison managed fourth in the Allied Polymersliveried Ford Fiesta R2. Aaron Windus/ Rhianon Gelsomino were fifth after retirement on stage one forced Rally2.
Derek Mcgarrity/barry Mcnulty Ollie Mellors/ Ian Windress Wesley Patterson/johnny Baird Camillus Bradley/crawford Henderson Donnie Macdonald/andrew Falconer Alastair Cochrane/ Ian Kidd Declan Mcnaughton/sean Hayde Jamie Jukes/dave Williams Fintan Mcgrady/ Ray Fitzpatrick John Devlin/john Mccarthy
11 Ross Marshall/ Dave Robson (Ford Escort Mk2); 12 Oran Donnelly/ Paul Hughes (Ford Escort Mk2); 13 John Gordon/thomas Wedlock (Ford Escort Mk2); 14 Colm Mcfall/ Dermot Mccafferty (Mitsubishi Lancer E9); 15 Patrick Mctoal/ Connor O’loan (Ford Escort Mk2); 16 Christian Cochrane/ Conor Lavery (Ford Escort Mk2); 17 Davy Armstrong/ Martin Mcgarrity (Ford Escort Mk2); 18 Jonny Morrow/ Simon Morrow (Mitsubishi Lancer E9); 19 Alan Carmichael/ Ivor Lamont (Skoda Fabia S2000); 20 Kyle White/ Sean Topping (Citroen C2R2 Max). Class winners Nick Barnett/martin Brady (Honda Civic); Mcfall/mccafferty; Mellors/ Windress; Mcgarrity/mcnulty; Leroy Mills/simon John Rogers (Vauxhall Corsa); White/topping; John Gordan/thomas Wedlock (Ford Escort); A Cochrane/i Kidd; Patterson/baird; Niall Creighton/gregory Roberts (Ford Lotus Cortina); Ian Millar/ronan O’neill (Ford Escort RS1800).
near perfect start to the Northern Ireland Rally Championship continued. As for Mellors he bagged some much-needed British points, while Patterson was the top Irish modified driver.
With the weather improving late on and the roads drying, Camillus Bradley began to stretch the legs of his Ford Escort and as his confidence grew was able to cement fourth. It also made up for a difficult first day.