De­but vic­tory for young Lat­vian as Skoda locks out the top four

Motor Sport News - - ERC: Acropolis Rally -

In his first start in an R5-spec car, 21-yearold Lat­vian Ralfs Sirmacis took a sen­sa­tional vic­tory on the Acrop­o­lis Rally, as reign­ing cham­pion Ka­je­tan Ka­je­tanow­icz rolled on the open­ing stage, gift­ing the Euro­pean Rally Cham­pi­onship its third dif­fer­ent win­ner from as many 2016 rounds.

Sirmacis, co-driven by Ar­turs Simins, went quick­est on the open­ing test in the ab­sence of Ka­je­tanow­icz, who man­aged to es­cape re­tire­ment but lost just un­der 15 min­utes to de­stroy his chances of win­ning the rally that he sealed his 2015 ti­tle on last sea­son when the rally was po­si­tioned later in the year.

With the Cir­cuit of Ire­land win­ner in trou­ble, it was Alexey Lukyanuk to the fore. The Rus­sian’s sea­son was plunged into doubt af­ter bend­ing the cage on his Ford Fi­esta on a pre-event Cir­cuit test, but he and Ro­man Ka­pustin were back with a vengeance in Greece as he topped the third stage just be­fore ser­vice. How­ever af­ter three tests, Sirmacis’ lead was al­ready 17.2s.

With three stages af­ter ser­vice, Lukyanuk topped the last, which marked an epic fight back, re­ward­ing him with the lead from Sirmacis by 2s. His Fi­esta had been un­der­pow­ered in the morn­ing, but the Rally Ca­narias win­ner was back in top form on the af­ter­noon loop.

A jump-start penalty be­ing re­scinded aided his cause.

Un­for­tu­nately, Lukyanuk’s bad run of luck post-ca­narias con­tin­ued on Satur­day morn­ing, as a punc­ture on the day’s first stage dropped him 15.6s on the stage. That left Skoda Fabia driver Sirmacis to score vic­tory de­spite not com­pet­ing in the ERC since Barum last year where he sealed se­cond in the ju­nior standings. He also won the Colin Mcrae Flat Out Tro­phy for his out­stand­ing per­for­mance.

Drama en­sued be­hind in the bat­tle for se­cond as Lukyanuk’s de­flated cover proved a life­line for those fight­ing be­hind.

Crowd favourite Lam­bros Athanas­soulas was in prime position head­ing into the last stage, lead­ing Jaromir Tarabus by 35.6s. But the Greek driver caught an­other car in the Acrop­o­lis dust and Tarabus closed in. How­ever, Athanas­soulas held on, with Elias Pana­giotou­nis on the notes.

ERC reg­u­lars Raul Jeets/ An­drus Toom (Fabia R5) and an in­cred­i­ble run from ERC2 Group N cam­paigner Wo­j­ciech Chuchala/daniel Dy­murski com­pleted the top five.

Chuchala con­tin­ued his me­te­oric rise in ERC2 by tak­ing his third vic­tory in a row in his Subaru Poland Rally Team Im­preza STI. Thanks to prob­lems for Peter Ranga and Ti­bor Erdi Jr, Jose Luis Jac­quet Rios se­cured se­cond in the cat­e­gory in his first event out­side his na­tive Paraguay.

Ka­je­tanow­icz and Jarek Baran were left won­der­ing what might have been af­ter top­ping five of the six Satur­day stages. Lukyanuk could only re­cover to 10th and the Rus­sian trails Ka­je­tanow­icz by 25 points af­ter three rounds and sits se­cond in the standings.

Mu­rat Bostanci topped ERC3 in his Ford Fi­esta R2T, as Lukasz Pieni­azek re­tired his Opel Adam R2 with gear­box mal­adies. The Pole leads ERC Ju­nior but the Acrop­o­lis wasn’t a count­ing round for that se­ries.

One thing is for cer­tain, ERC Ju­nior will be even more closely fought af­ter see­ing last year’s grad­u­ate dom­i­nate on his R5 de­but in Greece.

Young Lat­vian starred on R5 de­but

Chuchala won ERC2

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