SIRMACIS WINS THE ACROPOLIS
Debut victory for young Latvian as Skoda locks out the top four
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A jump-start penalty being rescinded aided his cause.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