Home favourite takes his chance as oth­ers fail

Motor Sport News - - Erc: Azores Rallye -


icardo Moura took a shock vic­tory at his 16th at­tempt on the Azores Ral­lye af­ter a bat­tle for the lead that no­body seemed to want to win.

The Azorean in­her­ited top spot from Alexey Lukyanuk on stage 14 of 16 when the turbo pipe came off the Rus­sian’s sim­i­lar Ford Fi­esta R5, and held on to be­come the first is­lan­der in 45 years to tri­umph on this most de­mand­ing of gravel ral­lies on the mid-atlantic ar­chi­pel­ago.

Euro­pean cham­pion Ka­je­tan Ka­je­tanow­icz had led early on but com­pleted leg one 9.8s be­hind Lukyanuk fol­low­ing a slug­gish drive through the sec­ond pass of Sete Ci­dades, which runs along the rim of a vol­canic crater lake in some of ral­ly­ing’s most pic­turesque scenery.

But any hopes the Pole had of hit­ting back on leg two were dashed when his Fi­esta’s front-left drive­shaft broke on Satur­day’s open­ing stage.

But what had been a lead of 25.3s for Lukyanuk turned into a 42.7s deficit to Moura come the end of SS14. Moura was seem­ingly clear with two stages left but his hard tyres for the damp roads of SS15 were far from ideal and a fly­ing Lukyanuk, hav­ing made re­pairs by the road­side, was able to halve Moura’s ad­van­tage to 21.5s.

With a fi­nal 13.48 miles to run and Moura also strug­gling with brake is­sues, the stage was set for a thrilling cli­max, only for a slow punc­ture to hob­ble Lukyanuk’s charge through the clos­ing test and al­low Moura to win.

“I was lucky to­day be­cause some­times I maybe did not have the speed to match [Lukyanuk and Ka­je­tanow­icz],” Moura told “my peo­ple” at an emo­tional fin­ish­ing cer­e­mony in Ponta Del­gada, the cap­i­tal of host is­land Sao Miguel. “But I was fight­ing al­ways, try­ing al­ways. I got the day of my life so thank you.”

Lukyanuk at least held on to sec­ond, but he must be won­der­ing what he has to do for a change of for­tune. A turbo pipe fail­ure slowed the un­der-funded driver on the pre­vi­ous round in Greece, while a pre-event test­ing crash pre­vented him from start­ing the Cir­cuit of Ire­land.

Ka­je­tanow­icz, without a win in 2016, com­pleted the podium af­ter Acrop­o­lis win­ner, the 21-year-old Lat­vian prom­ise Ralfs Sir­ma­cis, re­tired his Skoda Fabia R5 af­ter break­ing its steer­ing on Satur­day’s opener.

Un­lucky In­gram

ERC Ju­nior Chris In­gram proved a point on Fri­day morn­ing. The Opel works driver – in his first event on gravel in the Adam R2 – was 20s faster than his ri­vals on the first run through Sete Ci­dades only for a front-left punc­ture on SS9 to drop him back.

That left his team-mate Mar­i­jan Griebel and Por­tuguese Peu­geot driver Diogo Gago bat­tling for po­si­tion, a fight that ended on Satur­day’s sec­ond stage when the Ger­man crashed into a tree.

A gear­box prob­lem was a fur­ther nui­sance for In­gram on Satur­day af­ter­noon but he made hit home sec­ond in class be­hind Gago and ahead of Steve Rok­land in an M-sport-run Fi­esta R2T. It was In­gram’s third suc­ces­sive podium in the Azores in three dif­fer­ent cars and puts him into the cham­pi­onship lead. “It was all about mak­ing it to the fin­ish,” said the Manch­ester driver.

Chuchala hat-trick

Wo­j­ciech Chuchala is quickly turn­ing into one of the most closely watched prospects in in­ter­na­tional ral­ly­ing as he pulled off an­other ma­jes­tic ERC2 win in his Subaru Poland Im­preza. His fourth win in as many tries in the cat­e­gory came af­ter the Pole re­cov­ered from a punc­ture on Fri­day to over­turn Ruben Ro­drigues and win by 1m25s.

Moura drove clean while oth­ers fal­tered

Photos: FIA ERC, Son­gas­port, Ral­ly­

Af­ter 16 at­tempts, Moura gets win

In­gram took Ju­nior lead

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