LUKYANUK CON­SIS­TENT IN CYPRUS

Motor Sport News - - Erc: Cyprus Rally - RE­SULTS Jack Benyon Pho­tos: FIA ERC Cyprus Rally, Euro­pean Rally Cham­pi­onship, Oc­to­ber 7-9, round 10/10 POS DRIVER/CO-DRIVER

Not many driv­ers at the age of 35 have a com­ing of age mo­ment. An in­stance where some­thing clicks and the mis­takes of old be­come a dis­tant mem­ory.

It’s hap­pened to a lot of the greats, and whether Alexey Lukyanuk will join that club is yet to be seen. But he cer­tainly showed a new air of calm and con­fi­dence over the Cyprus Rally week­end.

The Rus­sian driver has had an up and down year; crashes while in good po­si­tions in Zlin and Es­to­nia ru­ined his cham­pi­onship charge. But sec­ond in Latvia – back in a Group N Mit­subishi Lancer – showed the pace is there. The only ques­tion is whether the Rus­sian can put a clean rally to­gether.

De­spite the con­sis­tent mis­takes, there was al­ways the thought in the back of the minds of those in the Ni­cosia ser­vice park that he would throw it away last week­end. The pres­sure of a large cheque – and a fight for sec­ond in the cham­pi­onship – were loom­ing large.

Bang. His first stage time was light­ning. There was no Ka­je­tan Ka­je­tanow­icz to com­pare too, and his clos­est ri­val this year, Ralfs Sir­ma­cis, was well off the pace with un­suited tyres and a lack of ex­pe­ri­ence of driv­ing on as­phalt. Lukyanuk’s pace was still pretty breath­tak­ing.

He was at warp speed. He claimed he was tak­ing it easy. A mo­ment where he at­tempted to turn his Ford Fi­esta R5 into a dig­ger and drill into the Cyprian ground with the nose of his car at speed was a nar­row es­cape. But it seemed to fo­cus the mul­ti­ple Lat­vian cham­pion and af­ter that he was un­touch­able.

It may well have been in part down to a T-shirt given to him by a fan. It car­ried the slo­gan ‘Keep calm and lis­ten to your co-driver’. It’s some­thing he’s ad­mit­ted to strug­gling with in the past, but what he cred­ited for his pace in the dark.

He was aided by a su­per Pirelli tyre. Its XR5 com­pound and tread worked a dream in the burn­ing hot land­scape.

Sir­ma­cis, on the other hand, had cho­sen his based on the Acrop­o­lis. The added heat in Ni­cosia meant it was not a good one. His tyres were blasted away with a few kilo­me­tres and there was no co­in­ci­dence that he was the only fron­trun­ner re­ally strug­gling, and also the only one on Miche­lin tyres.

With this in mind, Sir­ma­cis strug­gled. He could take only two fastest stage times on Satur­day to end the day third.

He was pro­moted af­ter his im­pres­sive SRT team-mate, Niko­lay Gryazin, crashed on SS6 af­ter clip­ping a rock on the in­side of a cor­ner. The cut was too tight and the car was too in­verted. Af­ter com­ing to rest up­side down on a rock, it was rally over and an im­pres­sive dis­play ended.

Into sec­ond was Mai­jan Griebel, tak­ing his ERC Ju­nior cham­pi­onship prize of a one-off out­ing in a Skoda Fabia R5. Af­ter just 30 miles of test­ing the night be­fore the event, his first stages in a four-wheel-drive car came in the dark on gravel in a brand new car. It doesn’t get much more dif­fi­cult. But only an over­shoot and a stall halted progress on Fri­day, and an ag­gres­sive land­ing on Satur­day evening’s su­per­spe­cial broke a bumper. Apart from that, it was spot­less.

Even on Satur­day, the next day’s ac­tion was trou­bling the driv­ers. For the top three driv­ers on a cu­mu­la­tive time of the last two stages, a prize was on of­fer. The re­turn of the ERC’S Golden Stage. The first of the two was can­celled af­ter farm­ers protested at the rally head­ing past their land, but that only height­ened the drama: a one-stage shootout with the win­ner tak­ing 25,000 eu­ros plus the usual ERC prize money from Eurosport.

The sto­pline of the stage end was on a beach, a mag­nif­i­cent end to the ERC sea­son. Ar­tur Simins, co-driver of Sir­ma­cis, joined his driver and Griebel, plus his co-driver Per­min Winkel­hof­fer, on the sto­pline as Lukyanuk came into see his time, he was the last car on the road. 1 Alexey Lukyanuk/alexey Ar­nau­tov 2 Mar­i­jan Griebel/ Pirmin Win­kl­hofer 3 Ralfs Sir­ma­cis/ar­turs Simins 4 David Botka/ Pe­ter Sze­les 5 Chris­tos De­mos­thenous/ Pam­bos Laos 6 Niko­laos Ge­or­giou/an­to­nis Chrysos­to­mou 7 Costas Zenonos/ Phanos Christofi 8 Sav­vas Savva/an­dreas Pa­pan­dreou 9 Michalis Pose­dias/geor­gios Alexan­drou 10 Stavros An­to­niou/ Demetris Pieri Had he done enough? He had. A to­tal of 32,000 eu­ros to take back to Rus­sia.

Sec­ond on the Golden Stage was Sir­ma­cis and Simins, but it was good enough for only third over­all on the Rally. Griebel took sec­ond over­all, third on the Golden Stage.

The awards evening af­ter the event was a fit­ting way to end the sea­son. A switch to six count­ing rounds rather than seven next year will hope­fully bring out a few more R5s. If the Ju­nior grad­u­ates re­turn ( see be­low) along with Lukyanuk and Ka­je­tanow­icz, the pace at the front will be rapid.

Griebel fin­ished sec­ond over­all in an im­pres­sive Fabia R5 de­but Lukyanuk (c) cel­e­brated in style

Lukyanuk took glory on the Golden Stage

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