*Spaniard proves his talent with maiden FIA European championship victory

*Thrilling fight for the podium as reigning ERC champion Lukyanuk retires from the lead

*Bernardi lands ERC3 triumph, Franceschi scores debut ERC3 Junior win *Monarri is first Abarth Rally Cup winner

Pepe López scored a maiden FIA European Rally Championship victory on his home round and showed the quality of the ERC1 Junior stars in R5 cars, with Chris Ingram taking second overall.
A battle royale was expected between López and overnight leader Alexey Lukyanuk, who had won four stages apiece on Friday. But their fight would end on the first stage of the second leg, as while López took his fifth stage win, Lukyanuk clipped the inside of a corner and broke his front-left wheel and suspension.
From there López managed his lead diligently, becoming the first Spanish winner of an ERC round since Enrique García Ojeda in 2007. López’s decision to back off allowed Toksport WRT’s top driver Ingram to close up slightly, as a frenetic battle for the final podium position unfolded.
“I’m really, really happy, I really enjoyed that one,” said López. “I want to thank Citroën Racing, all my team and all the people who made this possible. Last year was difficult with not so many opportunities but it was important for my career to be in this situation. It’s a pity Alexey stopped on the first stage because it was a good fight. But my splits were good in that first stage. When you have an advantage of more than 30s it’s really difficult to keep your mind on the pacenotes, on the road and just drive. But we did it. It’s the best moment of my career.”
Ingram and double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel had begun the final loop of Rally Islas Canarias locked in battle over second place but the German driver fell into the clutches of Iván Ares and Norbert Herczig behind, entering SS14 only 0.8s up on the former.
Griebel’s podium hopes evaporated when he picked up a puncture on the Galdar stage, driving to the finish and dropping nearly two minutes, which demoted him from third to ninth. His Baumschlager Rallye & Racing stablemate Norbert Herczig also suffered a puncture on the same stage though fared much better, dropping only 20s.
Ares had suffered a similar fate to Griebel and Herczig one stage earlier but lost less time, dropping from fourth to seventh. That opened the door for Łukasz Habaj, who won the final two stages of the rally and shot up to the final podium place, a result that keeps the Pole at the top of the ERC standings following a fine display on only his second asphalt start in his Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5.
Team OSCARO’s Pierre-Louis Loubet had also been on a charge since being set back by a delaminated tyre on Friday and was right behind Habaj throughout leg two, entering SS16 only 3.1s off a podium place.
Ultimately Loubet pushed slightly too hard on the final stage, sliding wide into a ditch and losing around five to seven seconds and allowing Herczig to retake fourth place for MOL Racing Team.
Loubet still secured a top five finish and an all-important third place finish in ERC1 Junior, finishing 1.7s behind Herczig and clear of Ares in sixth. ERC1 Junior graduate José Suárez looked set to finish seventh on his ERC return with Rally Team Spain but engine problems cost him several minutes on the final loop, dropping him to P15. Instead it was Ares’ Hyundai Motor España team-mate Surhayen Pernía that would finish in seventh, edging a very close duel with Canary Islands rally legend Luis Monzón. The Auto-Laca Competición driver finished 2.2s behind Pernía in eighth, with Griebel half a minute behind in ninth.
Austrian champion Niki Mayr-Melnhof, who was once team-mates with Albert von Thurn und Taxis in GT racing, scored a top 10 finish on his ERC debut. Had it not been for a spin on the very first stage of leg two, an even better finish was possible, given he had been ahead of Pernía and Monzón. Meanwhile, his former team-mate from GT racing finished P16 after a trouble-hit final day.
Alexandros Tsouloftas banked valuable points for his ERC1 Junior championship campaign by finishing fourth in his class, turning in a mistake-free performance on his asphalt debut to accrue valuable mileage on sealed surfaces.
Reigning ERC Ladies champion Emma Falcón completed the top five in ERC1 Junior, the Fuerteventura native having moved up from ERC3 to four-wheel drive R5 machinery with Escudería Fuertwagen Motorsport this year.
Alberto Monarri (Abarth Spain – SMC Junior Motorsport) scooped Abarth Rally Cup honours and a €12,000 prize to go with his winner’s trophy, the Spaniard also topping the ERC2 production category. Compatriot Carlos David García (Orvecame Competición) finished second, with Dariusz Poloński (Rallytechnology) completing the podium.
Florian Bernardi won ERC3 ahead of Yohan Rossel and Jean-Baptiste Franceschi in an all-French podium. Franceschi, meanwhile, took ERC3 Junior honours in his Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta R2 ahead of Rally Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena and FPAK Portugal Team ERC driver Pedro Antunes. A separate ERC3 report is available here.
ERC2 winner Monarri makes history with Abarth Rally Cup spoils
Alberto Monarri became the maiden winner of an Abarth Rally Cup event to take place within the FIA European Rally Championship with his class victory on Rally Islas Canarias, the Spaniard also winning the ERC2 for good measure. Monarri (Abarth Spain – SMC Junior Motorsport) sparred with both Carlos David García (Ovrecame Competición) and Dariusz Poloński (Rallytechnology) for victory on leg one but had a quieter Saturday. Both of Monarri’s rivals had retired on Friday: Poloński with a broken wheel after hitting a rock on SS3 and García with a fuel pump issue between runs of the Las Palmas superspecial. Monarri completed all eight stages of leg two with his Pirelli-equipped Abarth 124 rally without issue. “I am very happy for all my team. It has been a perfect weekend, an amazing weekend. The car has been working perfectly for all the days,” said an elated Monarri. “It was a very good performance and I’m so happy for the team and Abarth Spain for being the first winner in the Abarth 124 Rally Cup.” Zelindo Melegari (Neiksans Rallysport) had endured a difficult first leg with a down-on-power Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X but pressed on, finishing second in ERC2. Juan Carlos Alonso had looked set to finish second earlier on but gearbox failure on the road section heading to SS13 ended his rally prematurely. That led to García scoring not only second place in the Abarth Rally Cup but also a podium in ERC2, with Poloński finishing third in the Abarth classification. The fastest driver of leg two though was Andrea Nucita. A driveshaft issue had ruled him out of Friday’s action but Nucita showed his rivals he would be a driver to watch in rounds to come, winning seven of the eight stages on Saturday on his way to fifth in ERC2 and fourth amongst the Abarths.
LEG ONE REPORT: Click here for leg one report
LEG TWO REPORT: Click here for leg two report
PROVISIONAL TOP 10 POSITIONS (after 16 stages, 200.98 kilometres)
1 Pepe López (ESP)/Borja Rozada (ESP) Citroën C3 R5 2h06m23.9s
2 Chris Ingram (GBR)/Ross Whittock (GBR) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +28.5s
3 Łukasz Habaj (POL)/Daniel Dymurski (POL) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +39.9s
4 Norbert Herczig (HUN)/Ramón Ferencz (HUN) Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +52.9s
5 Pierre-Louis Loubet (FRA)/Vincent Landais (FRA) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +54.6s
6 Iván Ares (ESP)/David Vázquez (ESP) Hyundai i20 R5 +1m07.5s
7 Surhayen Penía (ESP)/Alba Sanchez (ESP) Hyundai i20 R5 +2m14. 4s
8 Luis Monzón (ESP)/José Déniz (ESP) Ford Fiesta R5 +2m16.6s
9 Marijan Griebel (DEU)/Stefan Kopczyk (DEU) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +2m47.3s
10 Niki Mayr-Melnhof (AUT)/Poldi Welsersheimb (AUT) Ford Fiesta R5 +3m02.3s
FIA ERC2: Alberto Monarri (ESP)/Alberto Chamorro (ESP) Abarth 124 rally
FIA ERC3: Florian Bernardi (FRA)/Victor Bellotto (FRA) Renault Clio R3T
FIA ERC1 Junior: Pepe López (ESP)/Borja Rozada (ESP) Citroën C3 R5
FIA ERC3 Junior: Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (FRA)/Anthony Gorguilo (FRA) Ford Fiesta R2T
Abarth Rally Cup: Alberto Monarri (ESP)/Alberto Chamorro (ESP) Abarth 124 rally
ERC Ladies’ Trophy: Emma Falcón (ESP)
Click here for full provisional results, stage classifications, retirements and other data or follow this link: https://www.fiaerc.com/live-timing/.
SS1-2: López/Rozada
SS3-8: Lukyanuk/Arnautov
Click Here: nrl shopsSS9-16: López/Rozada
ERC rally wins in 2019: Habaj and López 1
ERC stage wins in 2019: Lukyanuk 13, López 5, Loubet 4; Habaj and Teodósio 3; Ingram 2; Moura and Suárez 1
CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS: Click here the provisional positions after 2/8.
LIVE TIMING AND RESULTS: https://www.fiaerc.com/live-timing/
WATCH THE NEWSFEED HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKoryPaHpNY&feature=youtu.be
What’s next? Rally Liepāja, 24-26 May: The brainchild of driver turned promoter Raimonds Strokšs and first run to great acclaim in 2013, Rally Liepāja was originally a winter event but switched to autumn for 2016 to ensure more guaranteed weather. The new date effectively made for an all-new rally as crews adjusted to gravel stages free of snow and ice. Although the time of year had changed, the high-speed stages in western Latvia continued to thrill drivers and spectators alike. For autumn read late spring in 2019 as this forward-thinking event moves to late May and an expanded route with stages in the Talsi region too. More information/press accreditation contact: Jānis Unbedahts, janis@raevents.lv