ERC - The force is with Lukyanuk as ERC juniors star in Canarias | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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ERC - The force is with Lukyanuk as ERC juniors star in Canarias


Rally Islas Canarias: Leg one report, 4 May

*Russian hero ‘Luke Anuk’ leads young master Gryazin
*Sesks heads thrilling battle for ERC Junior U27 with 4.0s covering top trio
*Érdi Jr on course for ERC2 revenge, newcomer Bernardi first in ERC3

Alexey Lukyanuk continued his fantastic Azores-winning form in the FIA European Rally Championship to lead Rally Islas Canarias at the overnight halt in Las Palmas. But a pack of ERC Junior Under 28 rivals are fighting hard and ready to pounce.

Though Lukyanuk holds a 21.3s advantage aboard his Russian Performance Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5, nearest rival and ERC Junior U28 leader Nikolay Gryazin says he took a “calm” approach to Friday’s stages, hinting at more pace to come on Saturday’s final leg.

While overnight rain made for damp sections this morning, Gran Canaria had one last curveball to throw the drivers’ way on the second pass of the Artenara stage, as thick fog descended upon the middle of the run and meant Gryazin’s pace was kept in check. “I think we lost some time in the fog, in some places it could be faster,” the 20-year-old Russian said after SS6. “I want to keep pushing like this, not too much and without mistakes.”

Lukyanuk, however, had no such problems. “It’s been a very good day for us, with good pace and with no mistakes,” the two-time Rally Islas Canarias winner said. “Of course my experience helps but the most important thing is a good set-up for the car, a good feeling. We know we can push harder but we are looking after the tyres, trying to control things.”

Hyundai Motor España driver José Suárez held the final podium position and second in ERC Junior U28 starting the day-closing Las Palmas de Gran Canaria city stage, but he couldn’t hold off ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland’s Fabian Kreim, who has moved 2.9s ahead of his rival overnight.

Double German champion Kreim demonstrated fantastic consistency to record three overall top-five stage times across Rally Islas Canarias’ first six stages. He showed an emphatic turn of pace early in SS4, though admitted to pushing his tyres a little too hard through Valsequillo’s second pass.

Pierre-Louis Loubet and Laurent Pellier are engaged in a tight scrap for fourth in ERC Junior U28, separated by only 6.2s. PEUGEOT Rally Academy-run Pellier took advantage of a rapidly drying surface and late road order position to score his first ever ERC stage win in SS2, putting him second overall behind Lukyanuk at the time. Though he fell back as his more experienced competition picked up the pace, he remains in a good position in seventh overall, two spots behind Loubet and one behind Bruno Magalhães.

Team OSCARO-backed Loubet was one of the five quickest drivers in four stages from six, recovering impressively from P11 after losing time in SS2 due to the slippery conditions. Magalhães, meanwhile, soldiered his way through the afternoon loop to hold seventh after SS6, nursing a pop-off valve issue and also losing around 15s from a spin in SS5. Despite his troubles he remains well in the fight for a top five finish, 4.9s behind Loubet but only 1.3s in front of Pellier.

MOL Racing Team’s Nobert Herczig is eighth with Grzegorz Grzyb and Iván Ares, the defending Spanish champion, completing the overall top 10.

Eyvind Brynildsen is P11 on his first Tarmac start in five years, Łukasz Habaj is P12 despite a handbrake issue with Surhayen Pernía P13 and Hubert Ptasezk P14.  Ptasezk had been swapping places with fellow Pole Aleks Zawada, who is making his ERC Junior U28 debut and first appearance in an R5 car with his family MSZ Racing team. Ptasezk would catch and pass Zawada on the road in SS6, after Zawada hit a kerb and bent his rear right wheel in the previous stage. He’s P17 behind Albert von Thurn und Taxis and Orhan AvcioǧluDávid Botka is P18, while Chris Ingram had made a valiant effort to participate in the rally this morning, despite being admitted to hospital the previous night. He made it as far as SS3 before withdrawing on medical grounds, and will fly back to the UK for checks to be fighting fit ahead his next ERC appearance.

ERC Junior U27: Sesks leads thrilling three-way battle
Mārtiņš Sesks
 leads the race for success in the Pirelli-supported ERC Junior Under 27 category albeit by a scant 0.7s over championship pacesetter Diogo Gago with Rally Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena 3.3s behind as 4.0s covers the top three. Llarena briefly led early in the morning loop, but wore out his tyres from pushing in SS1 and dropped to fifth one stage later. Sesks saw his chance and jumped from third to first immediately, but Azores winner Gago capitalised on Sesks’ inexperience on Tarmac to move into first place after SS4. Though Gago edged further ahead in SS5, Artenara’s thick fog shook up the order in SS6. Much like the morning’s tricky conditions had favoured Sesks, the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team driver took advantage to recoup 3.8s over Gago during SS6’s 23 kilometres and retake the lead. All eyes were firmly fixed on Llarena however, who was fastest across all three of Friday afternoon’s full length stages to regain 11.7s on Sesks ahead. Simon Wagner had no answer for Llarena’s irresistible pace, but remains fourth in class regardless thanks to jumping Sesks’ Opel team-mate Tom Kristensson. Even being held up by an ailing Sergei Remennik in SS6 – whose powersteering had failed – didn’t stop him from increasing his advantage, sitting 8.4s ahead of fifth-placed Kristensson and 17.8s behind Sesks. Roberto Blach and Wagner’s new Saintéloc Junior team-mate Miika Hokkanen are sixth and seventh respesctively, while Roland StenggDominik Brož and Catie Munnings complete the top 10. But Mattia Vita retired when engine failure caused his PEUGEOT to briefly catch fire. Newcomer Florian Bernardi, meanwhile, is clear of his ERC Junior U27 opposition in ERC3 at the wheel of a Renault Clio R3T.

ERC2: Determined Érdi Jr heads production field
Tibor Érdi Jr
 made up for a disappointing early exit from Azores in March by speeding to first in ERC2’s production class field, establishing a 31.8s lead over Juan Carlos Alonso. Érdi was clearly a man on a mission, going fastest in all eight of leg one’s opening stages. Alonso limited his time loss during a drier afternoon loop, but Érdi had already made his mark during Friday morning’s changeable conditions, already holding a 22.5s advantage by SS3. Hard graft was required for ERC2’s remaining participants. Zelindo Melegari jumped to third place in SS6, 2m52.8s behind Érdi, after Sergei Remennik’s powersteering failed during the previous stage. Melegari had multiple technical issues throughout Friday, including electrical problems, a clutch issue, intermittent powersteering and an engine down on power. Remennik is now last of the remaining ERC2 cars, 3m48.8s behind Melegari. Toksport WRT’s ERC2 entrant Gilbert Bannout retired after SS2 due to a technical problem afflicting his Subaru Impreza STI.