ERC - Llarena resits Antunes to hold Azores ERC3 lead | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

ERC - Llarena resits Antunes to hold Azores ERC3 lead

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Round 1 of 8 - ERC3 Azores Rallye leg 1 day 2 report: 22 March

  • *Rally Team Spain ace heads FPAK Portugal Team rival in close battle 
  • *Furuseth third with Lundberg fourth in Pirelli-backed ERC3 Junior class 
  • *Czech 2WD champion Talaš claims stage win on ERC debut 
  • *Late heartache for Munnings as double puncture forces retirement

Efrén Llarena weathered a comeback drive from Pedro Antunes to hold first place in the Pirelli-supported FIA ERC3 Junior Championship on the Azores Rallye, with the top four separated by less than 30 seconds.

Rally Team Spain driver Llarena, who built the Peugeot 208 R2 he drives from scratch in conjunction with co-driver Sara Fernández, stole the lead away from Antunes on SS4.

“We did a good day,” said Llarena. “We attacked in the morning and in the afternoon we did a very good first stage. On the second stage the time of Antunes was incredible but in the next stage we tried to get some seconds back that could make the difference tomorrow. I am full of confidence – we want to win our first rally in ERC.”

From there their fortunes initially diverged, with the FPAK Portugal Team ERC driver dropping down to fourth place for much of the day, caused mainly by going 18.5s slower than Llarena on SS4 after overshooting a junction.

But Antunes rebounded quickly, catching his fellow national federation-backed driver with a flat-out run through Sete Cidades aboard his Pirelli-shod Peugeot 208 R2.

Clocking a time 10.8s faster than anyone else in ERC3 Junior, Antunes closed the lead gap to only 5.1s and climbed back to second, although a stage win on SS9 helped Llarena build his lead back up to 8.8s by day’s end.

Sindre Furuseth had spent much of the leg yo-yoing between second and fourth place but ended the day third, 16.2s behind Llarena. He picked up minor damage to his Saintéloc-prepared Peugeot on the afternoon pass of Sete Cidades by clipping a bank – as many of his class rivals had also done.

Furuseth still pulled clear of the sole remaining ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team car of Elias Lundberg, with his team-mate Grégoire Munster forced to retire with an electrical problem. Lundberg had been fighting illness all day but initially still rose to second place. That progress was undone on SS7 when he hit a rock, causing excessive toe-out on one of his wheels and compromising his car’s handling. He dropped back to fourth in ERC3 Junior, 11.9s behind Furuseth and 29.2s in arrears to Llarena.

Mirroring Lundberg’s woes, Simon Wagner’s steering had been knocked out of alignment of the morning pass of the same Pico da Pedra stage that caught out Lundberg later on, compromising his speed for the subsequent pair of stages.

After repairs made at midday service, Wagner’s pace improved, the Austrian setting a pair of second-fastest times to end the day only 18.6s behind Lundberg in fifth place.

Peugeot Rally Academy’s Yohan Rossel, entered in the main ERC3 category only, dropped from third to sixth over the course of Friday’s seven stages, complaining of a lack of grip throughout the day.

ACCR Czech Rally Team pair Erik Cais and Jan Talaš finished leg one sixth and seventh in ERC3 Junior. Cais suffered a left-rear puncture on Pico da Preca’s afternoon pass but immediately rebounded, carving 10s out of Rossel’s advantage to close to within half a minute of sixth place in the overall ERC3 classification.

Team ROMO driver Roman Schwedt completes the ERC3 Junior runners in eighth place and ninth overall in ERC3, his biggest drama coming when a nose-heavy landing on Sete Cidades took his front bumper off, although an exhaust issue caused problems in the afternoon.

Furuseth’s Saintéloc team-mate Sean Johnston completes the top 10 in ERC3, with Rally2 returnee Dmitriy Myachin making it through all seven stages successfully after rolling his TBRacing Peugeot on Thursday.

Dominik Brož had been running ahead of his fellow ACCR-backed team-mates but his rally came to an end on Sete Cidades. He had already been driving through the stage with his tailgate open after stopping to change a puncture, caused by contact with a wall. Only a few kilometres later he was forced to retire when, coming across the flying finish, the front-right wheel of his Peugeot came off, leaving him stranded.

Steve Røkland was forced to retire from sixth place when he hit a rock and broke a driveshaft, while ERC Ladies' Trophy leader Catie Munnings had to stop after Sete Cidades when she picked up a double puncture on her Peugeot Rally Academy 208 when carrying only a single spare tyre.

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