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ERC - Nikolay Gryazin going for gold, Norbert Herczig heading for home podium


FIA European Rally Championship 2021, Round 7 - Rally Hungary - Leg 1 report

*Former ERC1 Junior champion in first place on debut in Nyíregyháza after rivals hit trouble
*Hungarian hero Herczig holds second overnight as Cais drops out of lead with damaged tyre
*Østberg battles back from high-speed spin with afternoon stage-win double
*ERC champion-elect Mikkelsen overcomes power issue but late delay costs more time
*Vinyes exit hands team-mate Pardo ERC2 advantage despite contrasting fortunes
*Armstrong is the driver to beat in ERC3/ERC3 Junior as others are beset by issues
*Torn on top in ERC Junior, Rada first in Abarth Rally Cup following Poloński woe
*Soria first in Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT but Mabellini on course for title

Nikolay Gryazin has completed the opening leg of Rally Hungary in the lead, while Norbert Herczig is on course for a home podium following another action-packed day in the FIA European Rally Championship.

With seven stages run, Gryazin, with co-driver Konstantin Aleksandrov by his side, is 25.8s in front of Herczig as a late charge from Mads Østberg enabled the Norwegian to complete the overnight top three with a 2.6s advantage over defending Hungarian champion András Hadik. Efrén Llarena was fifth after seven stages but a 10s penalty for a jumped start means it’s Miko Marczyk who completes the top five overnight, despite a driveshaft failure slowing him down on SS4.

ERC champion-elect Andreas Mikkelsen has also had his share of problems on route to completing leg one in seventh. After he overcame a power issue this morning, a damaged front-right tyre caused the Škoda-powered Toksport WRT driver further delay on SS7. With leg bonus points handed to the top-five drivers only, Mikkelsen hasn’t quite done enough to put the title beyond rivals Llarena and Marczyk.

“We had some issues with the wastegate, there was a wire broken,” Mikkelsen said of his morning woes. “Why it happened I’m not sure but basically there was less power through [stages three and four] and I’m happy it was not more serious and we could continue. We have good engineers who sent us good videos so we knew what to look for but left completely alone I’m not sure if we’d know what to do to fix it. We will continue push hard but we have to think about the championship so we need to find a good mix.”

Apart from a moment on SS4, it’s been a day without major issue for Gryazin, who is making his Rally Hungary debut and is in contention to claim his second ERC win this season.

“We must continue to work but still be on the safe side because it’s easy to get a puncture,” Gryazin said. “Without knowing the stages it’s so difficult because you don’t know if there will be the cuts and it’s very difficult to approach the narrow roads. If you push too much it’s very easy to go on the outside of the corner and break something. You don’t need to be on the fastest pace but you need to be consistent.”

Despite a damaged tyre on SS3, Javier Pardo’s bid for a fifth consecutive victory in ERC2 is on track after Suzuki Motor Ibérica team-mate Joan Vinyes dropped out of first place when he went off the road and damaged the suspension on his Swift R4lly S on SS6 and retired. Ken Torn tops ERC Junior in his M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3, Jon Armstrong heads ERC3/ERC3 Junior with Martin Rada moving into the lead of the Abarth Rally Cup after an electrical issue slowed Dariusz Poloński on SS7. Paulo Soria leads the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT order but Andrea Mabellini is edging closer to the title in third.

How battle for ERC glory unfolded on day one in Hungary
After topping the order on Friday night’s superspecial on the Rabócsiring rallycross track, Nikolay Gryazin started Saturday’s first stage a mere 0.1s ahead of Miko Marczyk and Efrén Llarena.

The Latvia-based Russian extended that margin to 2.9s over new second-placed driver Mads Østberg by winning SS2 and moved further ahead with a second stage win on SS3 as Østberg dropped back with a high-speed spin into a ditch.

Despite reporting a power issue, which was later traced to a faulty spark plug, Erik Cais reached midday service in Nyíregyháza 7.2s behind Gryazin in second. And it would get even better for the Czech when he outpaced Gryazin by 7.6s on SS5 to move into first place overall by 0.4s.

But it would be a short-lived lead for the 22-year-old after he was forced to stop and change a damaged tyre on SS6, a delay that dropped him from first to P10 and handed the advantage back to Gryazin in his Sports Racing Technologies Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.

“I really don’t know what happened,” said the dejected Yacco ACCR Team Ford Fiesta Rally2 driver. “It was somewhere after the gravel started but I really don’t know. I’m really disappointed because it was a perfect stage from the beginning and the pace was really good. Tomorrow is a new day.”

With Cais no longer a threat, Gryazin switched his focus for the remainder of the afternoon to preserving his margin out front over Škoda Rally Team Hungaria’s Norbert Herczig, who lost precious seconds with a front-right puncture approximately two kilometres from the finish of SS2.

“We tried to drive on the normal route but we hit some rocks,” Herczig explained. “But the next two stages were very successful for us. On the third stage we were second and on the fourth stage we were first so the puncture was not a big tragedy.”

Mads Østberg went fastest on SS6 and SS7 to reach the overnight halt in third place, 39.7s behind Gryazin. But as the TRT Citroën Rally Team Hungary driver admitted afterwards he was lucky to avoid crashing heavily on SS3. “The conditions were very tricky [on SS3] switching between dry and damp all the time and in one fast place, a right corner, there was small bump in the road and I didn’t have it in my pacenotes,” the Norwegian explained. “It just put me off the line and onto the white line on the outside of the road and it just snapped around. We spun and got stuck for about a minute in the ditch, but I was lucky not to go into the woods because I was completely flat out at 190kph.”

Behind fourth-placed Hungarian champion András Hadik, Miko Marczyk is fifth for ORLEN Team after an eventful day. Starting first on the road, the double Polish champion was fourth after three stages only for a driveshaft failure one kilometre from the start of SS4 to cost him approximately 30s. The delay dropped him to ninth but he moved into fifth when Efrén Llarena was handed a 10s penalty for a jumped start.

After losing time on cold tyres on SS2, Llarena suffered a stall on SS4. The Rallye Team Spain driver is 9.4s behind Marczyk in sixth with Andreas Mikkelsen, Simone Campedelli (Team MRF Tyres), Ádám Velenczei and Erik Cais completing the top 10. However, Velenczei was forced to retire on the road section heading to end-of-day service in Nyíregyháza with damaged front-left suspension.

Miklós Csomós and Yoann Bonato, who are P11 and P12 respectively, both lost time with damaged tyres. Hungarian title contender Csomós also suffered a spin, while Bonato reported a brake issue. Ken Torn is P13 and the top ERC Junior driver followed by ERC3/ERC3 Junior leader Jon Armstrong and Sami Pajari.

Nil Solans was a non-starter on his debut for Team MRF Tyres after a technical issue in his all-new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 could not be rectified. A spate of punctures led to Umberto Scandola’s exclusion after he drove on a road section with only three inflated tyres on his Hyundai Rally Team Italia entry.

Pardo drops down but gets back up again in ERC2 as team-mate Vinyes retires
Despite a damaged tyre on SS3, Javier Pardo’s bid for a fifth consecutive victory in ERC2 is on track after Suzuki Motor Ibérica team-mate Joan Vinyes dropped out of first place when he went off the road and damaged the suspension on his Swift R4lly S on SS6 and retired. Pardo’s title rival Dmitry Feofanov is second followed by Martin Rada, who moved into third place and the Abarth Rally Cup lead when an electrical issue slowed Dariusz Poloński on SS7. Victor Cartier overcame brake issues and a water leak to finish leg one in his self-built Toyota Yaris Rally2 Kit in fourth ahead of the delayed Poloński. Roberto Gobbin is sixth with Csaba Juhász seventh. Home hero and three-time ERC2 champion Tibor Érdi Jr was in second place but retired at midday service with a broken gearbox.

Advantage Armstrong in ERC3/ERC3 Junior
Jon Armstrong is putting on a strong display on his return to ERC3/ERC3 Junior action by leading both categories ahead of fellow M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally4 driver Sami Pajari by 2.9s. Armstrong claimed four stage wins during the course of the day following a cautious start. Norbert Maior, who was fastest in class on SS5, is third in his Topp-Cars Rally Team Peugeot 208 Rally4 followed by Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (Toksport WRT Renault Clio Rally4) and Alejandro Cachón. Franceschi leads the ERC3/ERC3 Junior championship standings and could have been further up the order but for a “big spin in a fast section” this afternoon. Rallye Team Spain Peugeot driver Cachón was second after SS6 but a damaged front-right tyre dropped him to fifth ahead of Hungarian hope Martin László and newcomer Anthony Fotia. László knocked the front-left suspension of his Peugeot out of line this morning while a damaged tyre delayed Fotia in his CHL Sport Auto-run Renault. ERC3 title contender Pep Bassas lost time with a damaged tyre and languishes in eighth, one place ahead of Patrik Herczig. Norbert Herczig’s son is making his ERC3 debut in a Clio Rally4 run by Toksport WRT. Bendegúz Hangodi completes the top 10. Adrienn Vogel is P16 but it’s been a troubled day for Amaury Molle, who lost time with an intercom issue and tyre damage. Poland’s Łukasz Lewandowski retired his Opel Corsa Rally4 due to illness.

Soria leads Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT but Mabellini is on course for title joy
Paulo Soria leads the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT order in his Renault Clio Rally5 with Ghjuvanni Rossi second followed by Andrea Mabellini, who will take the title if he remains on the podium. Bastien Bergounhe crashed on SS2 but he and co-driver Mathieu Descharne had vacated their car before it was engulfed in flames. Yigit Timur was a non-starter this morning.

PROVISIONAL TOP 15 ERC POSITIONS (after seven stages, 103.18 kilometres)
1 Nikolay Gryazin (LVA)/Konstantin Aleksandrov (LVA) Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 57m04.0s
2 Norbert Herczig (HUN)/Ramón Ferencz (HUN) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +25.8s
3 Mads Østberg (NOR)/Torstein Eriksen (NOR) Citroën C3 Rally2 +39.7s
4 András Hadik (HUN)/Krisztián Ketrész (HUN) Ford Fiesta Rally2 +42.3s
5 Miko Marczyk (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +1m07.6s
6 Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +1m17.0s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Elliott Edmondson (GBR) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +1m27.7s
8 Simone Campedelli (ITA)/Tania Canton (CHE) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +1m28.5s
9 Ádám Velenczei (HUN)/Igor Bacigál (HUN) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +1m58.5s
10 Erik Cais (CZE)/Jindřiška Žáková (CZE) Ford Fiesta Rally2 +2m01.0s
11 Miklós Csomós (HUN)/Attila Nagy (HUN) Škoda Fabia R5 +2m39.5s
12 Yoann Bonato (FRA)/Benjamin Boulloud (FRA) Citroën C3 Rally2 +2m43.4s
13 Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta Rally3 +4m32.8s
14 Jon Armstrong (GBR)/Phil Hall (GBR) Ford Fiesta Rally4 +4m42.9s
15 Sami Pajari (FIN)/Marko Salminen (FIN) Ford Fiesta Rally4 +4m45.8s

FIA ERC2: Javier Pardo (ESP)/Adrián Pérez (ESP) Suzuki Swift R4lly S
FIA ERC3: Jon Armstrong (GBR)/Phil Hall (GBR) Ford Fiesta Rally4
FIA ERC Junior: Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta Rally3
FIA ERC3 Junior: Jon Armstrong (GBR)/Phil Hall (GBR) Ford Fiesta Rally4
Abarth Rally Cup: Martin Rada (CZE)/Jaroslav Jugas (CZE) Abarth 124 rally
Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT: Paulo Soria (ARG)/Marcelo Der Ohannesian (ARG) Renault Clio Rally5

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