Bruno Magalhães emerges victorious at eventful Azores Rallye
The 2017 FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) got underway last weekend (30th March to 1st April) at the Azores Rallye. The event, which took place on the largest island in the Azores, São Miguel, was also the third round of the Portuguese Rally Championship (CNR) and saw no fewer than 28 R5 cars entered. It comprised of two legs split over three days with 16 stages and 210km of competitive distance.
This year’s rally was blighted by thick fog and heavy rain on the second leg, which made the performance of those FABIA R5 drivers competing even more impressive, as 6 ŠKODA cars managed to finish inside the top 10.
It was Bruno Magalhăes and his co-driver Hugo Magalhães who claimed the victory in their ARC Sport prepared FABIA R5, Bruno’s third at this event after previous wins in 2008 and 2010. The result was all the more impressive when you learn that this was Bruno Magalhăes’ first ever rally in a FABIA R5 and also his first gravel event for 18 months. He made a modest start and sat in fifth place after stage 4 but a strong performance on Friday culminated in him winning the final two stages of the first leg to move up to second in the standings.
On stage 12 he went top of the leaderboard for the first time, another stage win and two second places were enough to see him home by a margin of 1 minute 34 seconds.
Whilst Bruno Magalhăes took the win, much of the talk after the rally was about the performance of runner-up Marijan Griebel. The young German, who is the reigning ERC Junior Champion, was driving his BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing prepared FABIA R5 alongside co-driver Stefan Kopczyk and is competing in the new FIA ERC Junior U28 championship (for drivers of R5 cars born on or after 1st January 1989), which he won.
Griebel underlined his enormous potential with a scintillating drive which saw him win one stage and finish second in two more. He too had to recover from a slow start and then a puncture at the start of the Friday morning loop, but despite problems on the stage 13, a strong showing in the difficult conditions on the final day saw him finish comfortably ahead of his ERC Junior U28 rivals.
The next highest placed FABIA R5 was the Sports Racing Technologies car of Russians Nikolay Gryazin and Yaroslav Fedorov. They finished fifth overall and fourth in the ERC Junior U28 standings, an agonizing 5 seconds behind the driver ahead of them.
Gryazin flew out of the blocks narrowly missing out on winning the opening stage and he sat in fourth spot at the end of the first leg, as well as leading the ERC Junior U28 standings at that point. But two punctures during the second leg proved to be significant setbacks and a strong finish in the fog on the final two stages was not quite enough to haul him back into fourth place overall.
Just behind the Russians was the Portuguese pairing of Pedro Meireles / Mário Castro in a FABIA R5 prepared and run by AR Vidal team. They were in sixth place overall, but second in the Portuguese rankings to add vital championship points following their victory in the opening round of CNR series, the Rali Serras de Fafe.
Next in the overall standings was the Sports Racing Technologies FABIA R5 of Latvian duo Ralfs Sirmacis / Arturs Šimins. Sirmacis, who is also competing in the ERC Junior U28 championship, was actually the best placed ŠKODA driver after the opening day's action, but he suffered no fewer than three punctures on the Friday, which saw him slip down the field. But despite another puncture on the opening stage of the final day, he finished strongly to end up fifth in the ERC Junior U28 standings and seventh overall.
The other FABIA R5 to finish in the top 10 of the overall standings was the BP Ultimate Vodafone ŠKODA Team car of Miguel Barbosa / Miguel Ramalho. The result meant they placed fifth in the Portuguese rankings to score more useful championship points.
An honourable mention too should go to the Czech driver Jan Černý. Along with co-driver Petr Černohorský, his ACCR Czech Team FABIA R5, which was also prepared and run by AR Vidal company at this event, was running in third place overall, and second in the ERC Junior U28 standings before a crash on the penultimate stage put paid to his chances.
The next round of the FIA European Rally Championship, which will do well to live up to the drama and excitement here, will be the Rally Islas Canarias in Spain from 4th to 6th May, while the Portuguese Championship will resume with the Rali Casino de Espinho on 21st and 22nd April.
2017 Azores Rallye
Marcos Ligato heads home ŠKODA ‘1-2-3-4’ at the Rally Trans Itapúa
To South America now and the Rally Trans Itapúa (31st March to 2nd April) which was both the opening round of the CODASUR South American Rally Championship and the second round of the Paraguayan Rally Championship. The FABIA R5 has performed well on South American stages in the past and Gustavo Saba has been the reigning champion of both series. And this year’s Rally Trans Itapúa proved to be particularly fruitful with FABIA R5 drivers taking each of the first four places in the final standings.
It was Marcos Ligato and his co-driver Ruben Garcia who emerged victorious this year to begin their CODASUR challenge in the perfect fashion. Driving a FABIA R5 for the Saba Competicion team, Ligato faced a close battle with teammate Gustavo Saba but emerged victorious by the slender margin of just 14.7 seconds.
For Gustavo Saba, a puncture in the final stages put paid to his hopes of the overall victory, but he did still finish top of the Paraguayan Rally Championship standings, as Ligato is not competing in that series. And he was gracious in losing out to his teammate on this occasion.
While it was the Saba Competicion drivers who led the field home, they were not the only FABIA R5s to impress. Didier Arias and his co-driver Hector Nunes finished in third place overall in their FABIA R5. They were just 12 seconds behind second-placed Saba and but for a 10-second penalty, things could have been even tighter. And Tiago Weiler / Diego Cagnotti completed the ŠKODA ‘1-2-3-4’ result coming home fourth, another 35 seconds further back.
The next round of the CODASUR Championship will be the Rally Internacional de Erechim in Brazil from 19th to 21st May while the Paraguayan Rally Championship will resume with the Rally de Santaní (2nd to 4th June).
2017 Rally Trans Itapúa
Martin Koči clinches close Rally Rožňava win as ŠKODA start the Slovak Championship with a flourish
The 2017 Slovak Rally Championship (MSR) began last weekend (31st March to 1st April) with the Rally Rožňava and this 8-stage, 94.3km long event turned out to be hugely successful for ŠKODA drivers with no fewer than six finishing inside the top ten.
At the head of the field, there was an astonishing four-way battle for the victory, with the top four places ending up being separated by just 18 seconds.
It was local hero Martin Koči and his Czech co-driver Lukáš Kostka, driving a FABIA R5 prepared by Keane Motorsport for the Styllex – Lracing team, who stole the headlines as they claimed victory by a margin of just 7.4 seconds.
Koči led from the third stage onwards when he took advantage of a 10-second penalty handed out to rival Pavel Valoušek and showed great composure and consistency to hold off his rivals before securing victory in style with a win in the final stage.
Polish crew Grzegorz Grzyb / Jakub Wróbel brought home their FABIA R5, prepared by the MM Rally team for the Rufa Sport team, in third place behind Koči and Valoušek. Grzyb was actually driving the very same car with which Pavel Valoušek won the Slovak Championship last year and - after a slow opening stage - he put in consistently fast times throughout the event before stealing a place on the podium with a second fastest time in the final stage.
Missing out on the podium, despite finishing just 18 seconds behind the overall winner were Tomáš Ondrej / Adam Gomori who were driving a FABIA WRC for the Xiqio Rally Team. There was another FABIA WRC, driven by Karel Trněný / Christian Doerr, in sixth position overall, one ahead of the FABIA R5 of Jaroslav Melichárek / Erik Melichárek, whose car was prepared and run by the Czech-based Kresta Racing team for Melico Racing. And the final FABIA R5 in the top 10 was that of Igor Drotár / Tomáš Plachý, who were driving for the Drotár Autošport in an MM Rally Team prepared car.
The next round of the Slovak Rally Championship will be the Rally Prešov which takes place on 28th and 29th April, but Martin Koči will be looking to keep his momentum going into this weekend’s Tour de Corse in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
2017 Rally Rožňava
Norbert Herczig begins Hungarian Championship defence with win at the Miskolc Rallye
The Hungarian Rally Championship (ORB) also got underway last weekend (31st March to 2nd April) with the Miskolc Rallye, a 14-stage, 168km event held in the north-east of the country. The Championship looks to be one of the most competitive to date this year with no fewer than 16 R5 cars competing this season.
Despite the increased challenge, it proved to be the ideal start to the season for reigning champion Norbert Herczig, as he steered his ŠKODA Rally Team Hungaria FABIA R5, which was prepared by the BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing team, to victory in the opening round.
After an eight-month break from rallying, Herczig was understandably a little rusty in the opening stage, but three stage wins in the first leg saw him climb to the top of the leaderboard and four more in the second leg ensured victory by a margin of 20.6 seconds.
The other FABIA R5 to make it onto the podium was the S Motorsport SE car of Ferenc Vincze Jr / Attila Bazsó. It was only the second event Vincze Jr had driven in the car and he made the best possible start by winning the opening stage. From there he was a regular in the top three throughout the rally and battled hard for second place, in the end coming up just 2.3 seconds short despite winning the final stage as well.
Behind Vincze Jr in fourth place was the FABIA R5 of Péter Ranga / Tamás Szöke, who were driving a car prepared and run by the Topp-Cars Rallye Team in the colours of the Ranga Rally Team. Their teammates, László Ranga Jr / Imre Tóth, came home in ninth place, while one place behind them in tenth were József Trencsényi / Gábor Verba for the Extrém Sport Team in a FABIA R5 prepared by Eurosol Racing Team Hungary.
The next round of the Hungarian Rally Championship will be the Ózd Rallye which takes place from 28th to 30th April.
2017 Miskolc Rallye
NEWS IN BRIEF
The second event in the Italian Rally Championship (CIR), the Rally Sanremo took place last weekend (30th March to 1st April) over a total of two legs and 11 stages, with points awarded for results in each leg as well as for the overall standings. Umberto Scandola / Guido D’Amore overcame an early puncture to finished third in the both legs and overall in their FABIA R5 for the ŠKODA Italia Motorsport team. Bad weather on the 2nd leg resulted in a cautious drive to consolidate what could be valuable championship points. Meanwhile Alessandro Perico / Mauro Turati steered their Team Autoservice Sport A.S.D branded FABIA R5 to fourth in the first leg and overall, and Andrea Nucita / Marco Vozzo, in a FABIA R5 of the Phoenix team, recovered from an off-the-road crash in the first leg to win the final stage of the rally and score points for a 4th place finish in the second leg.
The French Gravel Championship returned last weekend (1st and 2nd April) with the Rallye Terre des Causes taking place over 10 stages and 148km of competitive distance. Quentin Gilbert / Renaud Jamoul were using the event as preparation for the WRC2 Rally de Portugal and they will have been pleased as their FABIA R5 won the R5 category and finished in 4th place overall.
2017 Rallye Terre des Causses
The 7-stage, 100km long Rally Brasov was the opening round of the Romanian Championship. For Dan Gîrtofan / Tudor Mârza, driving a FABIA R5 for the ŠKODA România Motorsport Team, the short event proved costly as a minor error in the second stage of the second day meant they only came home in third place. “Like at the start of any season we were little bit nervous. But we are happy that we started with a podium, which brought us good points in the championship and confidence for the rest of the season,” explained Dan Gîrtofan afterwards.
The French Cup has proved to be a fertile hunting for Anthony Puppo who secured his fifth podium finish in five weeks - and already sixth in this season - at the Rallye National du Pays de Grasse. Alongside co-driver Jérémy Cenci, Puppo took his FABIA R5 to 2nd overall, missing out on the win by a margin of just 6.7 seconds.
COMING UP THIS WEEKEND
|6-9 Apr||TOUR DE CORSE||World Rally Championship||Round 4||Asphalt|
|7-8 Apr||TAC RALLY||Belgian Rally Championship||Round 3||Asphalt|
|7-8 Apr||LAVANTTAL RALLYE||Austrian Rally Championship||Round 2||Asphalt|
|7-8 Apr||HESSEN RALLYE VOGELSBERG||German Rally Championship||Round 2||Asphalt|