Juniors star on ERC Rally Islas Canarias as Lopez wins
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 Britain’s 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. 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.
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.
PROVISIONAL TOP 10 POSITIONS
16 stages; 200.98km
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)