Bruno Magalhaes masters Acropolis gravel to hold ERC top spot

Bruno Magalhaes masters Acropolis gravel to hold ERC top spot

03.06.2018: FIA European Rally Championship 2018: Round 3 of 8 EKO Acropolis Rally: Leg two Saturday, June 2nd 2018 *SEAJETS-backed Portuguese in front as Lukyanuk hits trouble

FIA European Rally Championship 2018: Round 3 of 8
EKO Acropolis Rally: Leg two
Saturday, June 2nd 2018





*SEAJETS-backed Portuguese in front as Lukyanuk hits trouble during dramatic day

*Legendary Greek rally lives up to reputation as tough and demanding event

*Érdi Jr maintains ERC2 advantage, rookie Ghosh moves in front in ERC3




Bruno Magalhães mastered the tough and demanding all-gravel stages in style to hold a strong lead on the EKO Acropolis Rally, the third event of the all-action FIA European Rally Championship season.



Rock-strewn stages and high tyre wear meant balancing speed with safety, a compromise SEAJETS-backed Magalhães achieved perfectly on leg two. He won Saturday morning’s second and third stages to establish a 53.7s lead, which he extended to 1m04.7s by day’s end.



But while the Portuguese got his ARC Sport ŠKODA Fabia R5 to the overnight halt in Lamia out in front, it was a different story for championship leader Alexey Lukyanuk, whose bid for a third consecutive ERC victory – and a first in Greece – unravelled when he retired his Ford Fiesta R5 with suspension damage on Saturday’s second stage. Lukyanuk, from Russia, plans to restart on Sunday’s final leg when collecting maximum stage points will be his main goal.



In the battle for victory on Sunday’s final leg, Magalhães will face opposition from multiple Hungarian champion Norbert Herczig – who is second overnight for the MOL Racing Team – and rising Polish star Hubert Ptaszek, completing the provisional podium in a third Fabia after a late puncture hit Grzegorz Grzyb’s hopes of finishing in the Acropolis top three for the second year running.



Tibor Érdi Jr heads ERC2 with India’s Amittrajit Ghosh the driver to beat in ERC3 on his series debut.





How leg two unfolded: title leader Lukyanuk all out of luck


Alexey Lukyanuk headed into day two with a 33.5s lead over nearest challenger Eyvind Brynildsen following a storming drive through Friday’s monster Thiva test. Though he extended his lead by a further 0.2s in SS3, it was the end of the road shortly thereafter.



Despite a cautious approach, Lukyanuk hit a rock inside a corner, breaking his suspension and front-left driveshaft. Though he limped to the finish line of Drossohori following emergency repairs, he lost nearly 20 minutes and elected to go straight to service instead, hoping to fix his car for a return tomorrow.



“In the beginning of the second stage today we were really on a careful pace, saving tyres and driving really carefully,” said Lukyanuk. “Somewhere inside there was a stone and I didn’t see. It was after a crest. We had a hit to the front left and unfortunately the suspension arm was broken and the wheel opened. We had to stop to repair it. Bad luck again. We will try to check the car and continue tomorrow to try and score some [leg] points.”



This should have handed Brynildsen first place, but he also lost several minutes at the same time as Lukyanuk suffered his own dramas after stopping to change a puncture. The Norwegian’s intercom failed immediately afterwards, forcing co-driver Veronica Engan to use hand signals until midday service when their phone backup system failed to work.



Bruno Magalhães inherited the lead thereafter, taking a strategic decision to drive with utmost caution. “This is all about survival. It’s crazy this morning, I’ve never seen in my life stages like this,” he said after SS5. “It’s incredible, the second stage when I start to see the big stones and rocks everywhere on the road, sometimes I stop and pass to the other side. It’s a strategy.”



Drossohori’s first pass was a punishing one, as a multitude of drivers encountered problems. Wevers Sport driver Juuso Nordgren had been in the thick of a podium fight, but when a puncture in SS3 used up one of his two spares, he had to fit used soft-compound tyres to his Fabia. Those covers wore out rapidly in the baking heat, both rears puncturing and leaving him unable to continue beyond SS4.



Yuriy Protasov was next in line for a podium position aboard his Go+Cars Fabia, but he dropped 3m29.7s when stopping to change a puncture in Drossohori. He fell to P13 initially, then retired altogether with a broken radiator after midday service.



Though Drossohori is notorious for its tyre-shredding reputation, it wasn’t the only stage to kick up problems for ERC competitors. EKO New Amfissa’s afternoon re-run was halted by a red flag when Albert von Thurn und Taxis hit a rock, breaking his Fabia’s gearbox and suspension whilst also blocking the stage. Both he and co-driver Frank Christian were unhurt, but they were forced to retire on the spot.



Young Cypriot Alexandros Tsouloftas was locked in a battle over fifth place with fellow Cypriot Simos Galatariotis, but a broken driveshaft in Drossohori’s afternoon re-run put paid to an excellent charge aboard his Eni-backed Citroën DS3 R5.



Grzegorz Grzyb was second for much of Saturday, though was demoted to third place by Norbert Herczig’s stage win in Drossohori’s second pass. A front-left puncture in SS8 cost Grzyb 3m18.5s compared to MOL Racing Team’s Herczig and demoted him to sixth overall. Hubert Ptaszek is a fine third overnight despite a puncture in the Drossohori re-run, ahead of Galatariotis in fourth, who spun in the final stage of the day.



Jourdan Serderidis is the top Greek driver in seventh. Brazil’s Paulo Nobre kept his car on the road and in one piece to move into eighth, only 12.1s behind Serderidis. Reigning ERC2 category champion Tibor Érdi Jr not only leads his production class, but also holds ninth position overall, his Mitsubishi Lancer coping well on the rough Acropolis roads.




Turkey’s Orhan Avcioğlu rounds out the ERC top 10 overall, coping admirably with a broken damper that led to his Toksport WRT entry “bouncing like a ping-pong ball”.



Łukasz Habaj ended Saturday as he ended Friday with a second retirement in as many days. His crew had worked tirelessly until 02h00 to fix his damaged car, but a broken wheel in the final Paleohori-Mendenitsa test left him facing another restart on Sunday.




What’s next? Sunday’s final leg features four all-gravel stages over a competitive distance of 81 kilometres. The action begins with the EKO Grameni run, which covers 21.97 kilometres and gets underway at 09h58 local time.



 
Richard Rodgers, photos FIA ERC

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/bruno-magalhaes-acropolis-rally-gravel-erc-top---176747.html

03.06.2018 / MaP

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