THE PARTY STARTS NOW: LUKYANUK, ARNAUTOV FIA ERC CHAMPIONS FOR 2018*

Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov cannot be caught in the battle to win the 2018 FIA European Rally Championship and, subject to confirmation of the final results, will be crowned champions in due course.

The Russian Performance Motorsport pair have been on top form for much of the season in their Pirelli-shod, H-Racing-run Ford Fiesta R5 built by M-Sport.

Despite crashing out of PZM Rally Poland this morning, their three wins and one second place, coupled with the non-entry in Poland of title rivals Bruno and Hugo Magalhães due to budgetary constraints, means Lukyanuk and Arnautov are the first Russian ERC champions*.

“It feels a bit strange but I’m happy for the team and for the sponsors,” said Lukyanuk. “It’s a really big step for us. We tried to be on the limit all the time but we don’t have enough practice, enough testing and sometimes we lose control. Still, we have good pace, good feeling, good mood and it’s a good end of the season.

“I’m sorry for Bruno’s [Magalhães] withdrawal so early but anyway the competition is very strong. It was a tough year for us but the party starts now.”

Of his accident this morning, Lukyanuk said: “I think I overworked a bit with the car and I put it sideways before the jump, I had to straighten a bit before but, unfortunately, the speed was okay but the line was not perfect so we hit a tree after landing. Not a good moment for us but that was really unpredictable.”

A full Q&A with Lukyanuk will be published soon, while ERC All Access on Eurosport on Tuesday will take a closer look behind the scenes of Lukyanuk’s winning weekend. Check local listings for more details.

Meanwhile, PZM Rally Poland continues tomorrow (Sunday). Nikolay Gryazin heads Jari Huttunen by 11 seconds with six stages remaining. The overnight top five have an average age of 23 to underline the importance of the ERC as a training ground for future talent.

*Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA