Rally Poland, the fourth round of the FIA European Rally Championship, was held this weekend in the Mazurian Voivodeship, near the town of Mikolajki. The crew of the reigning European rally champions Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov from St. Petersburg won this two-day gravel event.
The race in Poland is the second oldest rally in the world and the most prestigious event in the local motorsport life. This year the rally celebrates its 76th anniversary. Until 2018 it have been held as the World Cup round, and last year it returned to the European rally series. There were two racing days; the main battle fell on Saturday and Sunday, where the crews drove 115 and 86 kilometers respectively. For the sports field, consisting of 49 participants, 15 special stages were laid along the fast, gravel roads of the Mazurian Voivodeship.
The Russian crew of Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov, performing in the Citroen C3 R5 of the French Sainteloc Junior Racing team, continues to fight for points in the season. After the last three rounds in Portugal, Spain and Latvia the crew was in the third position of the general final classification.
PZM Rally Poland first racing day track was very exciting, fast, complicated and interesting; the Russians set a kind of average speed record, beating the last year result – 131.91 km/h at the SS6 “Paprotki”. Last year record of Nikolay Gryazin at SS7 “Swiętajno” was 120 km/h.
On the first day Lukyanuk and Arnautov won seven of the eight special stages, finishing it in the first position with a gap of 40 seconds from their closest pursuer Finn Jari Huttunen. However, such a scenario has already become familiar to all fans of the reigning European champions.
Unlike Saturday, the Polish rally route on Sunday was much more tight with minimum liaisons between special stages; there were 105.14 km of road sections for 86.44 km of competitive distance (in comparison, yesterday participants were offered 112.48 km of special stages and 350.45 km of liaisons). The Russians got bonus points for the day, but made fans worry in the first Sunday section.
At SS11 “Gmina Mrągowo” (11.34 km) the rally leader was in trouble – Aleksey Lukyanuk had a puncture, “unwound” the front wheel and lost almost twenty seconds, finishing in 10th position. However, it had a slight effect on the overall results: Lukyanuk and Arnautov still occupied the first line overall. As a result, no one could compete with the Russian crew, so guys won the 12th special stage “Uzranki” that fans from all over the world were able to watch in the live broadcast of Eurosport.
Alexey Lukyanuk, driver, after the first day section, “I’m upset a little bit, we still don’t have enough comfortable settings and the car is not as predictable for me as I would like. But this is an experience that we must go through”.
After the thirty-minute day service the team restored the car, and the crew returned to the track in good shape.
Alexey Lukyanuk, “We drove the second section with pleasure and didn’t risk; I clearly controlled the situation and went around the stones on the road. At the same time, we still managed to go faster than our rivals. We won both rally days, although we had some technical problems. But we won, and even with a one minute gap; I’m very grateful to both the team and our sponsors for it, they give us the opportunity to start in Europe; and I would also like to thank my co-driver, first of all”.
The next rally will be held in Italy on 19-21 July, it will be an asphalt round with a Ceremonial start in the center of Rome.