The first racing day of the 2019 FIA European Rally Championship has started in the Azores. Aleksey Lukyanuk became the day leader. Despite the new team and the car that the crew only recently met, today guys have managed to feel the vehicle and find the desired pace.
Thursday morning began with a qualification that was preceded by two training runs. The Russians lost only 0.6 seconds to the French crew of Pierre-Louis Loubet in the Skoda Fabia R5. Lukyanuk says that here, in the Azores, he always comes second in the qualifying runs. The starting position choice placed the drivers according to their desires on the starting grid – Lukyanuk chose the 14th line, but finished the day in the first position.
Alexey Lukyanuk, driver, “Of course, this is a great feeling when you win the special stages. Although it’s not as cool as to win a race, it’s still a great pleasure. I’m extremely glad that the car allows us to do this. It’s amazing. I like it. I feel that the car is quite light, with a very sharp moment. There are some issues that require improvement, well, let’s say, fine-tuning. But in general it’s great. It turns out that the car is doing what I want right now. But, nevertheless, we need to set it up, to experiment, but the main base is excellent. Given our experience, maybe at the moment this is not the fastest car in the world, but at least we manage to cope with it. Today there has been an easy warm-up day: a few special stages, a small mileage. The weather was great, but tomorrow the real Azores rally will start – a full cloudy racing day… Everything that we like!”
In the afternoon drivers tackled three special stages: two of them were typical Azores tracks, laid along winding roads of the countryside, framed by volcanic stone fences that are inherent only at this island race. The short special stage of the paired race, traditionally gathering a huge number of spectators, finished Thursday. The place to watch is ideal – the track is located in a career and is visible from any top point; that is why this special stage finishes the first day of the rally and tomorrow the drivers will show their skills on it again.
ERC Azores Rallye live coverage
(all timings CET-2, subject to change)
Thursday 21 March
15h00-19h00: Coroa da Mata (SS1, from 15h28) and SSS Marques 1 (SS3, 16h31)
Friday 22 March
10h30-12h58: Sete Cidades 1 (SS5, from 10h39)
14h30-19h00: Sete Cidades 2 (SS8, from 14h38) and SSS Marques 2 (SS10, 16h26)
Saturday 23 March
10h20-12h30: Tronqueira 1 (SS12, from 10h26)
15h40-19h00: Tronqueira 2 (SS15, from 15h52), final-stage stop line and podium (from 18h10)