On Sunday evening, Europe got to know the names of the Fafe Montelongo rally winners – the crew of Alexey Lukyanuk and Dmitry Eremeev won the two-day asphalt race. This is the eleventh victory in the Russian driver career at the FIA European Rally Championship rounds. The crews of Yoann Bonato and Ivan Ares rounded out the top three; the second place was separated from the third one by 0.1 seconds!
The first day of the asphalt rally saw a domination of the Russians Lukyanuk and Eremeev, driving a Citroen C3 R5 of the French team Saintéloc and performing with the support of Citroen Racing and Total. The crew won six of nine special stages by guessing the right type of tires for each section of the rally. Since it was impossible to rely on the weather forecast – it did not coincide with the real situation all the time, the tyre choice was important. With constantly changing road conditions at the special stages from dry, wet to really wet, driving skills and intuition played a decisive role on this day, because choosing the optimal tyre composition was a constant nightmare for the sports teams.
Both Oliver Solberg and Craig Breen, the biggest title contenders this year, were out of the game by the end of Saturday. It should be noted that Solberg managed to collect a whole bunch of problems during this rally: on Friday he smashed the back of the car during a shakedown, and his team had to spend 13 hours not resting, but restoring the car so that the Swede could get to the start. In the morning, young Oliver showed an excellent pace only slightly behind Lukyanuk, but the wrong tyre choice made him slow down. But this seemed to be not enough, and for the special stage before the end of the day, Solberg’s Volkswagen had technical problems with the engine. As a result, he was able to complete the day, but lost about 16 minutes. At the same SS8, the Briton Craig Breen touched a stone wall in a corner, tore off the rear left wheel, retired, and thus dropped out of the fight for the podium.
On Sunday morning, Lukyanuk and Eremeev went to the rally route, having a 32-second lead over their closest pursuers Yoann Bonato and Ivan Ares. The Russians calmly controlled the temporary advantage, did not risk, and won several special stages of the day. The last night rain left some sections of the road damp and soaked mud in corners, although, in general, the tracks have dried up. It was not without drama – at the penultimate special stage Lukyanuk made a mistake, pulling the handbrake too hard, and the car spined on the road, temporary loss was about 23 seconds. It brought the rivals closer – following Bonato finished 3.8 seconds behind the Russians, and Ares was another 0.9 seconds behind the Frenchman. At the final stage, Alexey Lukyanuk showed a high pace, having successfully won the rally, and received an overwhelming advantage in the intermediate classification of the FIA European Championship – 108 points against 66 points for Solberg.
Alexey Lukyanuk, driver,“This is amazing! In the morning it was much more relaxed than during the day because the guys behind gave me a very hard time. I tried to control the pace and it was on a nice way before that spin actually. But we did a good job on the last stage despite we had massive rain straight away from the startline. But I gave it everything, a good drive and on a proper pace. I can be proud of myself; I am happy. Many thanks to my team for a great car and a great job and to Pirelli for the great tyres, I was dependent on them. And, of course, many thanks to our partners! I hope we get more sponsors for the next event as we have budget problems at the moment”.
The season continues, there are three more rounds ahead, and for the second time in the modern history of world motor sport, the crew and motorsport fans have a chance to hear the Russian anthem again during the announcement of the names of the 2020 European Rally Champions.
The history of the FIA European Rally Championship dates back to 1953, and the highest achievement of the Russian drivers in series was in 2018, when the crew of Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov inscribed their names in the history of European rallies.
Alexey Lukyanuk is a professional driver and coach who works in his main field of activity, while not being a “business driver”, capable of independently paying for costly trips to races. In the current situation, even being a member of the Russian national motorsport team, it is very difficult to count on financial support from sports committees and government agencies.
The crew of Alexey Lukyanuk and Dmitry Eremeev is open to cooperation and is looking for help in finding funding to compete in the final three rounds of the FIA European Rally Championship. The team is looking for a partner, with whom they will write a new page in the history of motorsport achievements in Russia.