The reigning European champion Aleksey Lukyanuk has completed the second round of the FIA European Rally Championship – Rally Liepāja. The Russian drives a Citroën C3 Rally2 from the Saintéloc team with the support of Citroën Racing, Pirelli and Coolstream. Lukyanuk, together with the co-driver Dmitry Eremeev, took the third place, but taking into account all the events of the weekend, this result is more expensive than any other first position.
It was the seventh Rally Liepāja for Lukyanuk. But out of the six previous times, he finished on the podium three times and retired also three times for one reason or another, so honestly the Latvian rally is not the most successful for the Russian driver.
This year fortune started to test the reigning European champion to the limit right at the qualification. A free practice was held on the same gravel road before the qualifying runs and the 2WD cars that made an “uncomfortable” rut left for practice after the 4WD ones.
Therefore it is not surprising that after the qualification start it was simply impossible to drive quickly along this lines – the car tried to move away from the desired trajectory. As a result, Lukyanuk managed to set only the sixth time and chose the tenth starting position on the LEG 1.
The first day of the rally started not very good – at the 27-kilometer special stage “SC Grupa / Eurovia (Mundingciems)” Alexey Lukyanuk made a mistake in one of the corners, which led to a time loss – at the finish of the stage the Russian crew lost almost eleven seconds to the leader, showing the sixth result.
Then Lukyanuk and Eremeev improved their position, setting the third time at the next special stage, and the same fourth time at the two remaining ones. And the crew took the same position at the end of the first day.
On the LEG 2, Lukyanuk seemed to have reversed the “curse” of Liepāja, but it only seemed that. Having set the second and first times at two morning special stages, the crew rose to the third place. At the third special stage his Citroën put down a post that the organizers installed so that the participants did not cut off the corners – as a result a radiator was damaged. Thus, guys set only the eighth time at the finish of the special stage. During the day service, the mechanics eliminated the breakdown and the crew went to the second pass of the morning special stages, however they could not change the situation in the final protocol.
Alexey Lukyanuk, driver, “The rally was very positive, thanks to the organizers and all the partners who support us. In fact, it turned out to be very difficult to get the maximum out of the car at each special stage, but we tried to do our best and pushed as hard as we could. At some stage we rushed and put down a post installed by the organizers so as not to cut the corners. We drove there a little bit faster, I had to cut it, so the radiator cracked – we lost a couple of seconds, I think. But we were able to glue it and then changed it during the midday service. It doesn’t matter what the result will be in the end, I think that we drove at the maximum and had great pleasure. Emotions and feelings run high, I’m very happy and this is the most important thing!”
At the finish of the rally, the crew of Alexey Lukyanuk and Dmitry Eremeev was third. Nikolay Gryazin won the rally, and Craig Breen finished second.
The next rally, where Alexey Lukyanuk will perform, is Rally Estonia – the round of the FIA World Rally Championship that will take place in Tartu from 15 to 18 July and is the largest motorsport event in the Baltic countries.