Alexey Lukyanuk remains in front on Rally Fafe Montelongo after the middle loop of three stages, which included an FIA European Rally Championship first for Team MRF Tyres and a major setback for ERC2 title leader Zelindo Melegari.
Craig Breen, in Team MRF Tyres’ Hyundai i20 R5, was fastest through the mainly dry stage four and returned to Fafe for the second regroup and service of the day in the runner-up spot, having demoted Oliver Solberg on SS5 and Iván Ares on SS6 after the Spaniard and shot up to second overall after a rapid run through the penultimate stage of the loop.
Breen’s performance earned Team MRF Tyres, an ERC newcomer for 2020, its first stage best in the championship and underlined the progress being made by the Indian company’s tyre development programme.
“It’s good, we have been working hard on the tyre development and it’s a nice reward for the guys and girls for making it happen,” said Breen. “It’s changeable, we got caught out in the second one of that loop because we shouldn’t have had any rain. It was a bit of a shock when we ended up in a downpour on the road section. We had to manage it a little bit but we’re still here, still in the mix and happy enough.”
Unlike his closest rivals, Oliver Solberg opted for wet-weather tyres for the middle loop, which he started in second place but completed in fourth, 24.4s behind leader and fellow Pirelli-equipped Lukyanuk (Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 R5) and 3.6s behind Hyundai-powered Ares in third.
“It’s difficult to get exactly what you hope for,” said Solberg, who only made the start of the rally after his family team worked through the night to make repairs to his damaged Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 following his shakedown crash yesterday. “We went for a risk with the wet tyre, which is exactly what we went for on the last loop. We tried but it didn’t pay off 100 per cent. On the dry sections you lose one second per kilometre but I’m learning and that’s what I’m here for.”
Yoann Bonato is fifth after six stages with Efrén Llarena sixth for Rallye Team Spain. Norbert Herczig (MOL Racing Team) is in a close battle for seventh with Hyundai Junior Driver Grégoire Munster. ORLEN Team’s Miko Marczyk and Brose Motorsport’s Dominik Dinkel round out the top 10 in their Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evos.
Double ERC2 champion Tibor Érdi Jr has been quickest in class on all three stages run so far to head Dmitry Feofanov and Abarth Rally Cup leader Andrea Mabellini. Zelindo Melegari had been third in the all-new Alpine A110 RGT but crashed out on SS6.
Pep Bassas leads ERC3/ERC3 Junior for Rallye Team Spain in a Peugeot 208 Rally4 with Ken Torn (Ford Fiesta Rally4) a mere 9.1s adrift with three stages of leg one remaining.