Andreas Mikkelsen tops the FIA European Rally Championship order at the completion of this morning’s loop of four stages on Rally Hungary with 11 different nationalities filling the leading 11 positions.
Driving a Pirelli-equipped Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo for Topp-Cars Rally Team, the World Rally Championship event winner holds a narrow advantage of 5.1s over ERC title leader Alexey Lukyanuk (Saintéloc Junior Team). Craig Breen is 9.9s adrift of Lukyanuk in his Team MRF Tyres’ Hyundai i20 R5 in third place.
“We had a good start to the morning,” said Mikkelsen, who spun on SS3 and lost approximately 10s reversing. “With the hard tyres it was quite tricky but not a bad choice overall. Without the spin we could have had a big gap but we increased it a bit to Alexey [on SS5] and that’s good.”
With the capture of a second ERC title his focus, Russian driver Lukyanuk was quickest on SS2 and second fastest on SS3 and SS4, but third best on SS5 due to an issue with the bonnet closing mechanism on his Citroën C3 R5.
“It was not bad all and all and we should be happy after we changed the set-up [to get more balance],” said Lukyanuk. “The bonnet started to open so I reduced the speed a lot to not let it flip up and I lose a lot of time. The pin is damaged and it seems to open automatically.”
Third-placed Breen reported losing 15s with an overshoot at a junction on SS2. He also spun and had to reverse on SS3.
Oliver Solberg leads ERC1 Junior in fourth overall on his first European championship event start in a Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo. “It was a very difficult morning,” said the 19-year-old. “We learned a lot, definitely, because we also have a new car to learn in tricky conditions so we are taking it very easy. We had the wrong [rain] tyre choice but we are still happy because that’s a part of learning.”
Several drivers reported issues with tyre compound choice and strategy. Although it has remained sunny and dry, muddy sections remain an ever-present challenge, particularly in the forest areas, while inconsistent road surfaces, including gravel stretches and uneven cambers, are adding to the task faced by European rallying’s top talents.
They include Grégoire Munster, who has bemoaned his decision to run wet-weather tyres on his BMA Autosport Hyundai and also lost ground with a spin on SS5. Nevertheless, Munster is a strong fifth ahead of Niki Mayr-Melnhof (DriftCompany Rally Team), Emil Lindholm (Team MRF Tyres), Rallye Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena, a spinner on SS3, MOL Racing Team’s home hero Norbert Herczig and double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel.
It was a disastrous start to the day for reigning Hungarian champion Ferenc Vincze Jr, who retired 300 metres from the start of SS3 with a turbo issue. As well as chasing ERC points, Vincze Jr started Rally Hungary locked in a close fight with Ádám Velenczei to defend his title. Velenczei, who is making his ERC1 Junior debut this weekend, is P15 overall behind András Hadik, Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy’s Callum Devine, ORLEN Team’s Miko Marczyk and Simon Wagner.
Marczyk was fastest through Friday evening’s superspecial but has spent this morning building his limited experience, while nursing a suspected rear differential issue.
Josh McErlean is P16 on his ERC debut followed by Brose Motorsport’s Dominik Dinkel, who reported a pop-off valve issue. Albert von Thurn und Taxis, ‘Csucsu’ and Yoann Bonato complete the top 20, with Bonato losing time with an off on SS3 and a puncture on SS5.
Like Vincze Jr, Erik Cais also suffered a morning to forget after going off the road on SS2 and losing several minutes in his Yacco ACCR Team Ford Fiesta R5 MkII. He’s P21 after five stages, one place ahead of last year’s winner Frigyes Turán, who was delayed by a puncture on SS2.
Local legend Tibor Érdi Jr holds a commanding advantage in ERC2 ahead of Zelindo Melegari and Dmitry Feofanov. Martin Rada leads the Abarth Rally Cup with title pacesetter Andrea Mabellini restarting this morning after retiring from SS1 with broken suspension.
Ken Torn (Estonian Autosport Junior Team) lost the ERC3/ERC3 Junior lead to Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas when he picked up a front-right puncture on SS5 after striking a stone braking for a corner in his Ford Fiesta Rally4.
Ola Jr Nore is impressing on his ERC3/ERC3 Junior debut in a Renault Clio RSR Rally5 in third place in class followed by Raul Badiu, who is returning to the ERC after seven years and making his first appearance in a Peugeot 208 R2.
Hungary lady driver Adrienn Vogel is a fine fifth ahead of a delayed Amaury Molle. Martin László lost time with an overshoot on SS4 and when he got stuck in a ditch on SS5.
Romanian newcomer Norbert Maior was second in ERC3/ERC3 Junior but completed SS4 with smoke coming from the front of his Peugeot 208 Rally4. The Napoca Rally Academy talent has subsequently retired with a broken front-left driveshaft.
Rachele Somaschini was a non-starter this morning after being forced to retire with the recurrence of an old shoulder injury.