Bruno Magalhães victorious in Azores
Bruno Magalhães has become a three-time winner of the Azores Airlines Rallye following a dramatic start to the FIA European Rally Championship season and an exciting new era for ERC Junior.
Griebel take top ERC Junior U28 honours and one outright stage win, by finishing second overall the German underlined his huge potential on his second gravel event in an R5 car. “Finishing second in Cyprus on my debut in an R5 car last season was already really, really good but here with 28 R5 cars I never think before that we can reach second overall. It was nearly a perfect rally for me winning ERC Junior Under 28, and a lot of fun. I had a great car and thanks to Baumschlager Rallye & Racing and to my sponsors, this is amazing. For sure it was a nice battle with Nicolay [Gryazin] at the beginning of the day. When he retired it was getting difficult thinking what could happen, where could I reach but in the end everything worked out and I’m very happy.”
Based on the mid-Atlantic archipelago’s largest island of São Miguel, the 52nd running of the Azores Airlines Rallye was action-packed from start to finish with reigning ERC champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, last season’s runner-up Alexey Lukyanuk and local hero Ricardo Moura all hitting trouble. Despite not rallying on gravel for 18 months and with scant experience of his ŠKODA Fabia R5, Magalhães steered clear of the drama and powered ahead of Moura on leg one before moving in front when Lukyanuk broke his steering striking a rock on Saturday’s second stage to add to the wins he scored in 2008 and 2010.
“I didn’t expect that, it is just amazing, just perfect and thanks to my sponsors who gave me this opportunity, to my family and everybody in the team,” said Magalhães, who is now trying to secure the funding to extend his ERC campaign.
Kajetanowicz restarted on leg two following his off on Friday’s opening stage and recovered to P27 overall, scoring six leg bonus points. Having announced his bid for an historic third-consecutive ERC title on the eve of the start in Ponta Delgada, the highlight for the LOTOS Rally Team Fiesta driver was the capture of ERC stage win number 100 when he set the pace on the Grupo Marques superspecial on Thursday.
Thick fog and slippery stage surfaces combined to make driving conditions treacherous for large chunks of the final leg with several drivers being caught out and going off or being delayed by car damage, failures or punctures. They included Murat Bostanci, Dávid Botka, Łukasz Habaj, Jarosław Kołtun, Ricardo Moura and Albert von Thurn und Taxis, who was making his ERC debut but stopped on the penultimate stage with a mechanical issue.
Brit Chris Ingram won the ERC Junior Under 27 category for drivers born on or after 1 January 1990 competing in R2 cars. Germany’s Marijan Griebel, the ERC Junior champion from 2016, came out on top in ERC Junior Under 28 for young stars (born on or after 1 January 1989) in R5 cars.
1 Bruno MAGALHAES Portugal 38
2 Marijan GRIEBEL Germany 26
3 Josh MOFFETT Ireland 20
4 José Maria LOPEZ Spain 16
5 Nicolay GRYAZIN Latvia 14
6 Pedro MEIRELES Portugal 9
7 Ralfs SIRMACIS Latvia 8
8 Alexey LUKYANUK Russian Fed 7
9 Kajetan KAJETANOWICZ Poland 6
10 Joao Barros Portugal 4