ERC Junior U27: Lead pair fights for maiden victory
Tom Kristensson and Efrén Llarena are locked in a close battle for FIA ERC Junior Under 27 victory on PZM Rally Poland, offering a potential maiden win for both drivers.
Though Llarena led after Friday’s superspecial in the Mikołajki Arena, Kristensson’s ADAC Opel Rallye Junior team-mate and championship leader Mārtiņš Sesks moved straight into the lead on stage two.
That lead was a brief one, as Sesks dug his Opel ADAM R2 into a rut and rolled over, initially costing him 17 minutes before deciding to drive back to service and retire. His decision allowed Opel’s mechanics more time to fix his car, which is now ready for a return under Rally2 regulations tomorrow.
Kristensson then went on a winning streak, notching up fastest times on stages three to seven to expand a 1.1s gap to 25.0s. Llarena responded late on as Kristensson’s front tyres began to wear out, winning the final two stages to trim his disadvantage down to 20.2s.
Miika Hokkanen had a quiet but productive day, bringing his Saintéloc Junior Team PEUGEOT 208 R2 to the end of leg one in third place. Behind, Mattia Vita’s day was less calm, hitting a tree side-on midway through the same Świętajno. Though looking somewhat crumpled, his 208 soldiered on to end leg one in fourth.
Catie Munnings completes the top five, securing her ERC Ladies’ Trophy lead in the process. Unlike many of her peers, her Saintéloc-prepared 208 arrived back at Mikołajki intact. Her only major drama came on the final stage where she dropped a minute, pulling over to check whether her car was carrying a puncture.
Czech federation-backed Dominik Brož returned from his retirement on Friday’s opening superspecial to finish leg one in sixth. Though his electrical gremlins did not return, his front left damper was broken for much of the afternoon loop. But with only the Rally2-returning Sesks behind, his position is not under threat.
Fifth place had originally been fought between Sebastian Johansson and Rallytechnology’s Kacper Wróblewski in the opening stages. Johansson crashed out earlier on the same stage as Sesks, while ERC debutant Wróblewski suffered an accident of his own on stage five, forcing his retirement.