Barum Czech Rally Zlin: podium for RPM Team!
On Sunday the FIA European Rally Championship round finished in the Czech Republic. The St. Petersburg crew of Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov, Russian Performance Motorsport team, took the second place in overall standings.
There are podiums that sometimes cost two or even three wins at any other races – that was the triumph of the crew of Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov (Ford Fiesta R5), who secured the second position at Barum Czech Rally Zlin! Just recently almost all the fan predictions were: “Let them go back to the sport as soon as possible, and then gradually come round and restore the previous pace…” But the St. Petersburg duo has created something almost impossible!
After battles with Jan Kopecky from the Skoda Motorsport factory team, the most desperate optimists were waiting for something like this on Sunday. But the reality was much more severe – almost a three-day rally (qualification, Prologue, two racing days) having more than two hundred kilometers of special stages on hard and high-speed tracks was a very serious test for a driver who had not yet completed the rehabilitation program after serious injuries… When all forces go not only to fight with rivals, car and tracks, but also with own pain and fatigue – the finish turns into a huge success!
As a result, the Sunday part of the race was completely devoted to the positional play – not to get involved in a heavy fight with the leading Jan Kopecky, but at the same time not to let close all the other contenders for the podium. Another technical issue added some difficulties – the electric power steering failed as on Saturday and forced Alexey Lukyanuk to drop the pace right at the special stage and restart the engine again. But it did not prevent the crew of Lukyanuk and Arnautov from happily completing the race and achieving their highest success at the Czech rally – finishing second in the overall standings! Before their personal high score was fourth at the Barum Czech Rally Zlin in 2015.
Alexey Lukyanuk, “The second place at the rally in Zlin is awesome! My legs are like overdone spaghetti. Before the start we wanted to offer a real, tough and uncompromising battle. On the first day almost everything went fine, but it turned out I was not yet ready physically. Everybody knows, there were some difficulties – it was hard to step on the brake pedal, my legs were not strong enough. On the second day I had to “switch” to braking with the right foot. It was difficult to push hard like this, and it was not necessary – there was a big time loss. But I’m happy. On the first day we set good times at the stages, but our technical mistakes didn’t let us to be very close to Jan Kopecky. Later we lost ground due to my physical condition. I felt so sad; sometimes there were even tears in my eyes because of the way it turned out. On the other hand, we’ve “beat” a huge number of healthy guys – both local and European Champions, there were 37 R5 cars in the field! That’s cool!”
Sunday was much better than Saturday for their teammates Sergei Remennik and Mark Rozin – the team was able to fix their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X after a lot of damage and malfunctions (“crank” rear suspension, oil leakage from the gearbox). On Sunday everything turned out the best way – during the day Remennik won a special stage and had five second places in his category. In the end, he finished the race at the third place in ERC-2, despite time loss on Saturday (about four minutes due to punctures plus 10 minutes penalty for the missed special stage by Rally2 system).
Sergei Remennik, “The race finish turned out to be extremely successful – the rain started after we’ve passed the final stage, so there were no additional difficulties. Here, in the Czech Republic, the roads are very interesting and difficult – we have received great pleasure and tremendous experience. And it’s great were able to finish! A couple of times we managed to set the best time at the special stages, but the lack of asphalt experience is still felt… We are exhausted – the track is very, very difficult, especially with such a patchy asphalt (different coverage condition, many shades of gray that have to be read correctly). The main thing is we got scores in our category again. I think we almost secured our third place in ERC-2 for the season. Now our task is to make the necessary changes in the training program, to give maximum attention to tests on all types of asphalt”.
The FIA ERC overall standings has changed – thanks to the second place in the Czech Republic Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov scored 73 points and returned to third place, ahead of the German Marijan Griebel (62 points). The leader is still the Pole Kajetan Kajetanowicz (European Champion in 2015-2016) with 120 points, while the second position is held by the Portuguese Bruno Magalhaes (97 points). Thus, Lukyanuk has a real chance to compete with Magalhaes for the vice-champion title. The crew will participate in the remaining two races of the season with the Qiwi payment service support; and although the gap of 24 points is large enough, it is still possible to take a lead…
In the meantime, Sergei Remennik secured his third place in the ERC-2 standings – he’s got 84 points. Italian Zelindo Melegari (152 points) and Hungarian Tibor Erdi (109 points) lead the category. Now there are only two rounds in the FIA ERC 2017 calendar – asphalt Rally di Roma Capitale (15-17 September) and gravel Rally Liepaja (6-8 October). And if the race in Latvia near Liepaja is already well known to many European racers, the Roman rally is a completely new round.