Crugnola claims maiden ERC win on Rally di Roma Capitale

The Italian took a third title in his national championship as well as beating the ERC's stars

FIA European Rally Championship 2023 Stop 6 – Rome, Italy

Andrea Crugnola claimed his first win in the European Rally Championship, and his third Italian Rally Championship title, with an assertive display on this weekend’s Rally di Roma Capitale.

Driving for the renowned F.P.F. Sport team, Crugnola was fastest on every stage of Friday and Saturday to head into the final day with a lead of 20.2 seconds over Giandomenico Basso.

Sunday began with the 4.18-mile Fiuggi stage, and air temperatures of 81F before eight in the morning. Looking after tires would be a significant consideration through Sunday.

Grzegorz Grzyb made “lots of mistakes” but was the benchmark driver before Efrén Llarena and Hayden Paddon pipped him by a second. Having come into the day eighth and sixth respectively, both were eying Filip Mareš’ fourth place.

Mareš came through Fiuggi drenched in sweat and just 0.3 seconds slower than the pair having felt the road was more slippery than expected. His advantage over points leader Paddon was reduced to 1.4s, as the Kiwi moved past Simone Campadelli by 0.6s into fifth overall. Llarena stayed in eighth, a further 11.1s behind.

Hayden Paddon

The overnight podium dwellers started SS8 and Yoann Bonato knocked two seconds off the benchmark time, Basso was half a second slower despite feeling he hadn’t driven well. Crugnola was four-tenths down on Bonato and admitted he had no plan for his day.

The similarly long Alatri stage followed, but posed an extra challenge with the inclusion of a virtual chicane, a slow-zone where cars had to reduce their speed to 50kph (31mph). It was a new concept to many of the crews, and was located on a narrow downhill section that featured loose gravel.

There were mixed reactions, and approaches, from the drivers once they reached the virtual chicane. Mikko Heikkilä praised the organizers for including it as he felt the corner that followed was dangerous, while Bonato was not impressed by its inclusion having slowed too much.

Paddon won the stage by 0.6s over Bonato to further his climb up the leaderboard to fourth overall – Crugnola and Basso were 0.7s and 1.1s down on the Silver Fern-liveried Hyundai. Campadelli moved up to fifth place while Llarena slipped down the leaderboard to sixth.

FIA European Rally Championship 2023 Stop 6 - Rome, Italy

The day’s first loop concluded with the demanding 18-mile Santopadre stage. Its complexity led to some co-drivers adjusting their pacenotes mid-stage. The most southerly stage also caught plenty of drivers out.

Llarena had a half-spin at a hairpin then suffered intercom failed, leaving co-driver Sara Fernández had to use hand signals to help him to the finish. Worse still, avoiding a rock in the road left him with radiator damage and a water leak.  Heikkilä dropped his Škoda on some gravel, ending his event on SS10 while suspected transmission failure slowed Mathieu Franceschi’s similar car.

Mareš finished Santopadre with his front-right tire off the rim, Lauri Joona had a half-spin and Bonato admitted to going ballistic on many of the mid-stage bumps.

After all that, Crugnola came through fastest by half a second from Bonato, with Paddon, Basso and Fabio Andolfi completing a top-five covered by eight seconds. In terms of the overall classification, Bonato moved past Basso into second while Mabellini demoted Mareš to seventh. Up front, Crugnola grew his lead to 23.7s.


Alatri was the first stage of the second loop, and cuts taken on the first pass made it even more slippery. It was, however, the virtual chicane providing the drama. Franceschi didn’t think it was working, then Grzyb came through and said he braked to 48kph, then 42kph – both below the required 50kph – and still did not get confirmation on his dash that he had slowed down enough, so decided to just accelerate away.

Paddon had no complaints and went fastest, before Campedelli bettered him by 1.8s. Campedelli had suffered an intercom issue and swapped helmets with co-driver Tania Canton, whose head is significantly smaller in size.

“I have to squeeze my brain like an orange,” said Campadelli afterwards, with a slightly squashed face.

Mareš and Bonato also went excessively slow at the virtual chicane due to not getting confirmation they had reduced their speed enough,

The second pass of Santopadre was even more dramatic than the first, and a careful Crugnola had his lead reduced from 25 to 23s.


Alberto Battistolli was the first to stop in the stage, around 10.6 miles in, then Tempestini stopped to change a tire.

Franceschi passed Battistolli in the stage, but Battistolli passed him back as Franceschi’s engine cut out and he could not get it going again. He trundled to the finish thanks to the last mile being downhill. Battistolli described it as “the hottest stage of my life”, while Franceschi was clueless to the cause of his issues.

Mabellini was next to stop, losing a further minutes as he struggled to get himself belted up again after enacting repairs. Campedelli stopped in the same place, while Bonato punctured slightly earlier.

Paddon was fastest by 2.6s over Basso, who was engrossed in the live TV pictures – trying to spot the puncture hotspots before he started. Franceschi retired before the final stage with a fuel pump problem.

The Fiuggi powerstage was won by Andrea Mabbelini, by 0.3s from Miklós Csomós, but the biggest spoils went to Crugnola who – on his seventh attempt – finally won Rally di Roma.


Basso finished 23.1s behind in second, delighted with his weekend and hoping for more ERC action. Another podium for Paddon grew his lead at the top of the table to 55 points following Mārtiņš Sesks crashing out on Saturday and Mads Østberg being absent.

Llarena ended a minute behind Paddon in fourth, and Boštjan Avbelj stole fifth from Wagner by 2.1s at the finish.

Ford Fiesta Rally3 star Jon Armstrong wrapped up the ERC3 title with a lonely class victory – he only had one rival in the category, that said, that rival was Mr Italian Championship himself Paolo Andreucci.

Peugeot driver Roberto Daprà not only made the ERC Junior podium for the first time this year, but used local knowledge to win by 26.2s over Opel man Timo Schulz. Daprà started Sunday with 17.6s in hand over Norbert Maior, and won two stages while Schulz was fastest on three. Maior and Schulz spent all day trading second place.