Local star Miklós Csomós leads the final round of the European Rally Championship, Rally Hungary, by 22.6 seconds over Mads Østberg after a flawless performance so far.
With new champion Hayden Paddon absent after wrapping up the title one round early on August’s Barum Rally Zlín, reigning Hungarian champion Østberg topped the entry list as he bids to steal second in the championship from Mārtiņš Sesks.
But Østberg, who won Rally Hungary the last time it ran in 2021, hasn’t been able to do anything about Csomós who has won five of the event’s eight stages so far in his previous-generation Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo – on course for his first ever ERC victory.
A half-spin on Friday’s superspecial left the 30-year-old 11th overnight, but a stage win on Saturday’s opener immediately lifted him into the lead and he hasn’t looked back.
Instead, Østberg – who has switched from MRF to Pirelli tires for this event – had to look over his shoulder for much of the day with him and Ferenc Vincze never more than 2.4s over Saturday’s first six stages.
But a strong final couple of stages for Østberg means his Citroën is 10.2s clear of Vincze’s Škoda overnight – Østberg happy that he’d at least managed to save a dog he said was lurking in one of chicanes of SS8.
Erik Cais fought back from early intercom problems to hold fourth overall, muscling his way past fellow Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 pilot Miko Marczyk before the Pole devastatingly crashed out on the final corner of the leg.
Cut adrift from the fight ahead, Sesks finds himself fifth overall and still on course to cling onto second in the championship, 6.9s ahead of Rally Islas Canarias winner Yoann Bonato who went off on SS7, completing the stage with damage to the left-hand side of his Citroën.
The top 10 is completed by Hungarian drivers Ádám Velenczei (Škoda), Frigyes Turán (Volkswagen), András Hadik (Ford) and Gábor Német (Hyundai).
2019 World Touring Car Cup champion Norbert Michelisz was on course move into the top 10 on his first ever rally, but dropped back with a puncture on SS7.
Outgoing ERC champion Efrén Llarena was another to suffer a flat, losing over three minutes after changing a puncture on SS3, while Hyundai-mounted Josh McErlean is a notable absentee after electing to withdraw from the rally following a disastrous SS1 on Friday where he damaged the front-right of his i20 against a hay-bale.
McErlean had looked on for a strong weekend, setting the third fastest time in qualifying, but elected to save budget and focus towards the Central European Rally in the World Rally Championship.
Norbert Maior is in position to win the Junior ERC title, leading fellow Peugeot 208 Rally4 driver Roberto Daprà.