Alexey Lukyanuk secured a second European Rally Championship title with seventh place on the Canary Islands, doing enough to beat Oliver Solberg as M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux took victory on the final round of the season.
Saintéloc driver Lukyanuk was one of the big names caught out in Friday’s tire choice lottery, which initially left him outside the top 10 along with Solberg.
But the pair charged up the order on Saturday, with Solberg making it all the way to fourth place and securing the ERC1 Junior title ahead of Grégoire Munster.
Lukyanuk failed to make an impression on the leaderboard on Saturday and even went off the road on the second pass of Galdar, ripping bodywork off the left-rear corner of his Citroën C3 R5.
But his underwhelming result mattered little in the overall championship, with his 27-point lead heading into the rally sufficient to hold off Solberg in the final standings.
“I am disappointed by my performance today actually, it could be much better, I did two mistakes,” said Lukyanuk at the end of the final stage.
“To be honest I am anxiously waiting for this moment, to end this fight in any way, to win or to lose it doesn’t matter because it’s much pressure behind and growing through the season.
“Now I just need to breathe in, relax and feel the things around me.”
Up front Fourmaux sealed a first ERC victory by 25 seconds from three-time French Tarmac champion Yoann Bonato.
Fourmaux had taken the lead first thing on Saturday morning as Iván Ares struggled for pace in the wet, while Nil Solans suffered a double puncture which sent him down the order.
Bonato nibbled into Fourmaux’s lead over the final loop but ultimately could only claim about around four seconds per stage, insufficient to close the M-Sport driver’s comfortable gap.
Ares took his second ERC podium of the season with third place, adding to his identical finish on Rally Fafe Montelongo.
Bonato’s charge up the leaderboard on Saturday morning had been too strong for Ares to resist but he was able to limit Solberg’s gains to only 10s over the final loop, securing the final podium place.
José Antonio Suárez completed the top five and was in full attack mode on the final stage, attempting to score crucial bonus points in the Spanish national championship title race.
With title rival Pepe López crashing out on the first stage of the rally, Suárez needed to either beat Ares to victory or finish second and pick up bonus points on the ‘TC Plus’ Aruca stage – a similar system to the World Rally Championship’s powerstage.
But López would get his revenge right at the finish, bumping Suárez out of the bonus points place he needed to retain his crown and also add the Spanish Superchampionship crown on top.
Those Spanish championship skirmishes meant Andreas Mikkelsen’s hopes of stealing a top five finish at the end were thwarted as he finished sixth overall, 9.7s down on Suárez.
Most of Mikkelsen’s 1m48.8s deficit to winner Fourmaux had come on Friday, when wrong tire choice on both loops had left him well down the order.
Lukyanuk’s mistake and a slow time from Auto Laca’s Luis Monzón on Galdar allowed Mikkelsen to jump directly from eighth to sixth on the final loop.
Behind Lukyanuk in seventh, Callum Devine capped off a strong second day with eighth overall, also usurping Monzón on Moya after posting the equal second-fastest time on Galdar.
Devine had caught and passed Craig Breen a couple of stages earlier and the Team MRF driver was unlucky not to steal ninth off Monzón right at the end of the rally, falling only 0.6s short after the final stage and settling for 10th.
Monzón and Breen found themselves demoted to 10th and 11th respectively after the rally was over, as qualifying stage winner Miko Marczyk was bumped up to ninth amid a penalty drama that had been unfolding since Friday.
Marczyk initially looked set to miss out on a top 10 finish as he was handed a two minute penalty on Saturday morning, following a bizarre rules breach that concerned a team member driving on special stages between loops.
Orlen team manager Jacek Wyrzykowski was seen driving a car after the finish of Friday’s second stage, which is a breach of the FIA’s regional rallying rules for recce.
Rally stewards later revised their decision, judging Marczyk’s team did not gain any sporting advantage given the time between Wyrzykowski’s presence on the stage and Marczyk’s second pass through the loop.
Instead, Marczyk was slapped with a suspended disqualification from rounds of the 2021 ERC season, should his team commit a similar offence next season.
Tibor Érdi Jr secured a third ERC2 title with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, holding off Dariusz Poloński for the class win in Gran Canaria.
Poloński was over half a minute up the road on Saturday morning but developed a driveshaft fault which made his Abarth 124 Rally RGT hard to steer, dropping him 40s behind Érdi.
Despite only needing to finish the rally to guarantee a third title Érdi managed to cling on to victory from the recovering Poloński, ensuring he finished the season with a perfect record of four wins.
Pep Bassas crossed the finish line as winner of the ERC3 category but had a late technical scare that would eventually lead to his disqualification.
An overheating engine cost Bassas nearly two minutes on the final stage and it then conked out at the finish.
Last year’s ERC3 champions and Rally Team Spain team-mates Efrén Llarena and Sara Fernández had to push-start Bassas’ car away from the final stage finish.
It was later discovered Bassas had received further, illegal, assistance to get his car to the finish in Las Palmas, leading to his disqualification.
New ERC3 and ERC3 Junior champion Ken Torn had lost four minutes earlier in the day when he got stuck after a spin but won anyway after Bassas’ disqualification.
Jorge Cagiao scored second in the two-wheel-drive class despite driving a less powerful Renault Clio Rally5, finishing ahead of Sergio Fuentes who completed the podium in the highest-placed Peugeot 208 Rally4.
Last year’s ERC champion Chris Ingram finished 39th overall and fourth in ERC3 on his first rally since securing the title in Hungary last year.
Ingram was caught out by Friday’s unpredictable conditions, struggling on hard slicks in wet conditions and dropping as low as 10th in ERC3.
But he slowly worked his way back up the order with his Toksport-run Clio Rally5, passing Adrienn Vogel on the Saturday morning pass of Galdar.
Ingram then picked off Amaury Molle for fifth when the privateer Peugeot driver suffered a recurrence of his technical issues from Hungary, which became fourth following Bassas’ disqualification.
Leading finishers after SS17
1 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (Ford) 2h12m21.2s
2 Yoann Bonato/Benjamin Boulloud (Citroën) +25.0s
3 Iván Ares/David Vázquez (Hyundai) +55.6s
4 Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston (Volkswagen) +1m17.4s
5 José António Suárez/Alberto Iglesias (Škoda) +1m39.1s
6 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jäger (Škoda) +1m48.8s
7 Alexey Lukyanuk/Alexey Arnautov (Citroën) +2m10.6s
8 Callum Devine/James Fulton (Hyundai) +2m25.7s
9 Miko Marczyk/Szymon Gospodarczyk (Škoda) +2m32.1s
10 Luis Monzón/Jose Carlos Deniz (Citroën) +2m32.4s