European Rally Championship leader Alexey Lukyanuk has told DirtFish that despite common belief, he is not a driver that always pushes “like crazy” and that his approach “changed way ago.”
Lukyanuk is recognized as one of the fastest drivers in Europe, breaking through in 2014 behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Evo X and winning Rally Estonia outright in the car in ’15.
That coincided with a move up to Rally2 machinery where he continued to prove his blistering pace, winning the 2018 ERC crown in a Ford Fiesta R5.
But equally, the Russian driver gained a reputation as an accident-prone driver, with several high-profile incidents in recent years that included two crashes on his first two events in a Citroën C3 R5 last year.
Lukyanuk kicked off 2020 in a strong manner however, seeing off Giandomenico Basso to win Rally di Roma by 16.1 seconds.
When asked by DirtFish if he had changed his approach ahead of the 2020 season, Lukyanuk said he has been working to improve his balance between keeping his pace but not making mistakes for a number of years.
“Actually we had a quite cautious approach in the beginning [in Rome] because after the long break you never know where you are [and] how fast you are,” he told DirtFish.
“We had a good feeling in the test, I felt that I [could] control the car and [had] good feelings with the car so it just gave me good confidence.
“We did no mistakes during the rally, I had no moments, nothing; so the level of control was high and I can’t say that I was trying to do maximum attack or something like that, it was a committed drive I would say and I’m happy it worked well.
“Of course the level of competition will be quite high on the next events so you need to be straight on the attack straight away. If you wait and see [where you are] it doesn’t work of course.
“I know that many people think that I am pushing like crazy but I think things changed way ago and the experience that I have spent in the European rallies and my age actually, it’s all about experience.
“It built a bit [of a] different style and approach.
“Still I understand and I said that I can do some mistakes but [I’m] working to reduce it and at the same time not to drop the pace too much.”
Despite acknowledging that he is working to eradicate driving errors, Lukyanuk said that he will always continue to push for rally wins – including on this weekend’s Rally Liepāja against wildcard entrants Oliver Solberg, Mads Østberg and Nikolay Gryazin – because that gives him the most pleasure behind the wheel.
While chasing a second European title remains his “main goal”, Lukyanuk added that taking the title without winning a rally – like Chris Ingram did last year – is “not interesting” to him.
“I’d like to give my maximum there [in Latvia], not just to play tactics too much, I want to do rallying.
“Rallying is about trying on your limit and still it’s in my mind that I want to win rallies, not like score 10 third places and win the championship.
“I have one belt and it did not change things around dramatically so I know it’s important, for sure it’s important, it’s like a main goal.
“But if you assume that we live by the moment and enjoying the moment, the rally matters a lot for me and a stage win is a small win anyway. I’m following and chasing this feeling more or less always.
“Of course I have some control of that, and of course I can manage the pace in a situation that it’s required, but basically if there are a lot of drivers who will try to win the rally, I need to be with them.
“I respect [the] result Chris did last year but at the same time for me it’s not interesting to get the points and the championship like that, speaking honestly.
“It was only possible because of lack of competition I would say. I prefer to keep myself close to the limit all the time and work with that.”
That limit will be tested to the extreme this week on Rally Liepāja; an event Lukyanuk says “demands more bravery” than any other.
“I would say there are six, seven contenders for the win,” Lukyanuk said.
“I think it should be quite exciting. I never bet or predict anything before it starts so we will see [who wins].”