Alexey Lukyanuk’s Rally di Roma lead remains intact but he has lost yet more ground to last year’s winner Giandomenico Basso who is now 23.9 seconds behind with three stages remaining.
Lukyanuk in his Citroën C3 R5 gave up two seconds to Basso on SS10 Rocca di Cave 2 and a further 4.1s on the succeeding Rocca Santa Stefano test, struggling with his tire choice on the latter.
The 2018 European Rally Champion hit back on Guarcino though to take 0.7s back from Basso, extending his lead to 23.9s overall. He remains “relaxed and calm” out front, keeping Basso’s Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 at arm’s length.
Second-placed Basso has two battles on his mind as he is also scoring in the Italian Championship, with Andrea Crugnola his chief rival there. Despite taking more time out of rally leader Lukyanuk across the loop, Basso was more worried that Crugnola was going even quicker.
Crugnola’s hopes of an outright result are completely over after losing two wheels on Saturday’s first test, but the Italian Championship offers two points-scoring rounds and that’s why Crugnola is proving a distraction for reigning Italian Tarmac champion Basso.
Basso is at a tire disadvantage, something which is frustrating him, as all ERC competitors are granted 18 sets for the whole weekend. Crugnola therefore has fresher tires at his disposal because he didn’t use as many sets as Basso on Saturday courtesy of crashing out on the first stage.
Citroën pilot Crugnola consequently won all three stages of the loop, giving Basso no option but to keep pushing and therefore keep Lukyanuk under increasing pressure out front as well.
Oliver Solberg is still occupying an increasingly distant third place overall and the lead of the ERC1 Junior class in a Polo GTI R5. On a quest to learn more about asphalt driving, the result is an added bonus for Solberg who carried two spare tires for extra security.
Meanwhile the battle for fourth place overall between Craig Breen and Simone Tempestini has further intensified over Sunday’s second loop. Breen’s Hyundai led Tempestini’s Škoda by just 0.4s heading into SS10, and pulled a further 0.7s ahead on that Rocca di Cave test to head Tempestini by 1.1s.
But Tempestini hit back on the following Rocca Santa Stefano stage. Breen explained: “I really felt the car go off on me. Perhaps [we’re] pushing a bit too much, just trying to make as much time as we can, [but we maybe] need to wind it back a small bit.”
Tempestini wasn’t entirely happy though and described his performance as “strange”, declaring that the “feeling is much better” but he didn’t feel like his pace had improved enough. The opposite proved true on the next test though, as Tempestini muscled past Breen into fourth overall by 2.3s despite remaining bemused by his speed.
Efrén Llarena continued his charge and edged ever closer to the Breen and Tempestini squabble on his first ever start in an R5 car. Driving a Citroën C3, Llarena is looking very comfortable with his new steed in sixth place.
Filip Mareš – whose Škoda Fabia R5 was upside down on Friday’s shakedown stage – made it his mission to relieve Grégoire Munster of his seventh place on Sunday’s second loop. A new differential was fitted to Munster’s Hyundai i20 R5 in service, but the Hyundai junior admitted: “We did some changes but not in a good direction, we are struggling a lot.”
Mareš however lost ground to Munster on SS12 to derail his quest for seventh place, but he is within touching distance of grabbing the place from Munster, just 5.7s back.
Emil Lindholm played around with more different settings on his MRF-shod Škoda Fabia R5, but is losing ground to Mareš and Munster ahead of him. He is ninth, ahead of Polish champion Miko Marczyk who rounds out the ERC top 10. Italian Championship registered competitor Rudy Michelini’s Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 is ahead of both drivers in ninth overall.
Zelindo Melegari’s Subaru remains at the head of ERC2, over 40s clear of second-placed Andrea Mabellini who leads the Abarth Rally Cup.
The anticipated ERC3 battle between the Ford Fiesta and Peugeot 208 Rally4 is still living up to the hype, with Ken Torn (Fiesta) and Pedro Antunes (208) trading seconds on each stage as the compete for the lead.
In a repeat of Sunday’s first loop, Torn lost ground on the first stage but responded on the second with Antunes left to wonder “what I am doing wrong” to keep losing time on that particular stage.
Antunes “touched the wall” near the end of SS12 – a sign of how hard he was pushing – and despite the moment, he went 2.2s quicker than Torn on the stage. It trims Torn’s lead to just 1.2s heading into the final loop.
Uniquely for an FIA event and owing to COVID-19, that final loop will be the third running of the Rocca di Cave, Rocca Santa Stefano and Guarcino set of stages. Normally, FIA-level events consist of a longer loop of stages repeated just once.
Results after SS12
1 Lukyanuk 1h38m59.5s
2 Basso +23.9s
3 Solberg +58.4s
4 Tempestini +1m35.3s
5 Breen +1m37.6s
6 Llarena +1m57.0s
7 Munster +2m12.8s
8 Mareš +2m18.5s
9 Michelini +2m24.8s
10 Lindholm +2m32.3s