Mads Østberg won the final European Rally Championship round of the season, Rally Hungary, as local hero Miklós Csomós crashed out of the penultimate stage.
Østberg’s winning margin was 12.8 seconds over Ferenc Vincze, sealed in style with fastest time on the powerstage, with third place for Mārtiņš Sesks enough for him to secure second place in the championship.
Csomós was majestic across the first leg behind the wheel of his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo, leading Østberg by 22.6s with just four stages left to contest on Sunday.
But, heartbreakingly, it all came crashing down for the Hungarian driver.
Quickest by 0.9s on Sunday’s first stage was an important start, but on SS10 Csomós picked up a front-right puncture which threatened to cost him his lead.
Indeed his advantage was cut, but Citroën pilot Østberg was unable to fully capitalize as he had collected a puncture of his own.
Csomós’ lead therefore stood at 15.1s heading onto SS11, the second-last test of the weekend. But travelling through a medium-speed left-hander, Csomós carried too much speed, ran wide and crashed into the trees.
Dreams of a first ERC win were over on the spot.
That elevated Østberg, who won Rally Hungary the last time it ran in 2021, into first place, which he duly converted into a first ERC victory of the year and just the second of his career.
“It’s really amazing to be honest, it’s been a really hard season,” Østberg said.
“To end the season like this… we have enjoyed the rally so much, the car has worked well and even with the rough conditions we found we didn’t have many issues.
“I’m very happy for our rally but at the same time I’m very sad for Mixi. We tried to keep pressure on him all the weekend but unfortunately he went off the road.”
Vincze upheld Hungarian honor with second place – an impressive drive in older machinery. Sesks was over a minute further back in his younger Fabia RS Rally2; struggling for outright pace but avoiding the drama that befell others to claim a fourth podium of the year.
Yoann Bonato recovered from an off-road moment on Saturday to place fourth, ahead of Frigyes Turán and Erik Cais who likely would have secured third place had he not got a puncture on SS10 and then another on the powerstage.
“Hopefully next season will be with more luck because to be honest I don’t know what to say,” Cais said. “I want to smile now but it’s so hard.”
Cais therefore finished behind Ádám Velenczei in seventh, while the rest of the top 10 was completed by Hungarians Gábor Német, Kristóf Klausz and Martin László.
Efrén Llarena finished his final event as ERC champion 12th, losing three minutes to an SS3 puncture.
Norbert Maior became Junior ERC champion, defeating Roberto Daprà by just 7.1s in his Peugeot 208 Rally4.