Bruno Magalhães became a three time winner of the Azores Rallye with victory on the opening round of the 2017 European Rally Championship season.
For those new to the sport, the 2017 European Rally Championship sees the crews tackle eight rallies over Europe, on both gravel and asphalt surfaces. The driver who completes the closed ‘special stages’ in the fastest time wins.
The home driver managed to keep his Skoda Fabia R5 on the gravel whilst other leading drivers suffered major problems. The reigning champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz held the lead at the end of the opening day but an off forced him to retire from the day. That gave the lead to Russian Alexey Lukyanuk but on the final leg he hit a rock and broke the steering, forcing him to retire after the stage. By this time Magalhães had overhauled countryman Ricardo Moura for first place but the latter was about to come unstuck with mechanical problems. This gave him a clear margin of victory of one and a half minutes over Marijan Griebel, who also took the inaugural round of the ERC Junior U28 for younger drivers in R5 cars, despite turbo problems on the final day.
The final podium place went to Josh Moffett, who managed to keep the car on the road in difficult conditions, where others did not. Jan Cerny was holding the podium place but crashed out on the penultimate stage. José María López Planelles recovered from mechanical problems on the opening day to finish fourth, just five seconds ahead of Nikolay Gryazin, one of many drivers to suffer from punctures. Chris Ingram finished 11th to win the ERC Junior U27 for young stars in R2 cars, despite final day problems. Jari Huttunen was looking on course to take the win but cruelly was forced to retire just 200 metres from the finish of the final stage. The ERC2 category was won by Luis Pimentel in a Mitsubishi Lancer.
|1||B. Magalhães||H. Magalhães||Skoda Fabia R5||2:37:04.3|
|2||M. Griebel||S. Kopczyk||Skoda Fabia R5||+1:34.4|
|3||J. Moffett||J. Fulton||Ford Fiesta R5||+4:50.9|
|4||J. López Planelles||B. Rozada||Peugeot 208 T16||+6:05.9|
|5||N. Gryazin||Y. Fedorov||Skoda Fabia R5||+6:10.9|
|6||P. Meireles||M. Castro||Skoda Fabia R5||+7:29.7|
|7||R. Sirmacis||A. Šimins||Skoda Fabia R5||+7:33.8|
|8||J. Barros||J. Henriques||Ford Fiesta R5||+9:06.0|
|9||C. Vieira||J. Carvalho||Citroen DS3 R5||+9:18.7|
|10||M. Barbosa||M. Ramalho||Skoda Fabia R5||+11:36.4|
The second round of the ERC faces a tough job to match the drama at the Azores Rallye. That round is on asphalt of Rally Islas Canarias, which takes place from the 4th to the 6th of May.