Craig Breen has taken an early lead on the Rallye International du Valais, after recording his first ever clean run through the opening leg of the Swiss round of the FIA European Rally Championship. The Peugeot Rally Academy driver set fastest time on all three opening stages, to lead overnight by 15.4 seconds.
The Irishman lost all hopes of victory last year when he picked up a puncture on the Anzère test, and despite admitting to being “paranoid” in his attempts to avoid another flat on his run through the same stage this time, three faultless stages today have given Breen and co-driver Scott Martin the advantage as they arrived back in Sion for the first overnight halt.
Despite lacking some match-practice and a mid-loop intercom problem, eight-time Valais winner Olivier Burri is second in his Citroën DS3 RRC, and is poised to attack Breen’s lead on tomorrow’s seven stages.
The Swiss mountain Tarmac roads are nothing that Alexey Lukyanuk has seen before, and a cautious experience-gaining pace has paid dividends, as the Russian is third overnight in his Pirelli-equipped H-Racing prepared Russian Performance Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5.
The slippery hairpin filled Alpine roads are hardly ideal territory for a powerful rear-wheel drive car, not when pitched against nimble four-wheel drive machinery, but magic things happen when François Delecour gets behind the wheel of a Porsche 997. The new FIA R-GT champion is fourth overnight, admitting to driving “maximum everywhere”.
Miroslav Jakeš recovered from gear linkage problems in Free Practice to hold fifth in his Gemini Clinic Rally Team Citroën DS3 R5.
Emil Bergkvist has made a very impressive start on his R5 debut. The 21-year old Swede is driving a Michelin-shod 208 T16 run by Saintéloc Racing as a prize-drive for winning the ERC Junior title, and is a fantastic seventh overnight – one place ahead of Bruno Magalhães in an identical car.
Others haven’t enjoyed such a good trouble-free start. Raul Jeets had an engine problem with his MM-Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5, which forced him to turn the anti-lag system off and run in road mode for virtually all three stages. Jonathan Hirschi damaged the front of his Peugeot 208 T16 after braking too late for a tight downhill corner. Nikolay Gryazin successfully completed his first ERC stage in his ŠKODA Fabia R5, but the 18-year old Russian lost a minute with a front right puncture on SS2. Antonín Tlusťák also picked up a front right puncture on his Fabia S2000 on SS3.
Having been second fastest over the Qualifying Stage, Bryan Bouffier ran wide on a fast right hand corner on the opening stage – hitting a wall and retiring his Peugeot 208 T16 with a broken left rear wheel and smashed brake disc.
Botka takes early advantage in ERC2 title showdown
In the winner takes all battle for the ERC2 title, Dávid Botka has taken an early advantage in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. The Hungarian driver hasn’t put a foot wrong all day, and leads the category by a healthy 36.1s. Vojtěch Štajf cut a corner and hit a wall in Free Practice, braking the steering on his Subaru Duck Czech National Team Impreza WRX STI. He was forced to skip the Qualifying Stage and head to the opening three stages without being able to drive the car at speed and make sure everything was okay, so he was understandably not up to his usual speed today. Tibor Érdi is third in his Mitsubishi, almost a minute further behind.
Filip and Pita in close battle for ERC3 supremacy
Alex Filip shot down an escape road in Free Practice and parked his Renault Clio R3 Maxi Plus halfway up a bank and resting on a parked Mercedes. No-one was hurt and neither car was badly damaged, and the double Romanian 2WD champion has bounced back by setting two fastest stage times to lead the ERC3 category overnight. Renato Pita set fastest time on SS2 to be tied for the lead with Filip, and he goes to bed second, just 7.5s behind in his Peugeot 208 R2. A fuel pipe came loose on Ekaterina Stratieva’s Citroën C2 R2 on the opening stage, meaning the Bulgarian lady – who is celebrating winning back-to-back ERC Ladies’ Trophy titles – had to drive through the next two stages slowly, with a lot of fumes in the car.
Leg two on Friday (30 October) starts at 09h15 and contains seven stages totalling 86.02kms. The day contains two runs over the Sierra-Anniviers (14.22kms), Veysonnaz (13.62kms) and Nendaz (12.08kms) stages, plus a first pass of the Caserne (6.18km) stage. Service will be at the military area in Sion, although the overnight halt will be 30kms away in Martigny, which is where the rally will be based on Saturday.
Press release ERC
Pictures : Sébastien Moulin/Sport-auto.ch