Early ERC drama for Østberg, Gryazin

GRYAZIN Nikolay (LVA) FEDOROV Yaroslav (RUS) Skoda Fabia R5 ambiance portrait during the 2017 European Rally Championship Rally Rzeszowski in Poland from August 4 to 6 - Photo Gregory Lenormand / DPPI

Any hopes Mads Østberg had of making a winning return to the FIA European Rally Championship are over after he stopped to change a puncture on Saturday’s first stage.

Østberg started leg two 38 seconds down on overnight leader Bryan Bouffier in sixth overall but hit trouble early into the 22.55-kilometre Lubenia stage.

“I hit a rock in a cut, I didn’t know the rock was there and we had a left-front puncture and stopped very early on the stage,” the world championship event winner told ERC Radio’s Julian Porter. “It was not a big impact but it felt like something else happened. The brakes disappeared after that, they probably overheated during the change and I didn’t really have brakes after that.”

Home hero and double European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz completed the stage with a bent wheel, while ERC Junior Under 28 contender Nikolay Gryazin, who was third after five stages, crashed on a challenging right-hander according to category rival Tomasz Kasperczyk.

Out front, a stage win for Bryan Bouffier means the Frenchman leads by 18.8s in his bid for a fifth Rally Rzeszow victory. The 16.05-kilometre Korczyna stage is up next at 09h55.