Mads Østberg leads round five of the FIA European Rally Championship heading to the midday halt in Rzeszów following a dramatic start to the all-asphalt event in southeast Poland.
In ambient temperatures exceeding 30 degrees centigrade, the world championship event winner was second fastest on stage one of Rally Rzeszow before going quickest of all on the next test in his Adapta Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5.
“I’ve done my best for sure but I’ve just got to be careful with the brakes because they’re not as efficient as in a World Rally Car and I need to remember that,” said Østberg, who leads four-time Rally Rzeszow winner Bryan Bouffier. “We lost the brakes completely five kilometres from the finish [of stage two].”
Alexey Lukyanuk, who is returning to action after being seriously injured in a testing crash in early May, was fastest on this morning’s opening stage before rolling into retirement on stage two. With his Ford Fiesta R5 blocking the road, several drivers, including Nikolay Gryazin, Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Marijan Griebel, were delayed.
And Lukyanuk wasn’t the only one of the 23 drivers in R5 cars to hit trouble: Polish brothers Jarek and Marcin Szeja lost four minutes changing a damaged left-rear wheel following an off on the opening stage where László Német rolled out on his second start in R5 machinery. ERC Junior Under 28 title contender Pepe López crashed out approximately 15 minutes from the start of the SS1. Josh Moffett and Murat Bostanci dropped time going off the road on stage two where Filip Nivette picked up a front-left puncture. Max Rendina and Albert von Thurn und Taxis spun in stage one and two respectively.
Griebel heads the ERC Junior Under 28 division in a fine third overall, one place in front of double European champion and home hero Kajetanowicz with current Polish champion Grzegorz Grzyb fifth and Peugeot Rally Academy’s José Suárez sixth.
Jari Huttunen and Chris Ingram tied on time in the ERC Junior Under 27 classification on the first stage before Huttunen edged ahead of his Opel team-mate on stage two when Ingram was momentarily delayed. Luca Rossetti remains firmly in contention for ERC3 honours in his factory Toyota. Tibor Érdi Jr leads ERC2 in a close battle with Subaru Poland Rally Team driver Marcin Slobodzian. Meanwhile, several ERC Junior Under 27 drivers were delayed by accidents on stage one and stage two meaning a clear leaderboard won’t be established for some time.
Following a 30-minute service halt, stage three gets underway at 15h35.