Russian driver, Alexey Lukyanuk, led the opening round of the European Rally Championship, the Azores Airlines Rallye, from the second stage to the finish, leading the Azorean driver, Ricardo Moura, on the way.
Moura pushed hard until he punctured on stage 5, before settling for second place in front of Bruno Magalhaes, who had a broken differential.
For once Alexey Lukyanuk wasn't one of those to crash, and took an impressive victory.
Behind Lukyanuk’s Fiesta, Skoda Fabia R5s took the next six places. R5 cars, of which 35 were entered, took the top 14 places.
Behind the crews battling for the podium positions came the leading contenders in the Junior under 28 category. This saw a fight between Chris Ingram and Martin Koci, which was only resolved when Koci crashed on the final stage. They were followed by Fredrik Ahlin.
The Peugeot 208 R2s of Portuguese driver, Diogo Gago, and the Spaniard, Efren Llarena, finished 1-2 in the Junior Under 27, beating the Opel Adam R2 of Mārtiņš Sesks, who was slowed at the end by gearbox trouble.
Fredrik Ahlin was third in the Under 28 class in his Skoda Fabia R5.
The Group N based ECR2 category was won by the Mitsubishi Evo X of Juan Carlos Alonso.
There were many crashes during the event, often causing blockages in the narrow high banked roads, and fast changing weather conditions, which led to the issue of notional times for affected drivers.
Among the other drivers forced to retire through accidents were Marijan Griebel, Albert von Thurn und Taxis, Hubert Ptaszek, Frank Tore Larsen, Hermann Neubauer, David Botka, Jarosław Kołtun, Orhan Avcioglu and Bernardo Sousa.
Narrow, high banked roads, and fast changing weather conditions were a feature of the Azores Rally.
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