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There was a dramatic finish to the opening round of the FIA European Rally championship, the Azores Rally! Until the penultimate stage it was heading towards a runway success for Alexey Lukyanuk on his first rally in his Citroen C3 R5. Then near the start of the 24km Graminhas stage he had a front right puncture which cost him nearly two minutes, dropping to third place. On the final stage he rolled very close to the start, his car too damaged to carry on. It seems the punctured tyre had earlier damaged a brake pipe, unknown to the driver. This gave victory to Polish driver Lukasz Habaj (pictured above), with Azorean champion Ricardo Moura second, and British driver Chris Ingram third. After sunny conditions the day before, the final day saw strong wings and rain, completely changing the conditions of the stages. Highest placed R2 car was the Peugeot 208 of Spaniard Efren Llarena. Retirements included Norbert Herczig (VW) and Loubet (Skoda). = = = = Last weekend’s Herock Spa Rally was the second round of the Belgian national championship. Skoda Fabia R5 cars took the top three places, headed by Cedric Cherain, while veteran Patrick Snijers was fourth in a VW Polo GTI R5. Kris Princen, whose VW won the opening round, retired with suspension failure. = = = = Opening round of the Italian CIR championship was the Rally Il Ciocco e Valle del Serchio won by Giandomenico Basso’s Skoda Fabia R5. He finished in front of Simone Campedelli’s Fiesta and Luca Rossetti’s Citroen. In fourth place was the Skoda of Irish driver Craig Breen, while the Finn, Emil Lindholm (Hyundai), was eighth. The long time leader Andrea Crugnola retired with power steering problem on his VW Polo GTI R5 = = = = Pepe Lopez in a Citroen C3 R5 won the first round of the all-tarmac Spanish championship Rallye Sierra Morena, based at Cordoba, ahead of the Hyundai i20 R5s of Ivan Ares and Surhayen Pernia.

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