It has been a fantastic weekend for our rally crew N.Gryazin and Y.Fedorov in Barum Czech Rally Zlín.
Friday night's opening Zlín superspecial gave fans a taste of what was to come, with Jan Kopecký setting the pace but Qualifying Stage winner Gryazin and championship leader Lukyanuk close behind. EuroOil - Invelt Team driver and multiple Zlín winner Václav Pech was also an early pacesetter but retired after stage two this morning with a broken wheel hub.
Slippery conditions caught several drivers out in stage two. British ERC Junior U28 pair Chris Ingram and Rhys Yates ran wide and into a bank on the same corner, while PEUGEOT Rally Academy youngster Laurent Pellier spun after landing awkwardly from a jump.
Stage three, Semetín, brought further changes to the lead fight. Kopecký hit trouble with a front-left puncture, handing Lukyanuk the lead. ERC Junior U28 ace Gryazin won the stage, hovering 2.7s behind the new rally leader. It was also the start of SEAJETS-backed Bruno Magalhães difficulties, an overheating car dropping him out of the top 10.
ŠKODA Motorsport factory driver Kopecký retaliated for his earlier time loss in SS5, taking an emphatic stage win by 13.1s from next quickest Dani Sordo, the Hyundai world championship driver making his ERC debut this weekend. That fastest time handed Kopecký second place at Gryazin’s expense.
At the other end of the scale, MOL Racing Team’s Nobert Herczig’s difficult rally came to an abrupt halt in SS5. Herczig had suffered a double puncture in Friday’s superspecial, only to then crash out entirely on Kudlovice’s morning pass.
There was a second setback for Kopecký immediately after mid-leg service with a double puncture on Březová’s afternoon re-run, costing him 12.8s to Lukyanuk. But rather than back off for the rest of the day he pushed on, winning stages eight and nine to pass Gryazin for second again and finish Saturday’s eight tests 16.8s behind the Russian Rocket Lukyanuk.
Gryazin’s approach had been a conservative one as a combination of rainfall and slick roads made conditions treacherous for many. Rather than try to get involved in Lukyanuk and Kopecký’s unpredictable duel he focused on his ERC Junior U28 lead, turning in a mature performance that belied his 20 years.
Sports Racing Technologies youngster Gryazin was one of the few ERC’s R5 crews to come through stage six as fresh as they’d entered. Hermann Neubauer crashed out along with Albert von Thurn und Taxis, who broke a wheel on his BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Fabia.
ERC Junior U28 championship leader Fabian Kreim had dropped to ninth just before service but was in the ascendancy during leg one’s afternoon loop, picking off category rival Chris Ingram and then Jaromír Tarabus in stages six and seven respectively.
He spent the remaining two stages closing up on sixth-placed ACCR Czech Rally Team driver Filip Mareš, who had conceded fifth place to compatriot Miroslav Jakeš during the morning loop.
Though his set-up improved, Magalhães’ times were not enough to make progress up the leaderboard, finishing leg one in P10, 48.2s behind Ingram. Despite his earlier spin PEUGEOT Rally Academy racer Pellier was P11 by day’s end, followed by Ingram’s Toksport WRT team-mate Orhan Avcioğlu.
ERC Junior U28: Supreme Gryazin heads class for young stars in R5 cars
Sports Racing Technologies' Nikolay Gryazin reigned supreme in the FIA ERC Junior Under 28 Championship category on Barum Czech Rally Zlin’s opening leg, battling outright leaders Alexey Lukyanuk and Jan Kopecký.
Winning SS2 outright and keeping both the current ERC championship leader and 2013 series champion on their toes, Gryazin opted for a more cautious approach thereafter, cultivating a healthy lead in ERC Junior U28 instead. “The day has been quite good because we are not pushing everywhere but we have a good position," said Gryazin.
Gryazin won all but two stages on Saturday, with ERC Junior U28 championship leader Fabian Kreim topping stage seven and ERC Junior Under 27 graduate Filip Mareš fastest on stage eight.
That pairing finished leg one in third and second respectively, while ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland pilot Kreim jumped up and down the ERC Junior U28 leaderboard throughout Saturday’s eight stages.
Nabbing second place straight away on SS2, he was then swiftly nudged down to third by Mareš, who escaped 23.8s up the road from Kreim before midday service.
Kreim retaliated with his only stage win on SS6 and, though he dropped nearly 10s to Mareš in SS8, made significant gains during the afternoon loop’s other three stages, finishing 11.3s in arrears.
A relieved Chris Ingram is fourth, much happier with his stiffer afternoon car-setup after a confidence-sapping morning. Both he and fellow Briton Rhys Yates ran wide and into a bank on SS2, with their paths diverging dramatically afterward.
With no experience in four-wheel-drive machinery on wet tarmac, Ingram went into safety mode, unwilling to push and risk crashing. Instead, it was Yates that flew off the road, crashing out of fifth place on SS4.
“We did something massive on the set-up and my time [on SS9] is much more like it. I’m happy with that one and looking forward to tomorrow,” said Ingram. “Now it’s much more like a go-kart, it’s much stiffer and gives me a much better feeling.”
PEUGEOT Rally Academy driver Laurent Pellier’s day began in dramatic fashion, landing awkwardly after a jump and spinning 50 meters before where Ingram and Yates had gone off.
Coping with treacherous conditions that “would be faster in a normal road car,” Pellier brought his PEUGEOT 208 T16 home in fifth, 1m16.3s behind Ingram.
Jan Černý, team-mate to ACCR’s Mareš, had started on the back foot when a wheel fell off his car on Friday evening’s Zlín city superspecial. Starting on Saturday with what amounted to a five-minute handicap, he completed every stage successfully to hold sixth place.
We are very proud of our youngster and the way he could keep his cool and focuse on what was the most important thing for him in this race.
ERC Junior U28 results:
1. Gryazin Nikolay / Fedorov Y.
2. Mareš Filip / Hloušek Jan
3. Kreim Fabian / Christian Frank
4. Ingram Chris / Whittock Ross
5. Pellier Laurent / Combe Geoffrey
6. Černý Jan / Černohorský P.