Zelindo Melegari took advantage of a puncture for chief rival Sergei Remennik to lead the FIA European Rally Championship’s ERC2 support category on Azores Airlines Rallye, while a recovering Juan Carlos Alonso has stormed back to the podium after technical issues on Thursday.
Previous leader Sergei Remennik held a steady 32 second advantage over the chasing pack, but a puncture early in Feteiras Meo’s 7.46 kilometres dropped him into the clutches of Melegari.
Russian Performance Motorsport’s ERC2 contender then lost another 7.5 seconds through the picturesque Sete Cidades stage, allowing Melegari to snatch first place.
Both were outclassed in Sete Cidades’ dramatic volcano setting by Juan Carlos Alonso, who had led early on Thursday until a fuel pump failure. He set fastest time in all three Friday morning stages, climbing to third place.
His recovery drive was aided by Menderes Okur dropping over two minutes in Sete Cidades, which allowed Luís Pimentel to narrow his gap to the Toksport WRT driver to within 1m10s.