Alexey Lukyanuk is the driver his FIA European Rally Championship rivals must beat after he went fastest on the Lagoa Qualifying Stage for the 55th Azores Rallye.
Co-driven by fellow Russian Alexey Arnautov, Lukyanuk charged through the 3.12-kilometre test in a time of 1m50.722s onboard his Pirelli-equipped Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 Rally2.
The defending ERC champion was 1.792s faster than current championship leader Andreas Mikkelsen with Yoann Bonato the fastest of the Azores rookies in third aboard his CHL Sport Auto Citroën on MICHELIN tyres.
“It’s fantastic, so big joy to drive, it’s an amazing feeling,” Lukyanuk said. “I want to go flat out to be honest. We will see during the weekend how it goes with the weather but so far the feeling is good, the pace notes are good and the time is very good!”
Toksport WRT Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo driver Mikkelsen said: “It was fine, I only managed to do one practice run but we did okay. Our target is to increase our lead in the championship. I like this island and I’m really happy to be back.”
ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory member Miko Marczyk, another Azores newcomer, was fourth for ORLEN Team followed by Škoda Rally Team Hungaria’s Norbert Herczig and Hyundai Motorsport star Dani Sordo (Team MRF Tyres).
Rallye Team Spain pair Nil Solans and Efrén Llarena were next while Erik Cais (Yacco ACCR Team) and Hyundai Rally Team Italia’s Umberto Scandola completed the top 10. Cais reported being cautious in a couple of low-grip sections of the all-gravel stage, while Scandola highlighted a pop-off valve issue.
Home hero Ricardo Moura’s brand-new Edition 120 Fabia was hit by a mechanical issue. “Something with the sensor is not working well, no power and before it was stuck. Not so nice but that’s how it is,” said Moura, who was P12 behind Azorean championship leader Ruben Rodrigues.
Luís Rego was P13, ERC3 Junior graduate Pedro Antunes P14 and Mexican ERC newcomer Benito Guerra P15.
Javier Pardo was the fastest ERC2 contender in his Suzuki Motor Ibérica Swift Rally2 Kit as championship leader Dmitry Feofanov spun his similar car.
Pep Bassas (Rallye Team Spain (Peugeot 208 Rally4) outpaced ERC3 rival Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (Toksport WRT Renault Clio Rally4).
Adrian Chwietczuk and Victor Cartier did not take part on the Qualifying Stage after they crashed in Free Practice.