Driving a Ford Fiesta R5, Lukyanuk took 1m54.889s to complete the 3.12-kilometre Remedios test, which began in warm sunshine but ended in cloud and light drizzle.
The Russian driver’s performance means he will now get first choice when the top 15 ERC priority drivers select their starting position for leg one during a ceremony at Ponta Delgada’s Portas do Mar at 13h00 local time.
Despite topping times, Azores rookie Lukyanuk admitted he wasn’t 100 per cent happy. “I’m not really happy because now it’s a headache with the starting position, but OK, it’s nice to start the rally in this way. The stage was tricky but quite enjoyable to drive. I am happy to be here.”
Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Fiesta R5) was second fastest, 0.777s down on Lukyanuk with Ralfs Sirmacis (Skoda Fabia R5), local hero Ricardo Moura (Fiesta) R5) and Antonin Tlustak (Fabia R5) completing the top five ahead of ERC newcomer Frank Tore Larsen. Sirmacis, the winner of the last ERC round in Greece, reported a problem with his Fabia’s windscreen wipers during his qualifying run.
Portugal’s Diogo Gago was fastest of the ERC Junior runners in a Peugeot 208 R2.
Part one of the opening leg of the Azores Airlines Rallye, which is based on the island of Sao Miguel, begins at 15h00 today and includes four stages. The first of which, Batalha, measures 7.27 kilometres in length and begins at 15h57. While it uses gravel roads in the main, 26 per cent of the Batalha route is on asphalt, which will add to the challenge facing the drivers. The fan-favourite Grupo Marques superspecial rounds out the day’s action from 18h02.
Qualifying Stage times:
1st: Alexey Lukyanuk: “Not really [happy], because now it’s a headache with the starting position, but OK, it’s nice to start the rally in this way. The stage was tricky but quite enjoyable to drive. Happy to be here.”
2nd: Kajetan Kajetanowicz: “Was perfect. We were pushing but I don’t want to take big risks. I enjoy this stage, it’s like a race, it’s so narrow, you have to drive in fourth and fifth gear.”
3rd: Ralfs Sirmacis: “I think it’s OK, for our second rally in an R5 car. When I got to the start line it started raining and the wipers stopped working.”
4th: Ricardo Moura: “It was incredibly raining at the start of the stage. It was nice, I was expecting to do a little bit faster, but it was really raining in the beginning.”
6th: Frank Tore Larsen: “That was fun. A little bit difficult to predict the grip because the rain came just before the start. But a good start, a clean stage. We could have gone faster.”
7th: Jaroslav Orsak: “The car is perfect, but it’s difficult for me. I’m very happy to be here. Not very many kilometres with the R5.”
8th: Jaroslaw Koltun: “Very nice stage. At the beginning maybe a little bit too slow. But I think it’s OK.”
9th: Joao Barros: “Had a lot of fun. I was a little bit afraid that the rain was starting but it was OK. I am really prepared for a good rally.”
10th: Fernando Peres: “OK, yes. Let’s see in the afternoon. It was raining and I came in the same rhythm as the previous pass.”
1st: Diogo Gago: “I think quite good. Good rhythm. Yeah, was good.”
2nd: Lukasz Pieniazek: “We tried to push a little bit but no take too much risk. The competition starts this afternoon.”
3rd: Steve Rokland: “It’s going really well. We haven’t done much testing but it’s so easy to drive.”