A dramatic finish to the 2016 auto24 Rally Estonia round six of the FIA European Rally Championship saw Latvian driver Ralfs Sirmacis take victory after Russian driver Alexey Lukyanuk retired from the lead on the penultimate stage. The Skoda Fabia R5 driver won the event by 1:34.5 over reigning ERC champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz in second.
The story of the day however was the dramatic retirement of rally leader Alexey Lukyanuk. The Russian headed into ss15 with a 28.2 second lead over Sirmacis having won opening four stages of the day but a heavy landing over a jump in the middle of the stage broke the steering arm which sent Lukyanuk into a tree and into retirement. The result is a bitter blow for the Russian as before his retirement, Kajetanowicz’ championship lead was set to be reduced to just one point, but he now has an advantage of 37 points moving on to his home round, Rally Rzeszow on 4-6 August.
Sirmacis’ win didn’t come without its drama as he was guided to victory by a different co-driver, Māris Kulšs, after his regular navigator Arturs Šimins went down with a fever prior to the rally. His overall win on Rally Estonia comes 12 months after he triumphed in the ERC Junior category on the same event. “Two wins is an amazing feeling,” he said. “I wanted to win after a battle but this is rallying. To win here is still an amazing feeling.”
Rainer Aus rounded out the top three and took the win in ERC2 in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX The local driver had to overcome late drama when he hit a rock on the last loop of stages and damaged his differential but the Estonian was able to continue. Miko-Ove Niinemae lead from start to finish to win the ERC Junior Rally in his Peugeot 208 R2. He began the final day with a 10 second lead over Nikolay Gryazin and had almost doubled that before young Latvian Gryazin rolled out on SS12. His retirement promoted Marijan Griebel to second after leapfrogging Britain’s Chris Ingram on the previous stage. The German finished 39.8 seconds off the lead with Ingram a further 4.7 seconds behind in third.