Stéphane Sarrazin became the ninth winner in the 2014 FIA European Rally Championship in Corsica today following a hard fought battle with fellow Frenchman Bryan Bouffier.
The opening day of the Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse saw the pair trade stage times throughout the day with Sarrazin ending the day on top, 2014 ERC Champion Esapekka Lappi was unlucky when he and co-driver Janne Ferm crashed out of the rally and was unable to continue, putting him out of the remaining five stages.
Sarrazin started the second day with a small advantage of just 1.7 seconds over Bouffier and immediately took the initiative to increase his lead in the opening stages of the day with a hat-trick of stage wins including a masterful drive on the damp stage eight which saw him pull out 7.5 seconds over his compatriot. Bouffier pushed hard but came unstuck on the penultimate stage when he spun in to a ditch.
“It’s just amazing, like a dream,” said Sarrazin who had the local knowledge from co-driver Jacques-Julien Renucci. “I did two rallies this season, the ones I like most and to win them both is just so amazing. I had a good battle all weekend with Bryan. We did a great job with Jacques-Julien and the team, the car was good so we push and enjoy. I didn’t take big risks when it was tricky. To win Corsica is more than a dream.”
Despite the spin Bouffier brought home his Fiesta to a second place finish ahead of Kevin Abbring who took his Peugeot Rally Academy 208T16 to the podium.
French driver Eric Camilli impressed in his first ERC rally to take fourth place overall despite battling with exhaust issues throughout the rally on his Peugeot 207 Super 2000. While he missed out on a podium finish his performance didn’t go unnoted as he takes home the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy.
Julien Maurin looked in a comfortable position to take fifth place until he was forced to retire on stage 10 handing his position over to Romain Dumas in his Porsche 997.
Local hero Jean-Mathieu Leandri finished seventh place ahead of Jaromír Tarabus who nursed his Skoda Fabia Super 2000 home in eighth with a gear selector issue in the closing stages.
The top ten was rounded out by Corsican Pierre-Antoine Guglielmi in his Renault Clio R3 who took the ERC 2WD class win ahead of Lauent Reuche in his all-new Clio R3T.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz started the day with hope after exiting day 1 with driveshaft failure but a double puncture on stage seven would put an end to his rally as he was unable to continue on stage eight. The retirement meant he would miss out on third in the final drivers standing but would finish the championship as the ERC Gravel Master.
With Kajetanowicz out of the rally Craig Breen was able to make up on a disappointing Saturday where he was forced out of stage four with a transmission glitch. Scoring several top five stage times today he was able to move in to third place in the championship behind Sepp Wiegand who was unable to start the rally after a fire destroyed his Skoda in testing on Monday.
In the ERC Production Car Cup it was Vitaliy Pushkar who took the championship; heading in to the weekend the Ukrainian was 17 points clear of Martin Hudec and said he would not be attacking or pushing as he looked to play it safe. Hudec would crash out on stage nine, sealing the title for Pushkar who would be free to push on and take second place behind Frédéric Lefebvre. Thierry Mattei rounded out the podium even though he was hit with two minutes of time penalties.
Keith Cronin was looking good for the class win after leading from stage two on his ERC debut on board the JRM Subaru WRX STI, unfortunately an error on stage nine would see him slide off the road, leaving the car stranded. Production Car Cup regular Tibor Érdi Jr finished fourth with Michel Branca in fifth.
In the 2WD Championship Pierre-Antoine Guglielmi dominated the class with 10 stage wins in his Renault Clio, finishing with a 3 minute advantage over Laurent Reuche in his Clio R3T. Olivier Capanaccia completed the podium while Zoltán Bessenyey and co-driver Yulianna Nyírfás claimed their second ERC 2WD championship title in their Honda Civic Type R.