The 2016 auto24 Rally Estonia, round six of the FIA European Rally Championship kicked off in dramatic style as crews tackled the first stage, the 1.33-kilometre auto24 Tartu city test.
The stage was won by last year’s winner Alexey Lukyanuk who set fastest time by 1.9 seconds ahead of Latvian driver Ralfs Sirmacis.
“It’s an amazing stage,” said Lukyanuk, who took his first ERC win here last year, “short but really nice, we can slide on the cobblestones.”
It wasn’t a good start for championship leader and defending champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, the Pole made a mistake on the stage and dropped over seven seconds to finishing the stage in 14th heading into the next day. His fellow Polish driver Tomasz Kasperczyk suffered a worse fate as he slid wide on the first corner of the stage and clipped a kerb which resulted in his suspension breaking and the Pole lost 20 seconds.
Worse was to come for Jaromir Tarabus who picked up a large rock in the front of his ŠKODA Fabia R5 on Friday’s Qualifying Stage, causing his car to overheat. The Czech driver was able to contest stage one, setting third fastest time but was forced into retirement on the road section afterwards. “Unfortunately, consequences of yesterday’s meeting with a stone in qualifying proved fatal for our R5 princess,” he posted on Facebook. “We are forced to retire on the road section to the morning service. Thanks to all for your support!”
Local driver’s Rainer Aus, Siim Plangi and Raul Jeets finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. In the ERC Junior rally it is Estonian driver Miko-Ove Niinemae who holds a 0.1 second lead over Kristof Klausz.
Leg one resumes on Saturday with nine stages totalling 129.14 kilometres. Most of these take place over fast gravel tracks, but there will be another short spectator stage in the town of Elva to close out the day.