Bryan Bouffier sealed a sensational last gasp victory, stealing the lead away from championship leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz on the final stage to win by a mere 0.3 seconds.
Bouffier began the day with a seven second lead over Kajetanowicz, but the Pole immediately charged to the lead in the first running of Cave-Rocca San Stefano, going on to win all three stages in the morning loop.
The duo then spent the afternoon loop trading fastest times, with Kajetanowicz leading by 0.5 seconds heading into the final stage. Bouffier made the difference over the final 11.75 kilometres, finding eight tenths over his rival to snatch victory.
“It’s amazing to win, and especially in these conditions,” said Bouffier at stage end. “We were pushing like hell up to the end.”
Despite narrowly missing out on victory right at the finish, Kajetanowicz was not disappointed in the result, one which edges him closer to a third consecutive ERC title.
“I am really happy to be here,” he said afterwards. “We had a lot of fun. That was amazing, it’s our first time here and we were fighting for the victory. Thanks to our team, we are really happy, amazing feeling. It was a great battle with Bryan.”
Bruno Magalhães finished in a somewhat comfortable third place, doing enough to keep the championship battle mathematically alive, though question marks remain over whether he will have the budget to compete in the final round and challenge Kajetanowicz for the title.
Grzegorz Grzyb was twenty seconds behind Magalhães in fourth place, unable to keep pace with Magalhães throughout the day and lucky to even finish in one piece after hitting the barriers twice and clipping a tree in Cave-Rocca San Stefano.
Jan Černý topped the Junior U28 category on his way to sixth place overall, behind WRC2 regular Simone Tempestini rounding out the top five.
Romain Dumas had been in the hunt for a top ten finish at the wheel of his Porsche 997 GT3 after the first leg, but an exploding tyre caused by overheating followed by a bonnet pin failure smashing his windscreen dropped him out of the top 20.
Rally returnee Pepe López lost any hope of a decent points hall for the U28 category, crashing out at the first corner of Sunday’s first stage, when his power steering pump failed. He had retired on the previous day due to a power steering pump problem, and the problem repeated itself to cause the crash, but this time at speed.
Tibor Érdi Jr secured an uncontested ERC-2 category victory, nursing his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X to the finish with a rattling transmission. ERC-2 championship leader Zelindo Melegari had withdrawn from the event on Saturday morning after the passing of his father, while Sergey Remennik was unable to return on Sunday after an engine failure on Saturday’s opening stage.
Mareš Defeats Factory Opels For Maiden U27 Win
Filip Mareš secured his first Junior U27 category win, laying the groundwork for victory with a storming drive through the Cave-Rocca San Stefano stage which opened the morning’s running.
Mareš vaulted past overnight leader Jari Huttunen, going nearly 10 seconds faster than the Finn, and putting 24 seconds over on Huttunen’s works Opel team-mate Chris Ingram.
Mareš and Huttunen spent the rest of the day trading fastest stage times, with Ingram close behind but unable to regain any time lost during the first stage, one which he described as “the most difficult stage of my life.”
Ingram held steady to round out the podium places behind Huttunen, well ahead of Karel Kupec and Kristóf Klausz in fourth and fifth respectively.
Molinaro Handed Ladies Victory After Late Falcón Disaster
Emma Falcón was robbed of a sure victory by an engine failure on the road section between the penultimate and final stages, handing a home win to Tamara Molinaro.
Falcón had led comfortably throughout the event, having built up a lead of over two minutes by stage ten. The very same test gave the first warning signs that all was not well with her Citroën DS3 R3T, a leaking pump causing intermittent power steering issues.
Molinaro had suffered immensely throughout the rally however, nursing a virus which was making her feel sick and leaving her feeling drained after stages. Her perseverance was rewarded with a Ladies category win and sixth in the Under 28s, even if it came in somewhat unfortunate circumstances.
Catie Munnings was the other competitor to finish, almost ten minutes off the pace as she struggled to deal with the wet and slippery tarmac, due to inexperience competing in such conditions.
ERC Overall Result
[table id=2486 /]
ERC Under 28 Result
[table id=2487 /]
ERC Under 27 Result
[table id=2488 /]
ERC Ladies Result
[table id=2489 /]