Nikolay Gryazin went fastest through the opening supserspecial stage of Rally di Roma Capitale, leading the ERC field heading into Leg One amongst controversy between title rivals Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Bruno Magalhães.
While Gryazin edged to fastest ERC time over fellow U28 competitor Jan Černý by only a tenth of a second, championship leader Kajetanowicz drew the ire of Magalhães after accidentally punting a tyre stack into the middle of the road, forcing the Portuguese driver into avoiding action on the following lap.
A frustrated Magalhães decried the absence of stewards to reset the position of the tyres before he passed through, and blamed a combination of the tyres and technical gremlins with his Skoda Fabia for losing time.
“Kajto touched some tyres and they appeared in the middle of the road,” he said. “I had to go around a lost some time. In the start we lost the power completely, I don’t know why. It was the same like in the free practice.”
Sandwiched by the two juniors and title protagonists with the fourth quickest time was Alexey Lukyanuk, who continued to struggle working the pedals of his Fiesta due to lingering issues stemming from a testing crash in May.
While Gryazin led the ERC contingent, Campionato Italiano Rally competitor Umberto Scandola stormed to the overall classification lead The semi-works Skoda driver was widely tipped to compete toe-to-toe with his European counterparts, having won the Fiuggi-based event in its last two iterations.
The narrow, winding nature of the superspecial with tight hairpins caught out many drivers, with many clipping the barriers lining the stage. Seventh quickest Bryan Bouffier was lucky to get away with clattering the wall, while eighth fastest José António Suárez took a deliberately cautious approach, referencing Kris Meeke‘s accident in the opening test of Rally Germany as causing him to be afraid to push.
Zelindo Melegari‘s hopes of wrapping up the ERC-2 category title at his home event suffered a minor setback, a poor stage by the Italian putting him five seconds down on the fastest Group N car of Sergei Remennik. Melegari’s untidy run put him last in ERC-2, with his only title rival Tibor Érdi two tenths off the pace sent by Remennik.
Chris Ingram took first blood in the tightly contested Junior U27 category, going head to head with title rival Aleks Zawada through the superspecial. Ingram went four tenths faster than nearest R2 rival Filip Mareš, with Zawada slotting into third place, just under a second off the Brit’s pace.
Jari Huttunen set the same stage time as Zawada, despite being hampered by a faulty handbrake in a stage filled with tight hairpin bends.
Catie Munnings leads the Ladies Trophy category, as trophy leader Tamara Molinaro struggled with the multiple hairpins in the stage during her run. Unable to get the car rotated fully and needing to reverse twice, she dropped four seconds.
Emma Falcon fared even worse, having the same problem as Molinaro first time around before a spin on the following pass.
“I think I need to practise the hairpins,” Falcon said at stage end. “It was probably the worst stage in my life. It was bad, I hope it will be better tomorrow.”
ERC Overall Classification
[table id=2465 /]
[table id=2463 /]
ERC Under 28 Classification
[table id=2464 /]
ERC Under 27 Classification
[table id=2462 /]