From the exam room to the ERC special stage for Parpottas
FIA ERC Junior Championship frontrunner Alex Parpottas is relishing the challenge of his first-ever SATA Rallye Açores – having just finished his final university exam.
The Briton, who took a business administration exam last Friday, heads to São Miguel in the mid-Atlantic on the back of his maiden international rally appearance – last month’s Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally where he finished second in class and 11th overall.
Parpottas, who is partnered by American Alex Kihurani in his Ford Fiesta R2 and lies fourth in the new-for-2014 ERC Junior standings, said he was excited by the prospect of being able to focus on his rallying now that his studies are over.
“I prefer gravel, and I’m probably faster and more experienced on gravel based on the fact I have done the British championship for three years, which is weighted towards gravel,” he said. “Also the Fiesta R2 is perfect for the gravel.
“I’m not quite sure what to expect from the rally,” added the 20-year-old. “It seems as though the stages are really twisty and quite hard on the car, so it will be good to get to the end and push on for the championship.”
Breen in contention to reclaim ERC top spot in Açores
Craig Breen will be doing all he can to make the most of Esapekka Lappi’s absence from SATA Rallye Açores, which takes place from 15-17 May and will be televised live on Eurosport.
Lappi, a double winner in this year’s FIA European Rally Championship, currently tops the drivers’ standings after four rounds. However, with the spectacular gravel event not on his ŠKODA Motorsport team’s schedule for 2014, Flying Finn Lappi will be unable to defend his 29-point lead over Irishman Breen when the first of 17 special stages gets underway on Thursday afternoon.
Peugeot Rally Academy driver Breen moved to the head of the standings following his victory on the Acropolis Rally in Greece at the end of March but slipped behind Lappi when he retired his all-new Peugeot 208T16 from last month’s Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally due to a mechanical failure.
“We need to make up for the Circuit so regardless of if Esapekka is there or not we need to win or try to get a top position to pick up the points,” said Breen, who finished second to Jan Kopecký on SATA Rallye Açores last season. “We’ll definitely be doing everything in our power to do that and of course it will be great to capitalise if he’s not there. It’s a good opportunity to get everything back on track.”
Breen will face strong opposition from several rapid drivers in the Açores, not least his team-mate Kevin Abbring. Four-time Polish champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz will also be a threat as will rising Russian star Vasily Gryazin, while Portuguese trio Bruno Mãgalhaes, Ricardo Moura and Bernardo Sousa all have what it takes to win.
Breen fastest on ERC SATA Rallye Açores Qualifying Stage
Irishman Craig Breen will get the pick of the starting positions for Thursday’s opening three stages of SATA Rallye Açores after he went fastest on the Qualifying Stage for round five of the FIA European Rally Championship.
Driving a Peugeot Rally Academy 208T16, Breen took 1m59.854s to complete the 3.22-kilometre Reméidos-Lagoa stage.
“I was 3.5s quicker than in Free Practice,” said Breen. “The road is cleaning and I’m quite happy with the time although there are one or two small things to change.”
Breen’s performance means he will be the first driver to select his starting position when the selection ceremony takes place in Ponta Delgada at 12:45hrs local time.
Ricardo Moura, who is making his competitive debut in a Ford Fiesta R5, was second fastest, 1.239s down on Breeen with Kajetan Kajetanowicz next up in another Fiesta R5, 0.265s slower than Moura.
Kevin Abbring was fourth fastest in the second factory-supported 208T16 on his first competitive run on gravel for almost two years. Vasily Gryazin was fifth quickest with two-time event winner Bruno Magalhães sixth. Robert Consani was seventh quickest with Bernardo Sousa a slightly frustrated eighth after a technical problem struck his Fiesta RRC.
“It’s good to be back but we had a small issue with the car and arrived at the start of the stage on the time limit,” said Sousa. “It was a normal time, there is a long rally ahead of us and there was no sense in pushing as the Qualifying Stage is not like the rest of the rally. I don’t know what the problem was, we changed the plugs and reconnected everything.”
Jaroslav Orsák (pictured) was ninth quickest after damaging the right-rear of his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 hitting a wall. Jean-Michel Raoux was 10th quickest with Giacomo Costenaro 11th and Antonín Tlusťák 12th.
Peugeot ace Breen opts to run down the order in Açores
Qualifying Stage winner Craig Breen will start the opening three stages of SATA Rallye Açores today 12th on the road after he selected the lowest available road position among the 12 priority drivers.
Breen earned the right to choose his starting position first for Thursday’s trio of tests following his rapid performance in Qualifying at the wheel of his Peugeot Rally Academy 208T16.
“The Qualifying Stage was very good for us,” said Breen. “We chose 12th position on the road. On a dry gravel rally the road gets cleaner as more cars pass by. In terms of the weather it’s difficult to say what it’s going to do. It’s a really nice day here in Ponta Delgada but nobody knows what it’s doing in the stages. If it’s dry it’s a very good road position but if it’s wet there’s not much I can do about it.”
While Breen was able to select his preferred starting position, Bernardo Sousa will run at the head of the field after his Qualifying Stage time was cancelled out when a sensor failure on his Ford Fiesta RRC prevented him from reaching parc fermé.
“Comparing with Craig who is 12th on the road I think we can lose 0.3-0.4 seconds per kilometre or maybe a little more,” said Portuguese driver Sousa. “He will have drivers in front with the lines I will have just the lines of the zero cars. But it’s only around 20 kilometres of stages today and for tomorrow the top 10 will be reversed and we will be around the top five and already in a better position.”
Sousa will be followed through Thursday’s stages by Antonín Tlusťák, Giacomo Costenaro, Jean-Michel Raoux, Jaroslav Orsák and Robert Consani. Two-time SATA Rallye Açores winner Bruno Magalhães is seventh on the road with Vasily Gryazin eighth, Kevin Abbring ninth, Kajetan Kajetanowicz 10th and local hero Ricardo Moura 11th.
The opening stage, Vila Franca-São Brás gets underway at 16:49hrs local time.
After SS1: Breen on a charge on SATA Rallye Açores
Craig Breen heads Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Kevin Abbring by a narrow margin following the opening stage of SATA Rallye Açores, round five of the FIA European Rally Championship.
The Irishman took 9m10.1s to complete the 12.10 kilometres of Vila Franca-São Brás and leads Abbring by two seconds in his Michelin-shod Peugeot 208T16.
Such was Breen’s attacking endeavour that the Irishman reached the stage finish with slight damage to the front-left bumper after a brush with an earth bank. “I was using the stages like Rally Sweden, leaning on the banks, but there's no snow here,” he joked. “But there's no stress, no problem either.”
Behind Abbring, Kajetan Kajetanowicz was third fastest with Ricardo Moura fourth and Bernardo Sousa fifth. Sousa is running first on the road and reported the gravel surface was extremely slippery under his Ford Fiesta RRC.
Vasily Gryazin was sixth quickest with Bruno Magalhães seventh and Robert Consani eighth quickest.
After SS2: Kajetanowicz fastest as R5 cars dominate
Kajetan Kajetanowicz has made a strong start to his first SATA Rallye Açores by setting the fastest time through the second stage of the all-gravel event Coroa da Mata.
The Ford Fiesta R5-driving Polish champion was one second faster than local hero Ricardo Moura with event leader Craig Breen third quickest, 0.2s slower than Moura in his Peugeot 208T16.
And with Kevin Abbring fourth best in another 208T16, R5 cars have filled the top four places on the second stage running of the FIA European Rally Championship round.
“It was okay,” said LOTOS Rally Team driver Kajetanowicz. “In general it's a really soft stage but I like it. It's like driving in the jungle with many trees, a very exotic stage.”
Breen, who won the first stage for Peugeot Rally Academy, was delayed completing the 8.22-kilometre test. “I had to pretty much stop in the stage, there were some boulders from a bank in the road. A couple of times I had to stop. If I tried to drive over the car it would have been beached. I've lost a lot of time but I think I'm still leading.”
Bernardo Sousa, who is running first on the road in his Ford Fiesta RRC, reported more time loss due to the slippery nature of the stage surface he’s encountering at the head of the field. He was fifth quickest.
In the battle for sixth, double event winner Bruno Magalhães has demoted Vasily Gryazin for the position after the rising Russian star admitted he wasn’t a huge fan of the narrow stage.
After SS3: Kajetanowicz closes on SATA Rallye Açores lead
Kajetan Kajetanowicz has edged closer to the lead of round five of the FIA European Rally Championship by winning the Grupo Marque superspecial.
Driving a LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5, Kajetanowicz was 1.8s faster than early pacesetter Craig Breen through the 3.45-kilometre spectator special. He moves ahead of Kevin Abbring into second place heading to the overnight halt in Ponta Delgada.
Normally I don't like these stages but this is good for the spectators," said Kajetanowicz. "There are many people here but we will see tomorrow how fast we can be."
Drivers tackled the stage in pairs with Kajetanowicz going up against Abbring and Breen taking on and beating local hero Ricardo Moura in a close finish. Moura was third quickest, 2.0s down on Kajetanowicz.
ERC SATA Rallye Açores day one report: Breen edges Kajetanowicz in mid-Atlantic ERC thriller
There will be more serious competition ahead when leg one of SATA Rallye Açores resumes on Friday morning following a thrilling start to the spectacular FIA European Rally Championship counter today (Thursday).
After the opening three stages, Craig Breen leads the gravel event in his Michelin-shod Peugeot Rally Academy 208T16 with Kajetan Kajetanowicz just 0.9s behind in his Pirelli-equipped LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5.
Breen was fastest on Thursday’s opening test but lost time on the very next run when he had to stop to drive around two boulders that had fallen into the road. Kajetanowicz, meanwhile, went quickest and was also fastest on the Grupo Marques superspecial to reach the overnight halt in Ponta Delgada firmly in contention for ERC glory.
“It’s better than I thought before the rally, everything is good but I can be better with my driving,” said Kajetanowicz, who is competing in the Açores for the first time. “I am a fighter and I want to win every time but I must be clever and think about all the season. But I think it’s stupid to fight with Craig when he was here last year and has the experience. This is why I am happy tonight.”
Breen, who can move back to the top of the ERC standings with a strong result in the mid-Atlantic said: “It’s good fun and the speed’s there. I just wanted to start at a reasonable pace and on the first stage it was perfect but on the second one I had to stop twice because there were some massive boulders on the road. Kajto was very fast on the gravel in Greece and I think it will be a big fight tomorrow.”
After SS4 and SS5: Update from ERC SATA Rallye Açores
The battle for victory on round five of the FIA European Rally Championship has taken a dramatic twist after Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Ricardo Moura both hit trouble in the same section of stage four, Batalha Golfe.
Moura, running seventh on the road in his Ford Fiesta R5, has stopped after hitting a rock and damaging the suspension of his car. Kajetanowicz, who started the stage 0.9s behind leader Craig Breen, was also out of luck, striking a rock and stopping with damaged suspension.
While Moura will go no further on his home round of the ERC, Pole Kajetanowicz is trying to continue after making repairs to his LOTOS Rally Team entry.
Kevin Abbring was the last of seven drivers to complete the stage at competitive speed and set the quickest time in his Peugeot 208T16. Organisers then halted the action before event leader Craig Breen had taken to the 7.82-kilometre test. Notional times will be awarded to Breen and all other drivers.
Stage five, Feteiras, started on schedule and Abbring has again set the pace although the classification won’t become clear until all notional times are taken into account.
After SS6: Sousa tames the volcano live on Eurosport
FIA European Rally Championship returnee Bernardo Sousa has gone fastest on SATA Rallye Açores’ flagship Sete Cidades stage live on Eurosport.
The former Portuguese champion, driving a Ford Fiesta RRC, took 17m09.4s to complete the iconic 23.90-kilometre stage, which includes a section along the rim of a volcanic crater lake.
Kevin Abbring reported a possible brake balance issue on his way to the second fastest time and is now just 7.4s behind Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate and leader Craig Breen, who lost time nearing the end of the stage with a right-rear puncture on his 208T16 but still managed the third best time.
“I had a small alarm on the dashboard and it put me off,” said Breen. “I lost the rear of the car on a left hander and touched the bank. I drove the last three kilometres with a puncture. It's a pity because I thought we would make some time in there. Things were going really well up until that point and I'm a little bit disappointed. That could have been a good one. I lost 20 seconds to Kevin, maybe more. A bit of a nightmare.”
Vasily Gryazin was fourth quickest and moves ahead of Bruno Magalhães into fourth overall after the double Açores winner was slowed by a puncture.
“The temperature light is always appearing and I come with a puncture on the rear for 15 kilometres,” said the Delta Rally driver. “Now I don't know how to do the next stage because I don't have a spare wheel following the problems with the tyre before the first stage and I don't know what to do now.”
Robert Consani struggled through the stage with a broken driveshaft. He’s currently in ninth place, 1.1s ahead of Jean-Michel Raoux.
Adruzilo Lopes is the ERC Production Car Cup leader but there were problems for class rival Martin Hudec, whose Mitsubishi Lancer suffered a puncture. Meanwhile, Stéphane Lefebvre has extended his ERC Junior lead to 30 seconds.
After SS7: ERC lead battle intensifies between Peugeot aces in Açores
Craig Breen will head back to Ponta Delgada for midday service on SATA Rallye Açores – round five of the FIA European Rally Championship – on a high following his fastest time through Lagoa Meo.
However, with Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Kevin Abbring just 7.8s behind in the overall classification, the battle for victory in the mid-Atlantic remains tightly poised.
Breen, in the lead 208T16, was 0.4s faster than Abbring through the 7.38-kilometre test but admitted afterwards that he was cautious at the start having used his spare tyre to replace a punctured cover at the end of the Sete Cidades stage.
Bernardo Sousa (Ford Fiesta RRC) was third fastest with fellow Portuguese Pedro Meireles fourth quickest in his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000. However, there were problems for double Açores winner Bruno Magalhães, who was forced to start the stage with only three fully inflated tyres following his earlier troubles.
Robert Consani also endured a difficult stage with his Peugeot 207 now sporting two broken driveshafts meaning service in Ponta Delgada just can’t come soon enough for the talented Frenchman.
Following the 30-minute service halt, the action resumes with the repeat of Batalha Golfe at 15:48hrs local time.
Kevin Abbring has slashed Craig Breen’s lead to 2.5 seconds on round five of the FIA European Rally Championship.
The Peugeot Rally Academy team-mates have been setting a strong pace on day two of SATA Rallye Açores in their 208T16s with Abbring going fastest by 5.3s on the rerun of the 7.82-kilometre Batalha Golfe stage.
"Everything went well, the stones are gone, and I enjoyed this one,” said Abbring. “Just before the service I did not have any clue what the time difference was and we've been told we need to be clever and go for a one-two and prove the product is improving, which we are showing.”
Breen put his slight time loss down to the fact that this was the first time he’d tackled the stage in anger after this morning’s run was cancelled prior to his allotted start time.
"We were very slow,” said Breen. “I was trying to keep it neat and tidy and I don't mind losing time. We're still leading so no stress. When you're driving the stage for the first time it's hard to push"
Elsewhere, Jean-Michel Raoux has demoted Robert Consani for 10th place after Consani was delayed when he picked up a front-left puncture striking a rock.
There were mixed emotions for Craig Breen at the finish of the Feteiras stage. After going quickest by 4.0 seconds to extend his lead of SATA Rallye Açores to 6.5s, Breen pulled up and is currently parked at the end of the run.
With stage 10, Sete Cidades, about to get underway live on Eurosport, Breen and co-driver Scott Martin look to be going no further on the FIA European Rally Championship event with the bonnet up on his Peugeot 208T16.
Breen’s misfortune could promote his Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Kevin Abbring into the lead of the event.
After SS10: More drama as new leader Abbring drops time in Açores
The drama continues on round five of the FIA European Rally Championship with new leader Kevin Abbring losing time when the powersteering of his Peugeot 208T16 failed.
Abbring started the stage out in front following Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Craig Breen’s exit at the end of the previous run following an electrical fire. He still leads SATA Rallye Açores but what could have been a commanding advantage has been slashed.
“I have no powersteering,” Abbring said at the finish of the spectacular Sete Cidades, which was televised live on Eurosport and RTP Açores. “Suddenly the last nine or eight kilometres I thought something broke in the differential but no. I have never driven the car like this and if you make a small drift angle you can forget it. There is one more stage to go. I expected to lose one minute so 23 seconds is not so bad. We try to do the next stage as fast as possible, maybe go to the gym before.”
Portugal’s Bernardo Sousa was fastest on the stage but a persistent time loss caused by the failure of the sensor controlling his Ford Fiesta RRC’s launch device means he trails his Dutch rival by 15.1s heading to today’s closing stage.
Robert Consani was also out of luck in the stage, picking up a puncture on his Peugeot 207 S2000. ERC Production Car Cup title leader Vitaliy Pushkar stopped in the stage with a suspected mechanical failure. ERC Junior Championship leader Jan Černý failed to start the stage after rolling his Peugeot 208 R2 on the previous test, which blocked the road for the drivers running behind.
After SS11: Sousa snatches top spot in Açores as Abbring slips back
Bernardo Sousa is the new leader of SATA Rallye Açores after a failure to the powersteering of Kevin Abbring’s Peugeot 208T16 demoted the Dutch driver into second place on the FIA European Rally Championship counter.
Sousa, in a Ford Fiesta RRC, started the day-closing Lagoa Meo stage trailing Abbring by 15.1s but moved ahead when his rival lost more time on the 7.38-kilometre test.
“The bad luck cannot happen only to me,” said Sousa, who is competing without a working launch control due to a sensor failure. “Of course I would like to be winning on the road, not for the mechanical problems of the others. But they had some benefit with my problems. It's okay at the moment. We went with soft tyres this afternoon, we had no punctures but the tyres are completely finished. I will felt like hell to win this rally, it's achievable but I have to be very smart now.”
Sousa was 4.9s quicker than fellow Portuguese Bruno Magalhães, who completed the stage with smoke rising from his Peugeot 207 Super 2000.
Crews have a 45-minute service halt in Ponta Delgada. Saturday’s action begins with the 20.80-kilometre Graminhais stage at 10:08hrs local time. Both runs of the Tronqueira stage will be televised live on Eurosport and RTP Açores.
ERC SATA Rallye Açores day two report: Birthday boy Sousa on course for ERC joy after high drama in Açores
The battle for victory on round five of the FIA European Rally Championship is tightly poised starting Saturday’s final six stages.
Bernardo Sousa (Ford Fiesta RRC) leads SATA Rallye Açores following a dramatic day of serious competition in the mid-Atlantic but Kevin Abbring is firmly in contention, currently 6.3s behind in the remaining Peugeot 208T16 following Craig Breen’s retirement with an electrical fire at the end of stage nine.
In an incident-packed second day, local hero Ricardo Moura retired on the opening stage breaking his Fiesta R5’s suspension on a rock on a second-gear left-hander, which also accounted for Kajetan Kajetanowicz’s similar car. The Pole was 0.9s behind erstwhile leader Breen at the completion of Thursday’s stages but his hopes of a debut win in the Açores were soon dashed. The LOTOS Rally Team driver will restart on Saturday and Moura is expected to do likewise in the car he is using in competition for the first time.
With two of the leading contenders out, the focus switched to the battle for top spot between Peugeot Rally Academy team-mates Kevin Abbring and Craig Breen, which unravelled when Breen dropped out shortly after he claimed his fourth stage win of the all-gravel spectacular, which is being shown live on Eurosport and RTP Açores.
After SS12: Abbring closes on ERC Açores top spot as leaders report problems[/B]
Kevin Abbring has slashed Bernardo Sousa’s lead of SATA Rallye Açores to 10.7s after claiming his third stage win of the all-action FIA European Rally Championship qualifier.
However, both drivers reported issues with their engines at the completion of Saturday’s opening stage, Graminhais.
Abbring (Peugeot 208T16) started leg two of the gravel spectacular trailing Sousa by 16.3s but has cut his rival’s advantage after going 5.6s quicker than Sousa on the 20.80-kilometre test. Up next is the Tronqueira stage, which will be televised live on Eurosport and RTP Açores.
“The plan has changed because the engine is not running properly, not on three cylinders but hesitating all the time,” said Abbring. “Sometimes I have power, sometimes I don't. Maybe it's an injector or something. I'm going to try to fix it because I don't want to lose again.”
Sousa also reported issues with the motor in his Ford Fiesta RRC. "If he's having problems he's giving me this time,” said the Portuguese ace. “I didn't enter this stage, I was too apprehensive and the engine is not pushing. I am not sure if it's because of the altitude or not. I will call the crew and see if we can do anything. The engine is lacking a bit of power. I know we are high on altitude and that can be a reason. We will see for the other stages.”
There was misfortune for two-time event winner Bruno Magalhães, who stopped in the stage with a suspected technical problem.
After SS13: Abbring spins, Sousa wins (time) in Açores
A half spin and a dramatic rotation on the final corner of stage 13, both broadcast live on Eurosport, have hit Kevin Abbring’s hopes of overhauling Bernardo Sousa for the lead of SATA Rallye Açores.
Starting the 21.30-kilometre stage, Abbring was 10.7s behind Sousa. But his bid to win the FIA European Rally Championship qualifier suffered a setback when he slid into a bank on a right-hander before he lost control of his Peugeot 208T16 exiting the watersplash nearing the stage finish.
“I came in straight but there was more water than expected and I was aquaplaning,” said Abbring. “I slide to the outside and we spun. It was stupid because I take no risks. I take five seconds on the previous stage. I am not over-driving the car. I was trying to do a clean stage. I should not have done a mistake."
Sousa, who now leads his home round of the ERC by 17.8s in his Ford Fiesta RRC, was 7.1s faster than Abbring. He said: “He told me he has some issues in the engine. If he did two spins and lost seven seconds. In the intermediate splits he was winning me 20s and we went pretty much cautious. I was asking Hugo if driving well, it seemed slow but I was trying to use the grip on the road. At least we gained some seconds that we lost this morning. I am starting to believe it can be possible."
Ricardo Moura, who restarted this morning following his exit on Friday’s opener, was fastest through the stage in his Ford Fiesta R5, his second stage best of the day.
After SS14: Kajetanowicz returns to ERC stage-winning ways
Kajetan Kajetanowicz has hit back from the disappointment of his exit from SATA Rallye Açores on Friday morning by winning the Grupo Marques superspecial in his LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5.
The four-time Polish champion and FIA European Rally Championship frontrunner, charged through the popular 3.45-kilometre spectator stage 2.4s faster than local hero Ricardo Moura, who is competing in a similar car.
Out front, Fiesta RRC driver Bernardo Sousa’s lead over Kevin Abbring (Peugeot 208T16) now stands at 19.1s with three stages remaining. Vasily Gryazin is a strong third in his Fiesta S2000.
Crews are now in Ponta Delgada for a 30-minute service halt.
After SS15: ERC ace Abbring sets pace on SATA Rallye Açores
Round five of the FIA European Rally Championship is set for a thrilling climax with just 9.3 seconds separating Bernardo Sousa and Kevin Abbring starting the final two stages of SATA Rallye Açores.
Dutchman Abbring, in a Peugeot 208T16, was 9.8s faster than Portugal’s Sousa through the repeat of the 12.10-kilometre Vila Franca São Brás test to cut the Ford Fiesta RRC driver’s advantage considerably.
“I’m driving at the same pace as this morning,” said Abbring, who has now won three stages on the all-gravel contest. “We knew this stage from two days a go but I don't want to destroy [my position]. We will see where we are and make our plan for the next stages.”
Sousa said: “We lost 10 seconds, I think I have a puncture on the rear left. The car is very soft and I don’t know what's happening. If it’s not then it could be the shock [absorber].”
Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who is back in action following his exit on Friday’s opening test in his Ford Fiesta R5, was second quickest, 0.1s slower than Abbring. Robert Consani has climbed up to seventh place after going fifth quickest in his Peugeot 207 Super 2000.
After SS16: Gryazin loses third, Abbring closes on lead
Vasily Gryazin’s bid for third place on SATA Rallye Açores is over after he slid into a ditch on the penultimate stage of the FIA European Rally Championship counter.
Gryazin, a 20-year-old rising Russian star, had impressed throughout the gravel event but his hopes ended on the 20.80-kilometre Graminhais stage. His misfortune promotes Frenchman Jean-Michel Raoux into third.
Kevin Abbring, who won the stage in his Peugeot 208T16 by one second ahead of Kajetan Kajetanowicz to narrow Bernardo Sousa’s lead to 5.1s with just the Tronqueira stage remaining, passed Gryazin’s stricken Ford Fiesta S2000.
"Vasily is okay,” said Abbring. “It's a left corner that tightens to a 90-degree corner and I think he braked too late and got stuck in the ditch. The car is more or less fine but unfortunately he can't continue. I'm really enjoying myself and I don't know why I made mistakes in the previous loop. The car is really fine and we have the right rhythm. I am not pushing.”
Portuguese hero Sousa, in a Ford Fiesta RRC, said: “It's going to be tight but we won the first stage this morning and I hope to win it again and win the rally. I will try, let's see.”
After SS17: Sousa takes dramatic ERC victory in Açores live on Eurosport
Bernardo Sousa has won round five of the FIA European Rally Championship following a dramatic final stage of SATA Rallye Açores.
Sousa, in a Ford Fiesta RRC, started the closing test leading Kevin Abbring by 5.1s and beat his Peugeot 208T16-driving rival through the last 21.30-kilometre stage by 1.1s to win by 6.2s. The final stage was one of four televised live on Eurosport and RTP Açores during the weekend.
“I am speechless,” said Sousa. "Since we had the issues on shakedown and no good start position we thought it would be very hard. But day-by-day, stage-by-stage I start to believe it would be possible. The fans were pushing and cheering so much. There are no words I can say. Thank you to the team and to Hugo. He was always pushing me and say we will win the rally. It's incredible, a dream come true. It's one of my favourite rallies. Last year the win was blown away by a mistake of mine. Now it's my time and I hope this win brings me much more in the future.”
Abbring finished second with Jean-Michel Raoux taking a career-best third. Robert Consani beat Luis Rego to fourth spot on the final stage following a determined drive.