Mid-June, 18-20 is a great time for the long-awaited launch of the 2021 European Rally Championship series, where, after twice postponing the spring stages of the championship, it is an honor to open a new the racing season received the Polish rally.
"Orlen 77th Rally of Poland" is one of the oldest sporting events, which celebrates its centenary this year, but it will be held "behind closed doors" from fans and supporters. Despite the partial relaxation of "antique" restrictions in the country, the organizers were forced not to create special viewing areas at the special stages, and also to close the viewer access to the Mikolajki Arena and the city special stage on the famous Karowa Street in Warsaw.
For the athletes, the organizers have proposed an intensive route, according to which most of the distance will continue to be based on fast and smooth gravel roads around the traditional headquarters in Mikołajki in the Masurian Lake District in the north of the country. Three of the 14 high-speed sections will be new for pilots, several others are used in configurations close to the ones that the riders had already passed two years ago, and the special stage "Polish Rally Centenary", which concludes the race, is the only SS with asphalt and cobblestone paving along the streets in the center of Warsaw.
Rally fans and drivers were pleased with a solid list of participants declared for the race - about a hundred crews and 76 of them in the international rally standings, including 39 pilots driving Rally2 (R5) vehicles. Three of them are racing aces and victors of the Polish rally of different years - Alexey Lukyanyuk (2021), Nikolay Gryazin (2021) and Andreas Mikkelsen (2021). Craig Breen is another serious opponent who has also looked into the light of the European Championship from the largest world series. After last year's crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic and widespread "lockdowns", the interest of rally teams and crews in the European Championship has increased. Since the beginning of spring, there have been a lot of news about the ambitious plans of many athletes and the list of applicants for places in the top ten of the absolute standings of the Polish rally has many names - local fast guys Mikołaj Marchczyk, Grzegosz Grzyb; the Spaniards Efren Llarena, Neil Solans, three-time French champion Yoann Bonato; Italians who have announced a considerable program of starts are Umberto Scandola, Simone Campedelli, Estonians Roland Poom and Georg Linnamäe, Romanians Simone Tempestini.
In 2021, Alexey Lukyanyuk, also known as Lucas, resumed his long-term cooperation with navigator Alexey Arnautov. The Russian duo has already tested the updated version of the C45troën C3 Rally2 on tests, although of all the innovations Lucas managed to evaluate, perhaps, only the adjustable balance of braking forces. Previously, the front and rear brake settings were rigidly fixed, but now the pilot has the ability to adjust the balance independently. One of those things that have been discussed with the engineers and that has been implemented in the new version of the machine. The car also received a new modification of the suspension struts, but it was not possible to fully test this change due to the annoying coup during the test session.
Unfortunately, many body panels were damaged, but the Saintéloc Junior Team's technical team brought another chassis from France to Poland, which is already fully prepared for the start of the rally and has passed all the necessary technical checks.
Alexey Lukyanuk, pilot: "Unfortunately, for 25 test kilometers we didn't really manage to test anything, so we will continue to do it during the race. The car was prepared, the team did everything necessary, everything is great, and we are ready to start in qualification. The attack will not be funny, we have very decent opponents - the fight will be very tight and interesting.
Only one special stage partially repeats distance of 2021, that is, about 90% of new roads are interesting for us.
On the whole, I really like the special stages here - they are fast, rather narrow, at the same time technically. It requires a firm hand, and confidence in the transcript, and pressure - everything we love! "
Free practice for drivers on the priority list starts today at 11:30 local time, and then the qualifying stage starts at 14:15. In the evening, the crews of the racing peloton will overcome the super-special section "Mikolajki Arena" in the format of a pair race. Full-fledged racing days will take place on Saturday and Sunday, in Warsaw after the rally finish ceremony at 19:00 the names of the winners of the first stage of the European Championship 2021 will be announced!
The crew of Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov thanks for the support of the technical partners Citroen Racing and Saintéloc Junior Team, the tire manufacturer Pirelli, the Coolstream and Ecover trademarks, the Greek ferry company Seajets and the tour operator S40ace Travel, as well as the media partner AutoSportMedia.
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