Sat 04 Jun 2022

Mikkelsen misfortune opens door for Gryazin in WRC2

Engine issues saw defending WRC2 champion Andreas Mikkelsen come unstuck for a second consecutive rally, opening the door for fellow Toksport driver Nikolay Gryazin to take the lead at Rally Italia Sardegna.

Mikkelsen’s Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo ground to a halt on Erula – Tula 2, Saturday morning’s final stage. It emerged the Norwegian had suffered engine failure, forcing him into retirement for a second consecutive rally.

His demise allowed second-placed Gryazin, driving an identical Fabia, to move into a comfortable 44.9 sec lead over Spain’s Jan Solans by the end of Saturday.

Solans, driving a Citroën C3 Rally2, was able to keep himself clear of the gripping three-way fight unfolding closely behind him.

On the same test in which Mikkelsen's day came to an end, M-Sport Ford driver Jari Huttunen picked up a puncture on his Fiesta Rally2 and dropped from third to fifth. That enabled Marco Bulacia to briefly move onto the podium, despite a brief stop at 4.6km on the same stage.

The Fabia pilot’s stay in the top three would be short-lived, however, as 2019 European Rally champion Chris Ingram went ahead on the second stage of the afternoon. A charging Huttunen then picked up a brace of stage wins on SS15 and SS16 to move ahead of both Ingram and Bulacia with two tests still to play out.

The chess pieces would continue to move and fall. Ingram completed the day’s final stage 2.8sec quicker than Huttunen to retake third spot while Marco Bulacia failed to start the stage, citing a technical issue.

This allowed FIA Junior WRC champion Sami Pajari, who is making his WRC2 debut, to move into the top five ahead of Sunday’s final leg. The Finn trailed Gryazin by 1min 30sec but was only 28.1sec behind Huttunen.

The leading trio are also competing for honours in the WRC2 Junior category. Meanwhile, Freddy Loix continues to lead Mauro Miele in the WRC2 Master category with both veterans behind the wheels of Fabia cars.

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