Italian rally driver Andrea Crugnola etched his name in the annals of FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) history by clinching his maiden victory at the Rally di Roma Capitale 2023. The victory made Crugnola the fifth unique winner of this season’s ERC, a testament to the high level of competition in the rally championship.
Starting strong, Crugnola charged to the fastest time on Friday evening’s Rome super special stage, which launched in front of the iconic Colosseum. The 34-year-old continued his impressive run, achieving the fastest times on several stages on Saturday, maintaining a commanding lead. With his co-driver Pietro Elia Ometto, they showcased a remarkable performance in their Pirelli-equipped Citroën C3 Rally2, leading by 20.2 seconds at the end of day one.
The second day was marked with tension and high-stakes maneuvers, with several drivers losing their strong positions due to pit stops. Yoann Bonato, who had been in a fierce contest with Giandomenico Basso for the runner-up spot, was one of those who had to stop to change a damaged wheel. However, it was Crugnola who held his ground, outpacing Basso and Bonato through the day’s initial stages and continuing his dominance to clinch his victory and his third Italian championship title.
Basso, the double European champion, held onto his second place despite the intense competition. Hayden Paddon, representing the Hyundai-powered BRC Racing Team, managed to avoid the mishaps of the penultimate stage, finishing third and strengthening his position for a potential first ERC crown.
Several drivers, including Alberto Battistolli, Simone Campedelli, Andrea Mabellini, Filip Mareš, and Simone Tempestini, suffered significant setbacks due to necessary stops in the penultimate stage, shaking up the final order dramatically. Nevertheless, Efrén Llarena and Simon Wagner made impressive leaps in their rankings, ending fourth and fifth respectively.
The Rally di Roma Capitale was not kind to everyone, though, with championship contender Mārtiṇš Sesks forced to withdraw after a high-speed crash on the fourth Super Special stage.
As the dust settles on the Roman asphalt, the eyes of rally enthusiasts now turn to the Barum Czech Rally Zlín, the next thrilling stage in the ERC schedule from August 18-20. With the intense competition and surprising results seen so far, the rest of the season promises to be nothing short of exciting.