Mikko Heikkila’s bad luck on the Power Stage gives the ERC’s first-round win to the Kiwi.
Hayden Paddon beat Mikko Heikkila at the Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto on Sunday and became the first Hyundai driver to win an FIA European Rally Championship round.
Paddon and his co-driver John Kennard were in great shape during the last leg. They took second place overall from MRF Tyres Dealer Team rival Mads Ostberg earlier in the day and then closed the gap to Heikkila, who was driving a Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo.
Paddon, the current Asia-Pacific Rally Champion, was using tires made by Pirelli. He was only 2.8 seconds behind Heikkila, who had been in the lead for a long time, going into the last speed test of the three-day event in northern Portugal. But when the Finn stopped less than 5 km from the finish line to change a damaged front left tire, Paddon won.
The BRC Racing Team-driven i20 N Rally2 driver not only won his first ERC race, but he also became the first driver in ERC history to win in a Hyundai.
“I feel bad for Heikkila,” the humble Kiwi said. “We wanted to try to beat those 2.8 seconds in a fair way. But we’re happy, very happy, and this is right up there with the best things I’ve done in my career.
“We just wanted to work our way into the championship and get a good result this weekend. We’ve been pushing, but we haven’t been taking any risks. That’s been our whole philosophy for the whole weekend: pick a speed and hold it, and today that worked out pretty well. We weren’t the fastest team this weekend, but we were fast enough to keep up the pace for the whole rally.”
Because Heikkila lost so much time, he fell from first to eighth place, and Osterg, who was driving a Citron C3 Rally2, moved up to second place overall, just 10.7 seconds behind the leader. Georg Linnamae of Estonia, who was also driving a Hyundai, came in third, 16.8 seconds behind the winner.
“Heikkila said, “I have no idea where the hole came from.” “There are so many stones out there that it’s easy to get a hole. The tires work well for me.
“Don’t cry, because it is what it is. I just want to thank my team, who did a great job,” he said.
Miko Marczyk’s warm-up for the Vodafone Rally de Portugal WRC round in May ended with a fourth-place finish. This was the Polish driver’s first time driving his koda Fabia RS Rally2 car. The Pole finished the gravel event 45.9 seconds behind Linnamae but almost a minute ahead of Citron veteran Yoann Bonato, who said, “This is a really good result for us, especially on this surface.”
On Saturday, a flat tire took Craig Breen out of the running for the win. On Sunday, he overcame a problem with his power steering to set four of the fastest times on SS10. It could have been five stage wins if Breen’s Pirelli-tired Hyundai hadn’t gone up on two wheels on SS14 when it hit a bank on a left-hand turn in fifth gear near the end of the stage.
The defending ERC champion, Efrén Llarena, never got back on track after making a mistake on Friday afternoon’s Qualifying Stage. This put him 18th on the road for Saturday’s tests, which were ruined by rain. In the Power Stage, Breen passed the Spaniard, and he finished the rally in seventh place overall.
The Spaniard said, “It wasn’t all about road position because we lost time today in the slow corners where we had no grip. It’s a disaster for me.” “I worked really hard, but we lost a lot of time.”
From May 4 to 6, the all-asphalt Rally Islas Canarias is the first event of the 70th anniversary ERC season. The organizers have set up a 13-stage route that is 190.06 kilometers long.