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Heikilla leads Fafe, but rivals in sight


Mikko Heikkila will have a lead of 4.2 seconds going into the last day of Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto, the first round of the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship.

At the wheel of a Michelin-equipped Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, the reigning Finnish champion took the lead on SS3 but fell back to second place as the morning loop went on. But because Heikkila had the best time on SS7 and Craig Breen was late, Heikkila is in the lead at the overnight stop in Fafe. Mads Ostberg is second and Hayden Paddon is third.

At the end of the morning loop, when Heikkila was asked how hard it was, he said, “It was definitely hard.” “The hardest part for me was finding the grip or muddy spots because you don’t know where they are ahead of time, and it was hard to guess. I’ve never been in these kinds of conditions before, because when it rains or snows in Finland, the ground doesn’t get this muddy. But it’s good to learn, and the pace has been good, so we’re in the fight.”

After the opening super special on Friday night in Fafe, which was won by Ricardo Teodósio, the two-time Portuguese champion, leg one continued this morning on gravel roads east of the host city that had been wet by rain.

Ostberg used the fact that he was first on the road to take the lead by 2.3 seconds over Paddon and Erik Cais. He was driving a Citron C3 Rally2 with MRF tires.


Breen finished the 9.64-kilometer test in 17th place, 12.6 seconds behind the leader. He regretted not choosing first place in the starting order, which would have been his right since he had won Friday afternoon’s Qualifying Stage.


But since SS3 was drier than the last run, Breen’s fourth-place starting spot helped the Pirelli-equipped Hyundai i20 Rally2 driver win the stage and move up to fourth place in the overall standings, 7.9 seconds behind Heikkila.


Ostberg was again the fastest on SS4, and since SS5 was canceled for safety reasons, the Norwegian went back to Fafe for the midday service stop while still in the lead by 1.1 seconds.


Breen was on a charge through SS6, and stberg said he wasn’t happy with how his car handled and that it had a strange smell. Breen now led by 1.5 seconds over Heikkila, and stberg was back in third.


But Breen’s hopes of winning his sixth ERC event were dashed when he had to stop less than halfway through SS7, the 15.05-kilometer Boticas/Sr do Monte test, to change a flat tire. Heikkila took the lead again, even though his car’s battery was giving him trouble at the end of the stage.


  1. Georg Linnama is in fourth place, Marti Sesks is in fifth place, and Miko Marczyk is in sixth place. Miklós Csomós finished SS7 in seventh place, but he was worried because his car’s dashboard showed that the water temperature was high.


Tom Kristensson is eighth after driving five kilometers of SS6 with a damaged front-left tire. Breen is in ninth place after being late, and French Gravel champion Mathieu Franceschi rounds out the top 10.


After SS6, Armindo Arajo was in 10th place, but on SS7, he crashed hard and lost a lot of time. A statement from his team said, “Unfortunately, Armindo Arajo and Lus Ramalho had an accident in SS7 and are now out of Rally Serras de Fafe. The crew of the Skoda Fabia Rally2 didn’t seem to have any injuries, but they were taken to the hospital just in case.


Leg one was cut short because SS7 was red-flagged and couldn’t go on, and SS8 and SS9 were called off for safety reasons that had nothing to do with the Arajo’s accident.


In the ERC3 category for Rally3 cars, Jon Armstrong is in the lead. In ERC4, the Portuguese driver Ernesto Cunha is well ahead of Tymoteusz Jocz and Roberto Daprà.


On Sunday, the first day of the ERC’s 70th anniversary season, there will be four double-use stages over a total distance of 84.28 kilometers. This will be the second day of the race for the win.


First up is the 8.09-kilometer Luilhas test, which starts at 7:32 local time. At 10:05, the famous Lameirinha stage with the famous Pedra Sentada jump is held for the first time. When it’s done again at 16:05, it will also count as the Power Stage that decides who wins the rally

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