Sebastien Loeb won the 57th Azores Rallye with Toksport-backed Skoda Fabia RS Rally2, a stage of the Tour European Rally Series and Azorean Rally Championship which took place this weekend in São Miguel Island. Andreas Mikkelsen is second in an identical car, who lost some time in the second leg due to a spin.
Nil Solans has 3rd place on the podium with a Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo. Spaniard stormed into the second day and overcome three opponents. The fourth place was held by Ole Christian Veiby, who had finished the first leg in third place. The best national and Azorean competitor was Ricardo Moura, fifth in his return to the championship.
Azores Rally had three world champions on the podium. Nine times world champion, Loeb couldn’t have wished for a better debut in the Azores archipelago and at the wheel of a car of this category. The Frenchman won five of the twelve special stages that composed the two legs and arrived in Ponta Delgada with an advantage of almost 20 seconds over the competition.
Second place, Andreas Mikkelsen had a similar car to the winner. The Norwegian, who was WRC2 champion in 2021, lost some time in the first leg, attacked in the second but fell behind due to a touch near the end.
In the 3rd place of the podium was the Spaniard Nil Solans, world junior champion in 2017, who was late in the first leg due to a very conservative choice of tyres but who recovered three positions in the last of the competition days.
Debuting in this edition of the Grupo Desportivo Commercial organisation, Ole Christian Veiby finished the first leg in third place but fell to fourth in the complementary sections after two spins. The Czech Erik Cais also tried to fight for the podium, he was the fastest in a special stage but had a puncture in the Power Stage, the second passage through Ribeira Grande, and returned to Ponta Delgada, the host city, in fifth place.
The 57th Azores Rallye marked the beginning of another Azores Rally Championship. In this competition, the victory fell to Ricardo Moura who, after a year’s interregnum, resumed his career to make his presence in an event he won overall in 2016. The Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo driver was accused of some lack of rhythm in the confrontation with the world stars present in the organization of Grupo Desportivo Comercial but was always at the front of the regional competition.
Second place in this championship belonged to Luis Miguel Rego, 37.3 seconds behind the winner, in another Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo. The current holder of the title in the archipelago did a race thinking about the points for the competition established by the Portuguese Car and Karting Federation and registered the highest score among the pilots who will compete throughout the calendar.
In the “Azorean podium” was also Rúben Rodrigues at the wheel of a similar car to the first two. The driver made in this event his real debut with the Czech model and tried not to lose ground in the competition in his adaptation to a new reality. Fourth, Pedro Câmara was second among the locals in his Citroën C3 Rally2. However, a mistake at the start of the last special stage of the first leg caused him to fall into a position from which he never recovered. Bruno Amaral closed the group of the five best national drivers.
Sebastien Loeb “The final balance of the Azores Rallye is very positive. We came to have fun and we achieved that to the full on this beautiful island where everyone lives rallying. In addition, we had a great fight with Andreas Mikkelsen that made us still have to accelerate most of the time. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to see the Sete Cidades scenery during the reconnaissance. I loved it here and, even fast during the rally, I was able to take a few glances to the side and loved the view. In this, my first experience in competition with a Rally2 car, I found it to be quite evolved, with a chassis very similar to the Rally1 ones, and that it is a good school for those who move on to the more powerful cars.”
Andreas Mikkelsen “Unfortunately we punctured in the very first qualifying and had to slow down to prevent another puncture in an unassisted stage. On top of that, our tyres didn’t work as we wanted them to. In the second stage, we decided to attack and recover for some time. After who… (laughs) We made a mistake, and from then on, it was impossible to fight for victory. Anyway, we loved it again in this rally that I like so much.”
Nils Solans “We finally finished this rally. In the first stage, I chose tyres that were too hard and ended up losing some time. In the second stage, our choice was already better and I could adopt the pace I wanted. We did some good times and ended up on the podium. This was a very good experience and it was also quite good to be able to run under competitive conditions on the whole course of this race in which I always wanted to achieve a good result.”
Ricardo Moura “I returned to this rally in which I always make a point of participating and of which I have so many memories and many good moments but I ended up accusing the lack of rhythm because I had been stopped for a year. I already knew that next time, I must participate in one or two races before recovering some automatisms. I must congratulate and thank the organisation for bringing to São Miguel a driver of Sebastien Loeb’s calibre and for allowing the Azores Rallye to maintain the status it has always had and deserves.”
Luis Miguel Rego “We prepared quite well for this race and I am happy with our result and even for having won the Power Stage. We did this rally thinking about the championship and the points for that competition and, in that aspect, we were successful because we must have been the best among those who will line up in all the events on the calendar. I also want to congratulate the organisation for having set up this race and for having managed to keep the Azores Rallye with the protagonism it deserves.”