Ralfs Sirmacis has become the first two-time winner in the FIA European Rally Championship in 2016 after Alexey Lukyanuk lost an event-long lead on the penultimate stage of auto24 Rally Estonia.
Four wins from the first four stages on the final day had extended Lukyanuk's lead to 28.2 seconds with two tests remaining, but it all went wrong over a jump on the second run over the Vissi stage. The Russian landed heavily and broke a steering arm on his Ford Fiesta R5, causing him to clip a tree.
That allowed Latvian Sirmacis to storm into the lead after Lukyanuk's exit he won the final two stages and finished up 1m 34.5s clear to take a second win from three starts in his Sports Racing Technologies-entered Škoda Fabia R5.
Sirmacis was guided to victory by a different co-driver, Māris Kulšs, after his regular navigator Arturs Šimins went down with a fever prior to the rally. His overall win on Rally Estonia comes 12 months after he triumphed in the ERC Junior category on the same event.
Defending ERC champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz finished second after a challenging event in his LOTOS Rally Team Fiesta R5, with a number of problems including losing power steering at the end of leg one.
Before Lukyanuk's retirement, the Pole's championship lead was set to be reduced to just one point, but he now has an advantage of 37 points moving on to his home round, Rally Rzeszow on 4-6 August.
For the second year in a row, Rainer Aus finished on the podium on his home event in an ERC2-specification Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. He had a scare on the final loop of stages when he hit a rock, causing damage to the rear differential, but he was able to hold onto his position.
In the end he was only 18.6s ahead of fellow Estonian Raul Jeets, who matched his best ever ERC result of fourth place in his SRT ŠKODA, repeating his 2015 stage win on the streets of Elva in the process.
Jarosław Kołtun scored his best ERC result to-date in fifth place, his third top-six finish of the season, one position ahead of fellow Polish Fiesta R5 driver Łukasz Habaj.
The reigning champion of Poland was making his first ERC appearance in the top category after dominating ERC3 on Rally Islas Canarias in March, and although he dropped over three minutes changing a punctured tyre on Saturday, he showed strong pace on the final day, taking fourth in the leg two classification.