Yagiz Avci has entered the record books as the first Turkish driver to win a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge since the series begun six years ago following his success on the Prime Yalta Rally in the Ukraine.
Piloting an M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000, the three-time Turkish champion reached the finish on the banks of the Black Sea more than three minutes ahead of his closest rival.
A sterling performance from start to finish enabled Robert Consani to clinch the runner-up spot, as well as the first IRC podium for French manufacturer Renault. His maiden top-three plus an IRC Production Cup and IRC 2WD Cup double earned Consani the prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy.
“This was a tough rally but I am very happy to win,” said Avci who was co-driven by countryman Bahadir Gücenmez. “We were driving carefully this afternoon because we wanted to keep our position after Yuriy [Protasov] retired. On today's second stage, we caught Yuriy during the last five kilometres and it was very difficult to pass him so we lost quite a bit of time. We tried to improve our pacenotes this afternoon as we hope to be back next year but right now I can't believe I have won, it feels fantastic.”
Ukraine's Yuriy Protasov was leading his home event until a puncture followed by an off-road excursion on the day's second stage dropped him out of winning contention. The Fiesta RRC driver then encountered further bad luck when he broke a steering arm and damaged his suspension, forcing the 28-year-old to finally call it a day.
“For sure, I am disappointed to retire but I am still feeling positive,” explained an upbeat Protasov. “It was our first time in the Fiesta and I have been happy with our times. Yesterday we had a good day but today we were unlucky on three stages in a row. That is life but I learned a lot – I never expected to come here and win so I cannot allow myself to feel disappointed.”
A solid performance by Laszlo Vizin earned the Skoda Fabia Super 2000 driver the final podium spot in the Crimea. The Hungarian reported a gear sensor problem during the opening loop in addition to a small handling issue, but Vizin was nevertheless delighted with his first IRC podium.
Behind, Mykola Chmykh came in fourth overall and second in the IRC Production Cup in his Subaru impreza STI, while, after a series of setbacks, Marco Tempestini battled on in another Impreza to claim fifth and the third step on the IRC Production Cup podium. The Romanian reported numerous problems over the course of the three-day rally including three punctures on the closing day and a broken gear lever.
Murat Bostanci, Marco Cavigioli and Oleksiy Panov finished in positions 6 through to 8, with Stanislav Besedin and Eytan Halfon rounding out the top ten.