49th SATA Rallye Açores: Sousa takes first ERC victory

Ford-mounted Bernardo Sousa claimed a maiden ERC success after holding off Kevin Abbring in a tense Rallye Acores finale.
Bernardo Sousa won round five of the FIA European Rally Championship following a dramatic final-stage showdown on SATA Rallye Açores.

Sousa, in a Pirelli-shod Ford Fiesta RRC, started the closing test leading Kevin Abbring by 5.1secs and, with Eurosport and RTP Açores broadcasting the action live, beat his rival through the closing 21.30-kilometre stage by 1.1s to secure victory with a winning margin of 6.2s.

It was former Portuguese champion Sousa's first victory in the ERC and makes him the fourth different winner from five rounds of the series in 2014. It also marks a dramatic reversal of fortune after he and co-driver Hugo Magalhães had to push their car for one kilometre to parc fermé when it broke down due to a sensor failure following the Qualifying Stage on Thursday morning.

“We thought it would be very hard but, day-by-day, stage-by-stage, I start to believe it would be possible,” said Sousa, who celebrated his 27th birthday on day two of the gravel event, “The fans were pushing and cheering so much. Hugo was always pushing me so it's incredible, a dream come true. Last year the win was blown away by a mistake of mine. Now it's my time and I hope this win brings me much more in the future.”

Dutchman Abbring – driving a Michelin-equipped Peugeot 208T16 - finished second and was handed the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy for his efforts, which included using cable ties to fashion a replacement belt to drive the alternator and powersteering after it failed on Friday's penultimate stage. He also scored 91 ERC Gravel Master points alongside his British co-driver Seb Marshall.

Jean-Michel Raoux took a career-best third when Vasily Gryazin slid off the road into a ditch with one stage remaining. The 20-year old Russian had excelled on his Açores debut but finished outside the top 20 due to his time loss. Robert Consani battled home in fourth following punctures and broken driveshafts on leg one and a smashed windscreen on Saturday's visit to the Grupo Marques superspecial when the bonnet of his 207 S2000 flew open landing after a jump.

Luis Rego took a narrow ERC Production Car Cup win in fifth, ahead of sixth-placed Ricardo Teodósio after gearbox and suspension woes slowed him down in the closing stages. Ruben Rodrigues was 4.6s back in seventh, with Giacomo Costenario overcoming early delays to take his first ERC points in eighth. ERC stalwart Antonín Tlusťák and Pedro Vale completed the top ten with dominant ERC Junior winner Stéphane Lefebvre in eleventh for the Peugeot Rally Academy.

Other notable performances came from Martin Hudec, who fought back from a puncture to score more ERC Production Car Cup points. He's now four behind Vitaliy Pushkar, who retired on the second run through the spectacular Sete Cidades stage on Friday with damaged suspension. Chris Ingram was an impressive ERC Junior runner-up with Gino Bux completing the category podium on his loose-surface debut.

Risto Immonen was second until a roll dropped him back to fourth. Guillaume Dilley took a strong fifth on his first ERC start and his first on gravel. However, there was frustration for Fabio Andolfi, who retired with a broken gearbox prior the final stage. Ekaterina Stratieva claimed ERC Ladies' Trophy honours.

Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Ricardo Moura returned to the action after they retired damaging their suspension on the same rock on Friday's first test. They set competitive times in their Ford Fiesta R5s. Two-time event winner Bruno Magalhães stopped with a technical failure on stage 12.

Craig Breen's hopes of a second victory in this year's ERC were dashed when the Irishman retired his Peugeot Rally Academy 208T16 following an electrical failure at the end of stage nine where he set his fourth fastest time of the event. Unable to restart on Saturday, Breen provided his expert views during Eurosport's live coverage of the two Tronqueira stages instead. Breen's failure to score means ŠKODA Motorsport's Esapekka Lappi tops the ERC standings heading to next month's Geko Ypres Rally despite SATA Rallye Açores not being included on his schedule. Jan Černý holds the advantage in ERC Junior despite crashing out on Friday afternoon.

Final top 10 (after 17 stages, 216.64 kilometres)

1. Bernardo Sousa (PRT)/Hugo Magalhães (PRT) Ford Fiesta RRC 2h 43m 56.7s
2. Kevin Abbring (NED)/Sebastian Marshall (GBR) Peugeot 208T16 +6.2s
3. Jean-Michel Raoux (FRA)/Laurent Magat (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +7m51.9s
4. Robert Consani (FRA)/Maxime Vilmot (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +9m18.8s
5. Luis Rego (PRT)/Antonio Costa (PRT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX +10m07.5s
6. Ricardo Teodósio (PRT)/José Teixeira (PRT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX +10m11.2s
7. Ruben Rodrigues (PRT)/Estevão Rodrigues (PRT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX +10m15.8s
8. Giacomo Costenaro (ITA)/Justin Bardini (ITA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +10m21.9s
9. Antonín Tlusťák (CZE)/Jan Škaloud (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +11m15.5s
10. Pedro Vale (PRT)/Rui Medeiros (PRT) Subaru Impreza WRX STI +11m39.1s

FIA ERC Production Car Cup: Luis Rego (PRT)/Antonio Costa (PRT) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
FIA ERC 2WD Championship: Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA)/Thomas Dubois (FRA) Peugeot 208 R2

ERC Junior Championship: Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA)/Thomas Dubois (FRA) Peugeot 208 R2
ERC Gravel Master: Kevin Abbring (NED) 91 points
Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy: Kevin Abbring (NED)

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Jean-Michel Raoux (FRA)/Laurent Magat (FRA) - Peugeot 207 S2000
Kevin Abbring (GBR)/Sebastian Marshall (GBR) - Peugeot 208T16
Bernardo Sousa (PRT)/Hugo Magalhaes (PRT) - Ford Fiesta RRC
Sousa and Magalhaes celebrate on Rallye Acores podium
Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA) Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford RS WRC
Mads Ostberg (NOR) Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA) Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford RS WRC
Mads Ostberg (NOR) Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
Mads Ostberg (NOR) Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA) Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford RS WRC
Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA) Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford RS WRC
Eric Camilli (FRA) Benjamin Veillas (FRA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA) Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford RS WRC
Mads Ostberg (NOR) Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
Eric Camilli (FRA) Benjamin Veillas (FRA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA) Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford RS WRC
Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA) Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford RS WRC
Mads Ostberg (NOR) Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC

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