Alexey Lukyanuk won the opening round of the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship after defeating the defending champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz on the final day of Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles.

The triumph in Gran Canaria is a second consecutive ERC win for Russian driver Lukyanuk and co-driver Alexey Arnautov - their third in total - after they won last year's final round in Switzerland.

Lukyanuk started leg two with a 22.7-second deficit to his fellow Pirelli-shod Ford Fiesta R5 driver Kajetanowicz but profited when the LOTOS Rally Team driver suffered excessive tyre wear during the morning loop as the result of high tyre pressures.

Lukyanuk took the lead on SS9 and extended it to over half a minute on SS10 before the mid-day service in Las Palmas. Thereafter he resisted Kajetanowicz's attempts to get back on terms, picking up his third and fourth stage wins of the event on the final two stages to finish up 32.7s ahead.

"It's incredible to be honest," said Lukyanuk, who had ended the 2015 season with a maiden tarmac victory. "The competition was so hard. We did a lot of mistakes yesterday but this helped us today. It is super and I am really proud for my team and my sponsors. The competition is very high."

Local rallying hero Luis Monzon returned to the ERC podium, matching his third place from the championship's last visit to Gran Canaria in 2013. No longer suffering from the gearbox gremlins of Friday in his Michelin-equipped Citro?n DS3 R5, Monzon was a frontrunner throughout the six stages that made up leg two and he beat Lukyunuk to win SS10.

Robert Consani had moved up into third place overall at the end of Friday but endured a torrid second day, which began with his Peugeot 208 T16 failing to start prior to the morning's first stage. The Frenchman then battled brake issues throughout the day and was eventually classified seventh after three-and-a-half minutes of road penalties.

Poland's Wojciech Chuchala starred throughout the rally in his Subaru Impreza STi, dominating the ERC2 class and also finishing a fine fifth overall behind Spanish Fiesta driver Jonathan Perez. Jaroslaw Koltun, in another Fiesta, was only 1.1s behind his fellow Polish driver Chuchala going onto the final stage but was forced to settle for sixth after stopping to change a tyre. Tenth overnight, Janos Puskadi ran first on the road during the second leg and climbed to eighth overall, just one position away from matching his best ever ERC finish from this same event in 2013.

Puskadi's fellow Skoda Fabia R5 driver Hermen Kobus had dreams of a top-five finish and moved into that position on the day's opening stage, but the Dutchman's rally ended shortly afterwards when he crashed into a tree on SS9. Italian Giacomo Costenaro retired from top-five contention when hit by a power steering problem in his Peugeot 208 T16 early in the day. Tomasz Kasperczyk finished P10 in his Fiesta, 10.8s behind Surhayen Pernia, benefiting when Ivan Ares suffered a continuation of the braking issues that struck when he was running a fine fourth during Friday.

Visiting star Mads ?stberg, currently second in the WRC standings, led until the final stage of day one on his ERC debut, before crashing his Fiesta R5 after experiencing brake fade.

The FIA European Rally Championship now continues next month with Circuit Rally of Ireland running from April 7-9.

Top 10 positions (after 12 stages, 213 kilometres)

1. Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Alexey Arnautov (RUS) Ford Fiesta R5 2h03m49.6s
2. Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL)/Jaroslaw Baran (POL) Ford Fiesta R5 +32.3s
3. Luis Monzon (ESP)/Jose Carlos Deniz (ESP) Citroen DS3 R5 +1m41.5s
4. Jonathan Perez (ESP)/Alejandro Lopez Fernandez (ESP) Ford Fiesta R5 +2m44.0s
5. Wojciech Chuchaa (POL)/Daniel Dymurski (POL) Subaru Impreza STi +5m27.0s
6. Jaroslaw Koltun (POL)/Ireneusz Pleskot (POL) Ford Fiesta R5 +5m28.1s
7. Robert Consani (FRA)/Maxime Vilmot (FRA) Peugeot 208 T16 +6m40.1s
8. Janos Puskadi (HUN)/Barnabas Godor (HUN) Skoda Fabia R5 +7m18.1s
9. Surhayen Pern?a (ESP)/Juan Luis Garcia (ESP) Renault Clio R3T +7m48.7s
10. Tomasz Kasperczyk (POL)/Damian Syty (POL) Ford Fiesta R5 +8m01.4s

FIA ERC2: Wojciech Chuchala (POL)/Daniel Dymurski (POL) Subaru Impreza STiFIA ERC3: Lukasz Habaj (POL)/Piotr Wos (POL) Peugeot 208 R2

 

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