Ricardo Moura took a special - and somewhat surprise - victory on home soil at the end of a dramatic Azores Airlines Rallye, round four of the FIA European Rally Championship.

Hailing from the rally base Ponta Delgada on S?o Miguel island in the mid-Atlantic archipelago, Moura took the lead on the final afternoon when Alexey Lukyanuk lost power due to a loose turbo pipe.

Having claimed the lead on the last stage of leg one, Russian driver Lukyanuk was gifted a 43-second margin when Kajetan Kajetanowicz sustained a broken driveshaft on the first test of the final day. A spin on the following stage, however, cost Lukyanuk 22.5secs, but he remained 25.3secs clear of Moura going into the final loop of three stages and, seemingly, on course for victory on his first time in the Azores.

However, the loose turbo pipe - a problem he also suffered on the previous ERC round at the SEAJETS Acropolis Rally - put Lukyanuk 42.7s behind Moura on SS14, with two stages remaining. After roadside repairs, he cut that deficit almost in half on the penultimate test, setting up a finely-poised finale. In response, Moura pushed hard and won the final Tronqueira test, with Lukyanuk 5.3s slower and reaching the end with a rear-left puncture.

Driving a Ford Fiesta R5 on Michelin tyres, Moura's win came on his 16th start on the rally and follows third-place finishes on the ERC qualifier in 2013 and 2015. He is the first Azorean driver to win the event since 1971.

"My name will be on the history of this rally and I am very, very happy," he said.

ERC title rivals Lukyanuk and Kajetanowicz completed the first 1-2-3 finish for the Ford Fiesta R5 in the series. Kajetanowicz led much of the first leg before a mistake on the famous Sete Cidades stage on Friday, and the broken driveshaft then left him with only rear-wheel drive for most of Saturday morning before his LOTOS Rally Team could make repairs. He finished up over three minutes down on Moura and is still searching for the first win of his ERC title defence, but does continue to lead the standings.

Kajetanowicz regained a place on the podium when Ralfs Sirmacis retired with a broken steering arm on his Sports Racing Technologies-run ?koda Fabia R5 on Saturday's second stage. Following his incredible win in Greece last month, the young Latvian had been part of a close four-way fight for the win early in the rally.

D?vid Botka climbed from sixth to fourth on the very last stage to complete by far his best performance since stepping up to a Citro?n DS3 R5 for 2016 after winning the ERC2 title last season. He finished just 5.6secs ahead of Jaroslav Ors?k, and that gap was more than accounted for by a 10secs penalty handed to the Czech driver for being late into the final stage following a puncture on the penultimate test. Nonetheless, fifth represents a superb result for Ors?k on his first start on any rally in almost a year, in a brand new Ford Fiesta R5 that he hadn't even driven before he arrived on S?o Miguel.

Pedro Meireles took sixth, just 2.1secs ahead of another Azorean driver, Lu?s Rego, and the Portuguese champion Jos? Pedro Fontes, whose final day speed would have been enough to finish fourth had he not had to change the clutch on his Citro?n Vodafone Team DS3 on Saturday morning, costing him a 1min 50secs time penalty for being late out of service. Ricardo Teod?sio took ninth while Anton?n Tlus?k just held onto a first top-ten finish of the season, with a penultimate-stage puncture leaving him just 0.6secs ahead of Miguel Barbosa in the final standings.

Great pace at the end of day two had lifted Raul Jeets into the top 10, but he retired with two stages to go after damaging the front end of his ?koda. Meanwhile, Jarosav Kotun's run of top-ten finishes to start the season came to an end after a torrid rally that finished with him off the road on SS12, while Giacomo Costenaro and seven-time event winner Fernando Peres suffered mechanical failures within sight of the finish.

Diogo Gago claimed a fine first victory in the ERC Junior Championship, exclusively supplied by Pirelli, after returning to the category for his home round. Following an entertaining first leg, the Portuguese Peugeot driver took the lead for a fourth time on Saturday's opening stage and held it until the end, opening up a winning margin of 1min 12.4secs over Chris Ingram. Marijan Griebel briefly led over the first and second nights, but crashed out on SS12 in his attempts to respond to Gago's pace.

Ingram, who beat Gago to take his own first ERC Junior win in the Azores twelve months ago, had led on Friday before a puncture, but a second runner-up position in two events moves the Opel Rallye Junior Team driver into the points lead. Joining Griebel in retirement was Circuit of Ireland winner ukasz Pieniek after a mechanical failure while fourth on the final afternoon. As in 2015, Steve R?kland completed the podium, also counting for ERC3, this time in his first drive in a Ford Fiesta R2T run for him by M-Sport. Finn Joonas Tokee took fourth on his debut, and was ahead of R?kland before suffering issues on his Peugeot throughout the final day.

Wojciech Chuchaa took a fourth ERC2 win from as many events, in many ways his most impressive yet. A puncture on Friday's final stage had turned his lead of over 40secs into a deficit of 1min 12secs to Ruben Rodrigues, who had already outpaced the Subaru Poland Rally Team driver on most of day two. Chuchaa was able to find another gear however and regained the lead within four stages on the final day, and finished up 1min 20secs clear of Azorean driver Rodrigues. Juan Carlos Alonso overcame a couple of incidents to take third place and a trophy back to Argentina. After an off on Friday, Rui Moniz restarted on Sunday to take fourth, while Pedro Vale never left service at the start of the final day after holding third overnight.

Top 10 positions (after 16 stages, 215.53 kilometres)

1. Ricardo Moura (PRT)/Ant?nio Costa (PRT) Ford Fiesta R5 2h42m23.5s
2. Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Alexey Arnautov (RUS) Ford Fiesta R5 +26.8s
3. Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL)/Jarosaw Baran (POL) Ford Fiesta R5 +3m23.0s
4. D?vid Botka (HUN)/P?ter Szeles (HUN) Citro?n DS3 R5 +5m28.5s
5. Jaroslav Ors?k (CZE)/David ?meidler (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 +5m34.1s
6. Pedro Meireles (PRT)/M?rio Castro (PRT) ?koda Fabia R5 +5m44.1s
7. Lu?s Rego (PRT)/Carlos Magalh?es (PRT) Ford Fiesta R5 +5m46.2s
8. Jos? Pedro Fontes (PRT)/In?s Ponte (PRT) Citro?n DS3 R5 +6m17.9s
9. Ricardo Teod?sio (PRT)/Jos? Teixeira (PRT) Ford Fiesta R5 +7m01.2s
10. Anton?n Tlus?k (CZE)/Ladislav Kuera (CZE) ?koda Fabia R5 +7m30.7s

FIA ERC2: Wojciech Chuchaa (POL)/Daniel Dymurski (POL) Subaru Impreza STiFIA ERC3: Diogo Gago (PRT)/Hugo Magalh?es (PRT) Peugeot 208 R2FIA ERC Junior: Diogo Gago (PRT)/Hugo Magalh?es (PRT) Peugeot 208 R2

 

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