*Russian storms to overnight top spot after early puncture drops him to P20
*Athens hosts ceremonial start under the historic Acropolis citadel
*Érdi Jr heads ERC2 standings, Muradian in front in ERC3 battle
Alexey Lukyanuk has gone from zero to hero with a blitzing drive in the FIA European Rally Championship today (Friday). The title leader dropped to P20 with an opening-stage puncture on the EKO Acropolis Rally but hit back in style with the fastest time through the 30-kilometre Thiva blast to take the overnight lead – and set the ultimate target for those chasing behind.
They include second-placed Eyvind Brynildsen from Norway, young Finn Juuso Nordgren, who is third onhis ERC debut, Portugal’s Bruno Magahlães in fourth, Cypriot Alexandros Tsouloftas in fifth and Ukrianian Yuriy Protasov in sixth. Defending ERC2 champion Tibor Érdi Jr heads the showroom category with Artur Muradian in front in ERC3.
How leg one unfolded: Lukyanuk’s evening fever in Thiva
Having suffered a puncture on SS1, the superspecial stage at the Markopoulo Olympic Equestrian Centre, Alexey Lukyanuk had lost 12 seconds to early leader Norbert Herczig (Hungary) heading into the day- closing Thiva test. But the Russian bounced back with a stage win in SS2, 44.5 seconds quicker than Brynildsen to move into first place in his Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta R5. “It’s a big surprise, I did some mistakes” Lukyanuk said at the end of Thiva. “The road was really clean for us, better than for the guys in front. I was in stage mode as we lost a lot of seconds and we needed to get some time back."