Forced to play catch-up in the FIA European Rally Championship title fight following his Barum Czech Rally Zlín testing crash last month, Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën driver Alexey Lukyanuk knows what it takes to win the Azores Rallye following his triumph in 2018 alongside Alexey Arnautov. This is what the Russian has had to say ahead of his long-awaited return to Ponta Delgada.
What do you enjoy most about the Azores Rallye?“It’s a quite unique event. I had big bad luck leading three times, but we lost the opportunity three times to win it. But still I have one star on the belt [after I won in 2018]! The atmosphere is fantastic. The local fans are really passionate, cheering us a lot and that’s great. The roads are amazing, the surface and the profile of the roads is so unique and demanding. But it’s pure joy to drive it. The scenery is just so nice and it’s a fantastic event. Hopefully we can see all the beauties of the island. I am looking forward.”

How much of a challenge is the event?“It’s a massive challenge. The roads are so narrow and in case of bad weather it makes it a thriller to go through the stages. Last time we [were there in 2019] had a storm on the final day and we were floating all over. But even in dry conditions the road is so narrow that it takes a lot of effort and bravery to be fast.”

The iconic Sete Cidades volcano stage is now the deciding stage of the rally. A good move?“All the stages are pretty tough. I would say Graminhais and Tronqueira are maybe not so scenic, but they still provide a crazy but different challenge. But Sete Cidades is the most beautiful so it should be a fantastic finish for those who will see the finish.”

After your non-start in Zlín, how important is a second win on the Azores Rallye for you?“Of course, I want to win this rally and I want to be fast. The championship would be nice for everyone in the team and the sponsors, but I already have two titles and it’s not the target number one to make it three. I just want to enjoy the rally, I want to enjoy the fight and try to be as fast as we can. It’s the way I think, and I hope it will help us to achieve a better result.”

How have you prepared for your Azores return?“I’ve checked all the past information I have like onboards, my notes and other things. But I’ve still had some work coaching drivers in Greece and Portugal. They have been busy times but my mind is on the Azores already and we are on a good way.”
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