Łukasz Habaj’s bid to win the FIA European Rally Championship has suffered an early setback after he crashed during his first run in free practice for Rally Hungary this morning.
Pole Habaj went off the road on a right-hand corner 500 metres before the finish of the 3.90-kilometre Napkor test and is set to miss the Qualifying Stage from 09h45 due to the damage inflicted to his Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5.
Both Habaj and co-driver were uninjured with Daniel Dymurski commenting: “I think the car is not good”.
The results of the Qualifying Stage are used to form part of the starting order for the opening leg of the event, meaning Habaj will face running far down the order, providing his car can be repaired. With wet and muddy conditions expected, Habaj will be braced for a tough challenge.
Habaj is second in the provisional ERC standings, 19 points behind leader Chris Ingram and nine in front of defending champion Alexey Lukyanuk.
Speaking to ERC Radio’s Julian Porter, Pole Habaj said: “It’s difficult to say what happened because it was happening so quickly. But basically we just lost control over the car on braking. It didn’t give any signs on any previous braking so I just decided to be a little bit more aggressive but it was just too aggressive and I just lost control and I really wasn’t able to do anything.
“The car went straight and there was a ditch, which I got into and the impact was quite hard with the front of the car. It’s now difficult to judge if we will be able to continue but there is a small chance because we have all the parts.
“The mechanics are now trying to take the car back to the road and see. They said if the bodyshell is not damaged and the rollcage is not damaged then there is a chance they will rebuild the car and we will be able to start. We are okay, just now waiting on information from our mechanics.”
Łukasz Habaj has credited his Sports Racing Technologies for keeping him in the fight to win the 2019 FIA European Rally Championship.
Habaj feared his ERC title hopes were over when he crashed in free practice this morning, which left his ŠKODA Fabia R5 badly damaged.
But frantic repair work by his mechanics ensured he made the start of the rallying’s opening test, albeit with only minutes to spare.
“Massive thanks to the team, they did an absolutely great job,” said Habaj, who was ninth fastest during this evening’s superspecial. “We left the service park at the very last minute. Ten minutes before our team was not even sure if we would be able to start or not. But they did it so it’s great.”
Of his SS1 performance, Habaj added: “This one was quite difficult getting the feeling back but the car is working and that’s the most important thing. Hopefully it will be fine from this moment.”
Łukasz Habaj remains focused on finishing the final ERC round of the year positively after a troublesome start to his Rally Hungary.
The Pole, who is driving a Sports Racing Technologies-prepared Skoda Fabia R5, was forced to miss the qualifying stage on Friday after crashing in practice which affected his starting position on Saturday’s leg.
Habaj, still in the hunt for the overall ERC title, made significant gains during the morning loop of stages, despite getting temporarily stuck at a hairpin towards the end of SS4.
Habaj said: “We had a puncture, but I think the biggest time loss was on one of the hairpins where we got stuck and I just couldn’t start. It was so slippery that the car was drifting with no control and then I just had to reverse and I couldn’t start.”
“Other than that, the car is working well, the tyres are also very good. I took it quite easy on the first stage, but on the second one I think we were a little bit quicker, but if you are 17th on the road in these conditions it is very difficult.
“This was also one of the reasons for this time loss. Hopefully for the next loop, we will be able to start getting closer to the guys in front of us.”
Habaj enters the second loop of the day in ninth position, over two minutes adrift of overall leader and defending ERC champion Alexey Lukyanuk, and he is nearly a full minute behind eighth-placed András Hadik.
Nevertheless, Habaj is concentrating on building confidence and speed with the aim of reaching the finish tomorrow.
“I am just focused on the next service at the end of the next loop,” Habaj added.
“I want to reach the finish on Sunday with good pace and leave this rally with the feeling that I did my best, did what I could and that I was fighting until the end.”
The Pole, who had been fighting his way back up the order following a crash on Friday, is reported to have lost power steering, while the resulting suspension damage has curtailed his running for the remainder of Saturday’s leg.
Having missed the qualifying stage and being forced to start 17th on the road for each of the day’s stages, Habaj had made it back into the top ten.
Following the opening stage of the afternoon, the Pole in the ŠKODA Fabia R5 was up to sixth before his issues.
Habaj did not make it to the end of the stage but could restart tomorrow.
Unfortunately, he didn't continue. This has been an incredibly difficult season - with an amazing start, but a very hard finish. Mistakes were made in Italy, Czech Republic and there were some technical issues during ERC Cyprus.
Sports Racing Technologies is very proud to have had such an amazing, ambitious driver with then this season! Thank you!
Info source: ERC homepage https://www.fiaerc.com