Pepe López wins in La Nucía and takes a step forward to achieve the title of champion

Pepe López and Borja Rozada (Hyundai i20N) have been proclaimed winners of the 28th Rallye La Nucía Mediterráneo Trofeo Costa Blanca, after setting the best time in five of the nine stages contested and occupying the lead from start to finish of the rally. The excitement and uncertainty remained for a long time, until in the penultimate section a series of incidents were triggered that defined the first three positions. The European champions Efrén Llarena/Sara Fernández (Skoda Fabia Rally2) were second, 53.1 seconds behind. Alberto Monarri/Ángel Luis Vela (Skoda Fabia R5) finally reached the podium as third, at 1:50.3. Alejandro Cachón (Citroën C3 Rally2), who was in podium position almost until the end, saw all his options frustrated in a ‘straight’ in the penultimate special, after having been one of the outstanding drivers of the test organized by the Automobile Club AIA.

The 28th Rallye La Nucía Mediterráneo Costa Blanca Trophy resumed early on Saturday morning, with 71 vehicles in competition (75 started the day before). The scoring event for the Spanish Rally Super Championship (S-CER), the European Rally Trophy (ERT) and the regional event, disputed the first stage yesterday, with an interesting fight for the first two positions and also for the last place in the podium, with few differences between the protagonists, so the excitement and title options for the applicants were still open. The first three places in the general classification of the rally, after the first four stages yesterday, were left to Pepe López in first position, with Alejandro Chacón barely 2.8 seconds behind and the fight for third place was also open with José A. ‘ Cohete’ Suárez, third, with 1.8 seconds ahead of Efrén Llanera, who was fourth.

Today’s session opened with the Jalón section (21.7 kilometres) in which the leader of the rally and of the contest, Pepe López (Hyundai i20N), set a time of 13:23.8, a time that allowed him add 7.2 seconds ahead of Alejandro Cachón (Citroën C3 Rally2) and 9.4 seconds over Efrén Llarena (Skoda Fabia Rally2), who was third and who recovered the third position that José A. ‘Cohete’ Suárez snatched from him in the last leg of the day before.

The participants then faced the TC-6 of Pego (10.3 kilometers), in which Pepe López was once again the best, this time with Efrén Llarena in second position, 3.8 seconds behind; followed by Iván Ares (rejoined the Superrallye after abandoning yesterday due to a breakdown in the first stage), 6.5 seconds behind; Surhayen Pernía (Hyndai i20N), 6.9 seconds behind and Alejandro Cachón, who lost 8.4 seconds in this section and moved a little further from the lead. The section was designated as TC Plus, which means that the three fastest drivers obtained extra points. In this case, Pepe López, Efrén Llanera and Iván Ares, who by thousandths snatched points from Pernía.

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And the section was closed by TC-7, the mythical Coll de Rates, a 19.5-kilometre special in which the fastest was the new European champion, Efrén Llarena, who stopped the clock at 11:36.1, a time 2.2 seconds lower than the one established by Pepe López and 5.5 seconds better than the one registered by Iván Ares. Cachón, who was fighting for the victory, lost precious time due to a puncture. The section was neutralized due to an accident by Santiago García (Peugeot 208 Rally4).

After the three specials in the morning, the provisional general standings were as follows: Pepe López was the leader and consolidated the first position, followed by Alejandro Cachón, 13.54 seconds behind, Efrén Llarena, 48.6 seconds behind and Pernía, 1 :07,6. The fifth place was, provisionally, for ‘Cohete’ Suárez, at 1:13.3.

After regrouping and going through the assistance, the ‘survivors’ faced the final part of the rally, the second pass through Jalón and Pego, in which everything was going to be resolved. Pepe López faced the afternoon as the leader, with an advantage that forced Cachón, especially, to risk it to achieve victory. Perhaps this pressure led the Citroën driver to make a mistake and make a straight line at a crossroads, which caused him to lose a little over three minutes, his chances of victory and, moreover, a podium position. Llarena was the second best in the 21.7 kilometers of the section and Monarri third. The man from Madrid, taking advantage of the opportunity, rose to third position. And the podium, in the absence of the final stretch, was defined. Except for surprises or incidents, with López, Llarena and Monarri occupying the privileged positions. And it is that in the stage, in addition to Cachón’s error, the abandonment of two other important drivers, Pernía and ‘Cohete’ Suárez, fourth and fifth before facing the second and final pass through Pego.

In the final stretch there was no surprise. The best time was for Iván Ares, followed by Alejandro Chacón, at 2.10 seconds and Pepe López at 4 seconds. A result that did not involve changes in the top positions in the general classification. If the achievement of the title of Spanish Rally Super Champion is pending for the next and final round of the championship, the Adeje rally, the one that has been decided is the RTS Junior Scholarship, which has been awarded in La Nucía by Roberto Blanch and Mauro Barreiro (Peugeot 208 Rally4)

On the other hand, the winner in the Renault Clio Trophy Spain was Miguel García, followed by José Javier Pérez and Nicolás Cabanes who, after a puncture in the first section, staged a spectacular comeback setting the scratch in four specials. The Dacia Sandero Cup, the winner was Ángel Rodríguez, followed by Adrián Lecha and Biel Gavilán. As for 2RM, the first classified was Jorge Cagiao (Clio Rally4).

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