TER – Tour European Rally win for Sébastien Loeb in Azores Rallye
A unique podium of World Rally Champions for the iconic island event
The 57th edition of Azores Rallye, round 3 of the 2023 TER – Tour European Rally, provided two days of great sporting action on the iconic fan-packed gravel stages of the Portuguese São Miguel island.
Discovering the challenging narrow sandy roads, as well as the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, French 9-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb, with Laurène Godey in the codriver’s seat, led from start to finish clinching five fastest stage times, including the iconic Sete Cidades TER Power Stage and its 3 bonus points which put him in the joint Series’ lead.
Up against his Toksport WRT team mate in a sister car, 2021 WRC2 and European Champion Andreas Mikkelsen, codriven by Torstein Eriksen, aimed for a third win in one of his favourite events. With six consecutive stage wins, making him the event’s best performer, the Norwegian stayed in contention until the penultimate test, when he hit a bank losing precious seconds but saving second place.
The final step of the podium rewarded 2017 Junior and WRC3 World Champion Nil Solans. Sharing a Škoda Fabia Evo2 with Marc Marti, the Spanish driver made up the time lost on the opening day to secure bronze one stage before the finish.
2015 WRC and WRC3 runner-up, 2017 APRC Pacific Cup Winner and 2019 Norwegian Champion Ole Christian Veiby, codriven by Stig Rune Skjærmoen on a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, lost the third place he had held for most of the rally with two spins in the final tests, ending just outside of the podium. Local hero, multiple Portuguese and Azores Champion and 2016 event winner Ricardo Moura returned to the TER after a maiden appearance in 2016. Sharing a Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo with António Costa, he finished fifth and first of the locals.
Young Czech driver Erik Cais with Petr Těšínský was fighting for a podium finish. Breaking the Loeb/Mikkelsen duopoly by winning SS 11 and getting within 1 second of third place, he lost precious seconds with a puncture in the final test, ending sixth. Seventh place for 3-time Azores Regional Champion Luis Miguel Rego and Jorge Henriques, ahead of 2021 Azores Champion brothers Ruben and Estevão Rodrigues.
Despite a technical problem in the final stage, Bruno Amaral with Sancho Eiró managed to bring his Ford Fiesta home in ninth, while Pablo Diez finished his second seasonal series event after Rallye Sierra Morena, alongside returning codriver Axel Coronado, closing the top ten.