October 8, 2017
Drivers from Latvia and those competing with a Latvian Automobile Federation (LAF) licence had great results in Rally Liepāja,the final round of the 2017 FIA European Rally Championship. Sports Racing Technologies driver Nikolay Gryazin (LAF licence) got his first ERC victory, while Kalle Rovanpera (LAF licence) was second in his international rallying debut, and Lukasz Habaj from Poland got onto the third step of the podium. Reinis Nitišs (sixth overall) and Mārtiņš Sesks (eleventh) were the fastest of the Latvian drivers.
Gryazin ©Rally Liepāja / MVFoto
Battle for Rally Liepāja victory got closer after the first stage of the morning, SS8 Castrol Edge Supercar, where Kalle Rovanpera (Ford Fiesta R5, co-driven by Jonne Halttunen) decreased Nikolay Gryazin’s (Škoda Fabia R5, co-driven by Yaroslav Fedorov) lead to just 10 seconds. However, showing consistent pace throughout the day, Gryazin held on to victory, doing so by 18.5 seconds. Before the last three stages, this year’s European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Ford Fiesta R5, co-driven by Jaroslav Baran) retired for personal reasons, giving third place to Lukasz Habaj (Ford Fiesta R5, co-driven by Daniel Dymurski).
Rovanpera ©Rally Liepāja / MVFoto
“Driving without competition is not fun, so I would like to thank Kalle for an exciting and close battle throughout the weekend. I am thrilled with the result. During the season, we had our share of crashes and problems with the car, but this time everything went according to plan and we were able to win,” comments Sports Racing Technologies driver Nikolay Gryazin.
In ERC2, the leader after day one, Jānis Vorobjovs (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, co-driven by Ivo Pūķis), slid off the road on the first stage of the day and was unable to continue. After Vorobjovs retirement, Neiksans Rally Sport driver Reinis Nitišs (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, co-driven by Māris Neikšāns) managed to win the class, despite being best known as a rallycross driver. European championship in ERC2 was claimed by Hungarian Tibor Erdi Junior, who was fourth in Rally Liepāja.
“There were lots of puddles on the road. In one section, the road narrowed and the surface became clayey. I tried braking before an 80 degree left corner, but nothing happened and the car continued sliding until I was sideways into a ditch. We got unlucky in that the car got stuck on a tree stump, and we needed two and a half hours to get it out. Anyhow, this was a good weekend, it is just unfortunate that it ended a bit early. This is racing, and when you drive on the limit, anything can happen,” says Jānis Vorobjovs, Vorobjovs Racing.
Vorobjovs ©Rally Liepāja / MVFoto
“In the morning it was quite wet, but we quickly found a rhythm. There were times when my rallycross skills came in handy in jumps and tight corners. Once, my rallycross instincts took over and I got a false start. I feel very good and, despite a few dangerous moments, everything is great! I am more than happy with how this weekend went!” Reinis Nitišs, Neiksans Rally Sport, is clearly optimistic after the event.
Nitišs ©Rally Liepāja / MVFoto
It was an unlucky first part of the day for ERC3 leader Jari Huttunen (Opel Adam R2, co-driven by Antti Linnaketo), with the Finnish driver getting two punctures. That paved the way for Chris Ingram (Opel Adam R2, co-driven by Ross Whittock) to win both the event and the championship. Mārtiņš Sesks (Peugeot 208 R2, co-driven by Andris Mālnieks) was 18.7 seconds behind Ingram to claim second place.
“Yesterday we rolled the car, resulting in some water getting into the car in the first stage of this morning, making the race seem more like rallycross. There were no technical problems with the car, so we knew that it was possible to fight for a good result today. We were very fast on the first stage, but made a few errors on the next two, losing a bit of time. I was pleasantly surprised about the road condition which, despite the rain, was quite good. In order to realistically fight for a win, 10 second penalty was not there to help. Oh well, that is rally!” admits Mārtiņš Sesks, LMT Autosporta Akadēmija.
Sesks ©Rally Liepāja / MVFoto
Despite technical problems on day one, Jānis Berķis (Ford Fiesta R5, co-driven by Edgars Čeporjus) continued the event under Rally 2 rules, showing great pace on the second section, where he was fifth quickest. “After all the technical problems with sensors and lacking power, today was almost like the first day of the rally for us. The car was perfect, there was nothing to complain about. Throughout the day it got better and better, and we were able to demonstrate our true pace,” comments Jānis Berķis, Neiksans Rally Sport.
Berķis ©Rally Liepāja / MVFoto
Rally Liepāja winner Nikolay Gryazin also won the ERC Junior U28 class, where the title had already been won by Marijan Griebel. Meanwhile, the ERC Junior U27 championship was claimed by Chriss Ingram. With that, he also received a 100 000 EUR prize for continuing to improve his driving skills next season.
Along with the European championship, last round of the Latvian Rally Championship also took place today, with Kalle Rovanpera finishing just 0.2 seconds behind Nikolay Gryazin. Third place in overall classification was earned by Jānis Berķis. The top five was concluded by LRČ2 class winner Reinis Nitišs, and by Mārtiņš Sesks, who won LRČ3 class both today and overall, beating Oliver Solberg, son of world champion Petter, who completed his first season in second place. LRČ2 title was won by Alexander Mikhaylov. In RK1 class, Petr Turkin (Citroen DS3 R3T Racing, co-driven by Vasily Mirkotan) repeated his yesterday’s result, winning both the event and the championship.
Nikolay Gryazin also won the Neste prize for the best total time in SS10 and SS13, while his closest competitor Kalle Rovanpera, thanks to a better result on SS8, won the Castrol special prize. Alexander Karamishev Trophy, awarded to the winner of the last gravel stage in the Latvian Rally Championship, was handed to Nikolay Gryazin.
Results available on the Latvian Rally Championship website www.autorally.lv.
FIA European Rally Championship round Rally Liepāja is possible thanks to the support of the Latvian government and the rally city of Liepāja. We would also like to thank our sponsors Neste and Optibet Sporta Bārs, and our partner LDz Cargo. Thanks to the provider of official cars Autobrava, as well as supporters Baltijas Helikopters, Castrol, Canon ibServiss Rīga, Liepājas Olimpiskais Centrs, Liepājas SEZ, NPK Expert, Ramirent, and SweCon. Informative support is provided by news portal DELFI, rally radio Kurzemes Radio, as well as Go4Speed and Zebra. Rally Liepāja would also not be possible without our rally friends: Dardedze, Esi Draugs, FN Serviss, Jānis Pūce, Liepājas Datoru Centrs, Maksikoms, N&J, Red Bull, SignTech, Sixt, Sportland, Törley, and Venden. A special thank you goes out to the Latvian Automobile Federation. Rally Liepāja is organized by RA EVENTS and Speed Festival Kurzeme, with support by the regional councils of Durbe, Aizpute, and Priekule.