ERC Junior U28: Gryazin edges ahead of title rivals on penultimate day
Nikolay Gryazin is one day away from clinching a maiden FIA ERC Junior Under 28 Championship title and a world championship prize drive, outdriving rivals Chris Ingram and Fabian Kreim with five stage wins on Rally Liepāja.
Entering this weekend in the strongest position for title points, Gryazin was laser-focussed on beating his fellow young stars in R5 cars, ignoring the overall standings to concentrate on defeating Ingram and Kreim. Such was his pace on Saturday, he finished leg one leading both his class and the overall rally classification.
His lead remained secure despite a late drama, with Gryazin picking up a puncture on the final stage of the day and nursing a tyre that had come off its rim for several kilometres. It was the only stage on which he was bested, losing a mere 0.6s.
Last year’s ERC Junior Under 27 champion Ingram still ran Gryazin close throughout, pushing as hard as he dared. At one point he pushed too far, spinning on a fast fifth gear corner and ending up on a bank.
Luckily for Ingram, he was able to continue and his time loss was also negligible, as Gryazin had a spin of his own on the same test. The pair are now separated by 19s.
Fabian Kreim is the last championship protagonist mathematically able to catch Gryazin, though was preoccupied by a close battle for third place with Fredrik Åhlin. The ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland driver briefly took third place away from Åhlin on stage two, then moved back into the podium places again on leg one’s penultimate test, demoting the CA1 Sport driver to fourth.
ACCR Czech Team’s Filip Mareš gradually improved his pace throughout the day, moving past PEUGEOT Rally Academy talent Laurent Pellier for fifth place just before midday service and building a 47.6s gap.
Pellier finished sixth on the road by the end of stage six but looks set to retire and restart under Rally2 rules tomorrow. He coasted to the finish line with his engine switched off, water temperatures having crept up aboard his car. An hour later, he was still parked next to the finish of stage six, making it unlikely he will reach service and be able to keep his position.
Should Pellier’s technical problems prove terminal, seventh placed Rhys Yates will move up a position. Running a Kresta Racing-prepared Fabia, Yates was focussed on acclimatising to Liepāja’s fast roads. His only drama was a suspected failure on the rear-left corner of his car with two kilometres remaining on the final stage, causing handling issues.