Friday | 01 Jul 2022

Battistolli edges Žala in Liepāja qualifier

Alberto Battistolli will have first pick of his Rally Liepāja road position after winning the Qualifying Stage on Friday afternoon.

The Italian driver averaged an impressive 121kph in his Pirelli-shod Škoda Fabia Rally2 to outpace Vaidotas Žala’s similar machine by just 0.03sec over the 3.77km Liepeni warm-up blast. 

The pace was hot, with just 1.5sec blanketing the top ten as the ERC’s Latvian encounter got underway in earnest. 

Battistolli was surprised to take his first-ever Qualifying Stage win and felt his time could have been even better had it not been for a turbo pop-off valve issue.

“I am really surprised, actually,” he said. “We had some problems with the pop-off valve - It opened at least two times during the stage. All the way through, I was thinking we were losing time.

“Of course, it’s a really nice way to start our rally, but it’s going to be a different story tomorrow. We know it will not be easy, so we will pick a good road position tonight and do our best,” he added.

Paddon started strongly with his brand-new Hyundai

Hayden Paddon completed the leading trio just 0.152sec slower than the pacesetter. The Kiwi is using this weekend’s fixture as a warm-up for WRC Rally Estonia and only took delivery of his Hyundai i20 N Rally2 earlier this week. 

Gregor Jeets brought his Škoda home just 0.015sec behind Paddon, followed by fifth-placed Nil Solans in another i20 N. Solans was 0.057sec faster than KOWAX Racing team-mate Tom Kristensson, who is driving a first-generation i20 R5. 

Home hero Mārtiņš Sesks was the highest-placed Team MRF Tyres Fabia driver in seventh and had team-mate and championship leader Efrén Llarena hot on his heels.

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Ken Torn ended ninth in a Ford Fiesta Rally2, with flying Frenchman Yoann Bonato completing the top ten in a Citroën C3 Rally2.   

Crews will attend a ceremonial start in Liepāja city centre later Friday evening before the rally gets underway in the Talsi region on Saturday morning. 

  • Full coverage from Rally Liepāja is available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.