Qualifying well to earn a good starting position has always been a key part of FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) events - particularly those on gravel.
But, tomorrow’s deciding test at Liepieni is potentially the most important of them all.
The surface of western Latvia’s gravel roads is slightly unique, with a fine top layer of small pebble-like stones.
As more cars pass, that layer is cleared away to reveal a cleaner and grippier surface, but crews starting near the front won’t have that luxury.
Title challenger Nil Solans knows this only too well. Last year, the Spaniard started sixth on the opening leg and then had to open the road throughout Sunday. He ended up finishing way back in 11th overall.
“100 per cent, the Qualifying Stage will be so important,” Solans told FIAERC.com. “Last year I had to basically sweep the road for the whole event and it was a total disaster.
“This is a really high-speed rally, and when you are cleaning the road there are a lot of these really small stones. It’s so slippery and you have no speed.
“It makes a huge difference,” he continued, “not only on the corners and with the grip, but also to the top speed. The car is running a lot faster when the road is clean and there is no dust or small stones.
“On one of the stages last year, for example, my top speed was 20kph faster on the second pass than it was in the first pass.”
The first car will start the Liepieni qualifier at 1715hrs (local time) on Friday. Start order selection will take place later in the evening before the ceremonial start in Liepāja.
- Full coverage from Tet Rally Liepaja will be 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.