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Event preview: Young rally stars eye the prize on ERC Junior U28 finale

2018-10-05T10:59:45+02:00October 5th, 2018|2018, Rally Liepaja|

As well as bidding to win the ERC Junior U28 […]

As well as bidding to win the ERC Junior U28 title on Rally Liepāja, the talented trio will battle for a prize drive in a World Rally Car on a European round of the world championship in 2019**, which goes to the eventual champion. Inaugural title-winner Marijan Griebel used his prize to score overall points on ADAC Rallye Deutschland last August driving a Citroën DS3 WRC.

Russian Gryazin, who lives in the Latvian capital Riga and competes under a Latvian licence, is in a strong position to land ERC Junior U28 gold. The 20-year-old, who won Rally Liepāja outright in 2017, has three class wins to his name this season. With regulations allowing drivers to count their best four scores only, a fourth victory would ensure the Sports Racing Technologies’ driver becomes champion, regardless of what Ingram and Kreim can achieve in their similar ŠKODA Fabia R5s.

“We hope to win the ERC Junior U28 title and the event itself,” said Gryazin. “We will push for the title but not to the absolute max because I have to be careful as this is the last chance to score points.”

Brit Ingram (Toksport WRT) and ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland’s double German champion Kreim have both taken a win apiece this year. With one round remaining, Ingram is seven points down on Gryazin with Kreim one point further back.

Ingram, who graduated to the category for young stars in R5 cars as the Pirelli-supported ERC Junior U27 champion from 2017, said: “We have to win this event. We need to just go flat out although that’s going to be an incredibly difficult thing to do. But we learned a lot in Poland and improved a lot so you never know.”

Third-placed Kreim said: “I don’t think we hold the best cards in the fight for the championship. We are in third position and have a lot less experience on gravel than Nikolay and Chris. But we promise to fight to the very end. Hopefully we can find a good rhythm and then learn as much as we can.”

As well as the three title chasers, Swede Fredrik Åhlin is a known quantity on gravel, as is Briton Rhys Yates, who will be competing in Latvia one week after contesting his country’s round of the world championship. Yates is back in a Fabia R5 for Roman Kresta’s eponymous squad, which also oversees the ACCR Czech Rally Team entry of Filip Mareš. Backed by his national federation, Mareš made his gravel debut in an R5 car on last month’s PZM Rally Poland and was able to build his experience throughout the event, as did PEUGEOT Rally Academy’s rapid Frenchman Laurent Pellier.

*Subject to confirmation of the final results by the FIA
**In order to serve the best interests of the eventual ERC Junior U28 champion, FIA European Rally Championship promoter Eurosport Events will offer a financial grant of €100,000 for a programme of ERC events in 2019 in an R5 car as an alternative to the World Rally Car prize drive. There is no restriction on team or car choice but the grant has to cover two ERC rallies will paid in two instalments: €50,000 after the first and €50,000 after the second.

Home hero Sesks prepares for high-speed lap of honour in ERC Junior 27
With the Pirelli-supported FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship secured*, Mārtiņš Sesks will be able to treat his home event as a high-speed lap of honour. The ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team driver, who hails from Liepāja, was part of the ERC Junior Experience driver training programme 12 months ago but is now savouring the capture of a hugely important title for rising talents in R2 cars. “Coming to my home rally as the newly-crowned ERC Junior Under 27 champion is much better than I had dreamed of before the beginning of the season,” said the 19-year-old. “It’s going to be a gravel festival around my home town in front of the eyes of family, friends and fans. It’s going to be tough and spectacular.” Tom Kristensson partners Sesks at the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team, driving a second ADAM R2. The Swede won the last round in Poland and also triumphed in the RC4 category when he made his ERC debut on Rally Liepāja last October. Promising Norwegian Sindre Furuseth will be hoping to put a run of bad luck behind him in his ADAM, while Finn Miika Hokkanen demonstrated his gravel potential with third in Poland for the Saintéloc Junior Team, which runs a second PEUGEOT 208 R2 for ERC Ladies’ Trophy title contender Catie Munnings. Hungary’s Kristóf Klausz and Austrian Roland Stengg will also be in contention for strong finishes in Latvia, as will Italian Mattia Vita, who has finished fourth in class on the last three events. ACCR Czech Rally Team’s Dominik Brož is still working to finalise his participation on the event due to a combination of funding and parts-supply issues. Having completed his competitive schedule for the season, which included a maiden class triumph in Poland, Rally Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena will be in Liepāja for the ERC Junior Experience training programme and event reconnaissance.

ERC2 champion Érdi Jr steps up with ŠKODA Fabia R5
Tibor Érdi Jr
will step up to the FIA European Rally Championship’s big league when he contests the Rally Liepāja in a ŠKODA Fabia R5. Hungarian Érdi Jr claimed the ERC2 title* for the second year running with his fourth victory of the campaign on Barum Czech Rally Zlín in late August. And with championship honours secured, the 35-year-old Érdi Jr will switch from Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X to ŠKODA Fabia R5 power in Latvia as part of preparations for 2019 when a full season of R5 action is being targeted. “We skipped Rally Poland to collect our ŠKODA Fabia R5 and we’re very excited to have this opportunity at the end of a great season for us,” said Érdi Jr. “We drove a ŠKODA Fabia R5 on the Mikulás Rally in Hungary two years ago and now we’re beginning our preparations for next year by doing as many kilometres as possible. I learn a World Rally Car for many years so it’s not a problem to drive this faster car, which opens a new feeling for me.”

Falcón and Munnings equal in ERC Ladies’ Trophy title chase
The battle for the ERC Ladies’ Trophy will be decided on the final round of the FIA European Rally Championship in Latvia. After seven events, Emma Falcón and Catie Munnings are equal on 275 points when dropped scores are taken into account. Munnings, part of the Saintéloc Junior Team line-up in a PEUGEOT 208 R2, has top-scored on the last three events, including September’s PZM Rally Poland, which Falcón was unable to contest, and won the ERC Ladies’ Trophy in 2016 in her first season of rallying. Having campaigned an R3-specification Citroën DS3 since the start of the year, Canary Islander Falcón switches to a 208 R2, putting her in direct competition with Munnings and removing the power advantage she once enjoyed.

Baltic talents swell Rally Liepāja entry
Several top talents from the Baltic States will be in action on Rally Liepāja. They include recently-crowned FIA European Rallycross champion Reinis Nitišs from Lativa and Lithuanian Vytautas Švedas, a double national champion. Nitišs and Švedas will be among the contenders for ERC2 honours, while Latvian Jānis Berķis pilots a top-of-the-range Ford Fiesta R5.

Solberg Jr brings one to watch in ERC3
*Oliver Solberg, the teenaged son of former world champion Petter Solberg, will make his FIA European Rally Championship debut having impressed in the national section of Rally Liepāja last season. The Norwegian is one of 15 drivers in the ERC3 division, which also includes his compatriot Sindre Furuseth. Solberg’s partnership with co-driver Veronica Engan has resulted in Eyvind Brynildsen, another Norwegian talent on the entry, recruiting Austrian Ilka Minor to co-drive his Ford Fiesta R5 as he bids for a strong result.

And in other news…
*Toksport WRT’s Orhan Avcioglu, from Turkey, will continue his learning mission when he makes his Rally Liepāja debut having shown plenty of promise in the ERC thus far.
*Former Polish champion Łukasz Habaj will make his third start in a ŠKODA Fabia R5 having switched from a Ford Fiesta R5. He finished on the podium on Rally Liepāja in 2017.
*Sergei Remennik returns to ERC2 duty in Latvia armed with a new livery on his Russian Performance Motorsport Mitsubishi Lancer. The new look keeps tradition with Remennik’s traditional black and green colour scheme but is now more refined.
*Austrian Niki Mayr-Melnhof makes his ERC debut in a Ford Fiesta R5, while Paulo Nobre will complete his season-long campaign in a Motorsport Italia Fabia R5, having travelled from Brazil for each event.
*Romanian Simone Tempestini will make his second start in a Fiat 124 Abarth RGT on gravel having tried the car on loose surfaces for the first time on Rally Poland last month.

Watch and listen
Highlights from both legs will be shown on Eurosport and available on Eurosport Player. ERC Radio will broadcast live from stage finishes and selected service park visits.

ERC standings
Click here for provisional standings after Round 7 of 8

ERC statistics
ERC rally wins in 2018: Lukyanuk 3, Galatariotis, Gryazin, Kopecký and Magalhães 1
ERC stage wins in 2018: Lukyanuk 30; Gryazin 12; Magalhães 8; Al-Attiyah 7 and Huttunen 7; Basso, Campedelli, Jakeš and Nordgren 3; Botka, Herczig and Kreim 2; Åhlin, Avcioǧlu, Brynildsen, Ingram, Mareš, Moura, Pellier, Ptaszek and Tsouloftas 1

*Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA.