Gryazin’s great: Former ERC1 Junior champion fastest on Rally Liepaja Qualifying Stage
Two-time winner Nikolay Gryazin has gained an edge over his FIA European Rally Championship rivals by clocking the fastest time on Rally Liepāja’s Qualifying Stage this afternoon.
Driving a Hyundai i20 R5 alongside new co-driver Aleksandrov Konstantin, Gryazin completed the 4.61-kilometre Welcome to Latvia stage in a table-topping 2m12.548s.
“I’m quite happy but it’s difficult to start to push after a long rest and the competition is really tough, it’s not easy,” said the 2018 ERC1 Junior champion. “We made a little mistake on the last corner but it’s happening sometimes. The rest was okay.”
Miko Marczyk, ORLEN Team’s Polish champion, was the top ERC1 Junior in a strong second overall driving a Sports Racing Technologies-run Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo.
“It’s good, one more time on gravel, it’s not easy for me but a great pleasure to drive on these roads,” said Marczyk, who posted a 2m12.728s having gone quickest in Free Practice 2. “I’m happy to start this rally with such a time in this competition. I’m really happy.”
Oliver Solberg (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5) was third fastest with Finnish ERC newcomers Mikko Heikkilä and Eerik Pietarinen fourth and fifth respectively with Mads Østberg sixth in a PH Sport Citroën C3 R5. “I looked at the board and thought 12 was a good time and realised it was my time,” said Solberg, last season’s Rally Liepāja winner. “I got a good and clean run so I’m happy.”
Østberg said: “It was quite okay but the line changed a lot since my second pass of [free practice]. I did not have a perfect run and had to go really narrow and was not so comfortable but it was the best I can do for now.”
Emil Lindholm (Team MRF Tyres) blamed a “moment on a fast corner” for not breaking into the top three, the Finn settling for seventh instead with Craig Breen, European championship leader Alexey Lukyanuk and Raul Jeets next up.
American Sean Johnston was P11 on his first appearance on gravel in a Rally2-specification car. Rallye Team Spain’s ERC3 Junior champion Efrén Llarena was P12 after estimating he lost one second with a mistake at the final corner. Niki Mayr-Melnhof (P13), Alberto Battistolli (P14) and Dominik Dinkel will also take part in today’s start selection ceremony in Liepāja.
Elsewhere, Dmitry Feofanov headed the ERC2 runners with hometown hero Mārtiņš Sesks fastest in ERC3 and Pirelli-supported ERC3 Junior in his Ford Fiesta Rally4. Dariusz Poloński was the quickest of the Abarth Rally Cup contenders.
Click here for the Qualifying Stage times.