Season recap #8: Perfect ERC treble for Gryazin in Liepāja
Nikolay Gryazin completed a perfect FIA European Rally Championship weekend on Rally Liepāja, scoring overall victory, the class win and the ERC Junior U28 title* alongside co-driver Yaroslav Fedorov.
Gryazin extended his lead over nearest rival Chris Ingram with three stage wins on the final morning, before bringing his Pirelli-shod Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5 carefully to the finish line on the final three stages of the season.
Try as he might, Toksport WRT’s Ingram could not quite match Gryazin’s searing pace but secured a strong second place finish, which also secured him the runner-up spot in the ERC Junior U28 standings.
A titanic scrap over the final podium position went to the wire between Fredrik Åhlin and Fabian Kreim. Trading places multiple times across the weekend, Kreim had pulled in front by a mere 0.1s heading to the final stage but a monumental push by Åhlin won him back third place and the final stage by 8.1s from Gryazin.
Though fourth place finisher Kreim missed out on an overall podium, the leading quartet still demonstrated the strength of the ERC Junior Under 28 category for young stars in R5 cars by winning every stage combined, the first time in history that ERC Junior U28 drivers have won every stage of an ERC event.
Łukasz Habaj (eSky Rally Team) completed the top five finishers, retaking the position after Eyvind Brynildsen crashed out on stage 10 while chasing Åhlin and Kreim for third.
Filip Mareš (ACCR Czech Rally Team) and Rhys Yates (Kresta Racing) continued the ERC Junior U28 domination on Rally Liepāja, finishing sixth and seventh overall and fifth and sixth in class respectively. Both were aiming to build their confidence on the high-speed Latvian stages, outlasting several more experienced R5 rivals to secure strong finishes.
Ingram’s Toksport WRT team-mate Orhan Avcioğlu lost three minutes on the final stage after being forced to stop and change a puncture but still managed to retain eighth overall.
Tom Kristensson secured ERC Junior U27 honours while also finishing ninth overall, beating ADAC Opel Rallye Junior team-mate Mārtiņš Sesks for victory. Local favourite Sesks wrapped up the ERC3 title while also scoring a point in the overall ERC classification, completing the top 10 finishers.
ERC2 production class honours were secured by Sergei Remennik (Russian Performance Motorsport), recovering from a powersteering failure just before midday service to finish P12 in the ERC classification.
Emma Falcón was crowned ERC Ladies’ Trophy winner, scoring enough points to secure the title despite her main rival Catie Munnings (Saintéloc Junior Team) winning the event in their class.
Words of a winner (Nikolay Gryazin): “It feels good and I’m really satisfied. Our target wasn’t to push but to finish and now I can sleep well. I don’t show emotions too much but I’m really happy. We improved a lot this year, we had a good strategy and a good preparation for each event. Now I look to next year when I get two rounds of the ERC [in 2019] as my gift from Eurosport.”
FIA ERC1: Nikolay Gryazin (LVA)/Yaroslav Fedorov (RUS) ŠKODA Fabia R5
FIA ERC2: Sergei Remennik (RUS)/Mark Rozin (RUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
FIA ERC3: Tom Kristensson (SWE)/Henrik Appelskog (SWE) Opel ADAM R2
FIA ERC Junior Under 28: Nikolay Gryazin (RUS)/Yaroslav Fedorov (RUS) ŠKODA Fabia R5
FIA ERC Junior Under 27: Tom Kristensson (SWE)/Henrik Appelskog (SWE) Opel ADAM R2
ERC Ladies’ Trophy: Catie Munnings (GBR) PEUGEOT 208 R2