Tue 05 Jul 2022

Llarena’s Power Stage push was the cherry on Liepāja cake

FIA European Rally Championship leader Efrén Llarena says his drive to steal second overall in the Tet Rally Liepāja Power Stage was the cherry on the cake.

The Spaniard spent most of the rally as the closest challenger to MRF Tyres team-mate - and eventual winner - Mārtiņš Sesks, but came under pressure from Finn Mikko Heikkilä on Sunday afternoon. 

Heikkilä stole the runner-up spot with two stages remaining and started the finale with a 5.4sec buffer to his rival.

But Llarena and co-driver Sara Fernández emulated their epic Azores Rallye Power Stage run, pulling back a mighty 6.1sec over the 18.71km blast to secure a Team MRF Tyres 1-2. 

“In the Power Stage, we pushed so hard to get P2,” he told FIAERC.com. “I knew how important it was for the brand to have the first and second cars on the podium.

“That was the cherry on the cake. Sometimes, you come to a high-speed rally like this and you are thinking, ‘Okay, maybe I am going to lose some points here’. 

“I already knew the stages in this rally had more speed than in Poland, but I actually preferred the roads here more,” he added. 

Llarena’s result - coupled with title rival Nil Solans’ low score - moved him 46 points clear in the championship standings with three rounds remaining.  

He praised the efforts of his team, and also explained how its brand-new development tyre helped unlock more pace. 

“For sure - for the team, for MRF Tyres and for our championship, this is just incredible. We came here fighting. 

“Immediately in the pre-event test when we put this new tyre on the car, it was completely different. We had much more feeling and it was working straight away. 

“Okay, Mārtiņš was in another league - but we were fighting with Heikkilä, Solans, Kristensson and lots of guys. Overall, it’s really good for us.”

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