Fri 16 Jun 2023

Sesks sensational with home ERC qualifying best

Mārtiṇš Sesks set the standard his FIA European Rally Championship rivals will have to beat with the fastest run on the Qualifying Stage for Tet Rally Liepāja.

The home hero, who is going for back-to-back victories in the ERC and on Latvia’s high-speed gravel event, took 3min 10.7sec to make it through the 6.13km Mazilmāja test in his Team MRF Tyres Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.

Following his flying start to round four of the season Sesks, who is co-driven by fellow Latvian Renars Francis, said: “You know, I’m really happy to be back at home. It was stressful before the rally, but now we're here, it's beautiful.”

By going fastest in qualifying, Liepāja-born Sesks will be the first driver to choose his starting position for Saturday’s opening during the start order selection ceremony, which is scheduled for 20:15 local time beside the Great Amber concert hall in his home city.

Meanwhile, Robert Virves, the FIA Junior WRC champion (below), set a sensational second-best time aboard his Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally2. With Craig Drew back co-driving, Virves clocked a 3min 11.780sec. “We obviously tried but we didn’t expect it to be so good actually, but I have to take it,” the Estonian said.

Erik Cais continued his return to form with the third fastest time aboard his Michelin-shod Fabia, 1.047sec slower than Sesks. The Czech driver said: “It was good, we enjoyed and everything is much easier when you are happy so let’s bring the positive vibes into the rally.”

Returning to action from shoulder surgery and driving a Fabia RS Rally2 in the ERC for the first time, Alberto Battistolli (below) said he was “really happy” with his fourth fastest time, a 3min 12.156s. “I was very, very frightened because everybody was going so fast,” the Italian said. “I thought I would take a lot of seconds but I’m really happy, I didn’t expect it.”

Mads Østberg reckoned his 3min 12.186sec effort was as good as it would get in his MRF Tyres Dealer Team Citroën C3 Rally2. “It felt quite okay to be honest, we are leaving maybe half a second, but I'm on the limit. With what I had I did what I could.”

On his switch back to the previous generation Fabia, European champion Efrén Llarena was sixth quickest on a 3min 12.547sec, one position ahead of Simone Campedelli, in a second Team MRF Tyres-entered Fabia Rally2 Evo.

Championship leader Hayden Paddon was the first driver to tackle the Qualifying Stage aboard his BRC Racing Team Hyundai i20 N Rally2. After posting a 3min 12.593sec, the New Zealander said: “I took it reasonably carefully, trying to look after the tyres because I’m going to need them all [for the rally]. We won’t make it easy for [Sesks] and we’ll try to put the pressure on.”

Behind Paddon, Mathieu Franceschi and Filip Mareš completed the top 10 with Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy’s Josh McErlean next as Andrea Mabellini reported a lack of confidence after crashing out of ORLEN 79th Rally Poland last month.

The first of back-to-back runs of the 27.56km Tukums test forms SS1 from 11:00 local time tomorrow (Saturday).

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM