WRC ORLEN 80th Rally Poland
Poland
Starts: Thursday, June 27, 2024 at 8:00:00 AM
ERC Delfi Rally Estonia
Estonia
Starts: Friday, July 5, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM
Ferratum World RX of Sweden 1
Sweden
Starts: Saturday, July 6, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM

Sat 17 Jun 2023

Liepaja ERC leader Sesks supreme in the dust and rain

Mārtiṇš Sesks is showing no sign of slowing down in his push for back-to-back victories in the FIA European Rally Championship – and a second in a row on his home event.

With leg one done and dusted in Latvia, Sesks and co-driver Renars Francis lead Tet Rally Liepāja by 28.3sec aboard their Team MRF Tyres-entered Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.

And it was dust on the opening test this morning (Saturday) that provided the early challenge for the ERC stars – and gave local hero Sesks another opportunity to showcase his huge ability.

Despite admitting to not being able to see where he was going in some sections, Sesks attacked the 27.56km Tukums stage with great bravado, storming through in 14min 30.5sec.

He was quickest by 16.4sec and the decision to cancel the rerun for safety reasons due to visibility issues came as somewhat of a relief for many of the Latvian’s rivals.

 

“This one was crazy,” Sesks said at the finish of SS1. “Half the stage I didn’t know where the stage is, where the corners are. You see these poles [by the side of the road] and you are navigating through the poles. In some places they had already been crashed off so in some places you are completely blind. My co-driver calls the corner in 30 metres and you are just somehow trying to feel where the corner is.”

With the second pass of Tukums axed, there was a long wait until crews were unleashed onto the mixed-surface Talsi stage, by which time the dry and dusty conditions of the morning had given way to persistent rain.

Sesks continued where he’d left off on Tukums 1, but Robert Virves came close to winning SS3, losing out by just 0.3sec. However, Sesks was more dominant on SS4, Īvande, by going 5.9sec faster than Pirelli-equipped championship leader Hayden Paddon (BRC Racing Team Hyundai i20 N Rally2), before going quickest again through the Snēpelē stage by 0.4sec over The Racing Factory’s Michelin-shod Mikko Heikkilä.

It meant he returned to his home city for the day-closing super special stage leading by 31.4 sec ahead of Paddon and Mads Østberg, who dropped time when his MRF Tyres Dealer Team Citroën C3 Rally2 stalled under braking for a corner and wouldn’t immediately restart.

While Sesks has been quick to play down the prospect of repeating his 2022 Tet Rally Liepāja performance when he won all stages, heavy rain for the sealed-surface test ultimately counted out a clean sweep of fastest times.

Behind Østberg, 2022 Junior WRC champion Virves, is fourth aboard his Ford Fiesta Rally2 to make it four different makes of car in the top four positions, such is the intensity of the competition in the ERC.

Finnish champion Heikkilä is fifth overall after suggesting that it felt like his Fabia Rally2 Evo car had dropped into front-wheel-drive mode. “Maybe the rear diff is not working in the perfect way but it’s difficult to say what is the reason,” he said.

Georg Linnamäe is sixth, just 2.3sec behind Heikkilä, having elected to run first on the road. Although he benefited from having no dust to contend with on SS1, the Estonian reported “terrible” traction on the loose gravel surface.

Josh McErlean moved ahead of Mathieu Franceschi for seventh on the Liepāja Cityy Stage with defending ERC champion Efrén Llarena ninth, 1.5sec behind Franceschi and ahead of his fellow Team MRF Tyres Fabia Rally2 Evo driver Simone Campedelli by 26.9sec.

Sunday’s deciding four-stage route is centred on the Dienvidkurzeme region with the new 19.59km Liepieni test up first from 08:55 followed by the Krogzemji stage from 10:05. Both are repeated after a service halt in Liepāja with the rerun of Liepieni due to begin at 13:00 ahead of the return to the 18.95km Krogzemji test, which will form the rally-deciding Power Stage when it’s run for a second time from 15:05 and features a section through a quarry.

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