Torn opens a lead in tight ERC3 Junior battle
Ken Torn leads fellow Ford Fiesta R2T driver Jean-Baptiste Franceschi in a tight battle in the FIA ERC3 Junior Championship on day one of Rally Liepāja.
Entered by the Estonian Autosport Junior Team, Torn became the third different ERC3 Junior leader in as many stages when he was quickest on SS3, but another fastest time on SS4 helped him to finish the day 12.8 seconds in the lead.
Franceschi, who took the ERC3 Junior win on asphalt last time out in the Canary Islands, improved stage-by-stage during the day as he moved up from seventh place. Going quickest on SS5 allowed him to take second overall away from early leader Sindre Furuseth.
Saintéloc Junior Team driver Furuseth was quickest in SS1 but fell to fifth after picking up a front-right puncture towards the end of SS2. After recovering ground, an overshoot in SS5 left him third at the end of the day, five seconds behind Franceschi.
Fellow Norwegian Peugeot 208 R2 driver Steve Røkland rose from sixth to first on SS2 before slipping back to fourth with minor suspension damage.
ERC3 Junior points leader Efrén Llarena was quick out of the blocks – second fastest in SS1 – and was then pushed down to seventh after SS2, but the Rally Team Spain youngster ended the day fifth, 5.9s away from Røkland.
Pedro Antunes was as high as third at one point on his debut in a 2019-specification Fiesta and sits sixth overnight for FPAK Portugal Team ERC, with ACCR Czech Rally Team’s Erik Cais seventh and ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team driver Grégoire Munster eighth. Ninth-placed Kristof Klausz showed promise with the third-best time on SS5.
Roman Schwedt is P10 in ERC3 Junior, frustrated by a series of overshoots, with Dominik Brož one place behind. Gregor Jeets, Torn’s stablemate in the Estonian Autosport Junior Team, lost eight minutes when he stopped with a turbo issue in SS3.
Miikka Hokkanen was third after SS1 and still within the top five before he lost a wheel in SS4 and had to retire. Elias Lundberg went off the road in his Opel Adam on the opening test.
Peugeot Rally Academy driver Yohan Rossel was unhappy with his times, ending the day P10 in ERC3, with Sean Johnston just 6.7 seconds behind him. Catie Munnings is P14 and on course for an ERC Ladies’ Trophy win.