2021 FIA European Rally Championship has a very tight schedule – Rally Liepāja that takes place from 1 to 3 July is the second gravel rally in a row that participants have to overcome in the first series of the ERC rounds. The third round – Rally di Roma Capitale is held in two weeks after the finish in Liepāja. A total of 89 crews are set for action across the main ERC-counting international rally and the Latvian championship national section. The Russians Alexey Lukyanuk and Dmitry Eremeev, supported by Citroën Racing и Pirelli, are ready to start at the second ERC round in Latvia. The crew will drive Citroën C3 Rally2, prepared by the French team Saintéloc. Alexey Arnautov, the permanent Lukyanuk’s co-driver, took a small break, because he cannot be absent at work so often.
A key component of the ERC calendar since it first ran in 2013, the Latvia-based event welcomes a record-breaking, talent-packed driver line-up, new cars, new teams, new categories, new rules, plus the latest crop of exciting young guns aiming to prove their worth as they continue the step up from national level to the world stage via the ERC. A best-ever 62 crews have entered the Rally Liepāja with 60 eligible for ERC points.
Rally Liepāja was originally a winter event but it was switched to autumn in 2016 for more guaranteed weather. The new date effectively made for an all-new rally as crews adjusted to gravel roads free of snow and ice. Although the time of year had changed, the high-speed stages in western Latvia continued to thrill drivers and spectators alike. Organizers of this forward-thinking event made more changes for 2019 with a late May date and an expanded route taking in popular stages around the Talsi region.
The main changes for 2021: Taking place in July for the first time, Rally Liepāja enters unchartered territory with a Saturday rather than a Sunday finish. Apart from SS7/ SS10, Neste, all stages have been modified since 2020. Special stage Talsi is a new one for 2021.
Rally Liepāja is all about high-speed gravel stages. Following Free Practice and the Qualifying Stage on 1 July, crews head northeast from Liepāja to the city of Talsi on Friday 2 July where the opening leg’s four special stages are located. A remote service at Talsi provides brief respite and a chance for minor repairs and new tyres. Crews are due back in Liepāja by 19h48. Saturday’s route (July 3) features two double-use stages – Neste (Paplaka) и Liepāja (Vecspils) plus the single-use Invest in Liepāja (Mazbojas) and Canon Biznesa centrs Liepāja (Podnieki). Three stages take place in the morning with a further three following midday service in Liepāja, where the finish is scheduled at 17h10.
Alexey Lukyanuk and Dmitry Eremeev were able to test their car perfectly before the start at the Free Practice: there was a personal test session with a racing engineer. By the way, thanks to the fact that the team has only one crew of Lukyanuk and Eremeev for service for this race, the crew was able to test many car settings.
Alexey Lukyanuk, driver, “All our rivals are gunning for us. They are going to fight with us, but we are not going to do this. We would like to drive this rally very fast and nice. And let’s see, what happens. We did a huge amount of work: we drove about a hundred kilometers, tried a lot of things that we were going to try for a long time, and now we have used this opportunity. I’m very happy with how the tests went. And I hope that during the race I will be satisfied with these settings – everything works great. We tried to take some special effects into account and, anticipating such possible nuances, we approached the setting more thoughtfully. Tomorrow is a long day – we’ll have to drive many kilometers in a road mode – there is about a hundred kilometers between the special stages in two regions. Let’s have fun!”