Latvian Rally Liepāja starts in a few days, on Friday. It is the last round of the FIA European Rally Championship that will finally determine ERC champions and prize-winners in all categories. The crews of Russian Performance Motorsport Team – Alexey Lukyanuk / Alexey Arnautov (Ford Fiesta R5) and Sergei Remennik / Mark Rozin (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) will participate in these battles on the tracks near Liepaja and finish their big international season in 2017…
This year the Latvian rally will celebrate a kind of anniversary – the race will be held for the fifth time in the FIA ERC round status! The most interesting fact is that originally Rally Liepāja was conceived as a winter round of the European Championship, and it was held like this from 2013 to 2015. However the anomalous warming in the winter of 2016 forced the race organizers and the European Championship promoter to transfer Rally Liepāja to September at the last moment… After that the Baltic ERC round was finally “re-qualified” and moved from the snow-ice cover to gravel.
So, what should be decided in Latvia? First of all, Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Bruno Magalhaes will finally determine who will become the Champion of Europe – the advantage is still on the Pole’s side, he is aimed for a new ERC record (nobody has managed to win the European Champion title three times in a row). Alexey Lukyanuk has another goal – to secure his third place at the end of the season that will allow him to extend his series to three consecutive podiums in the overall ERC standings (he was the third in ERC-2015 and the second in ERC-2016). Sergei Remennik will start in Liepaja with the already guaranteed “bronze” in the ERC-2 standings.
It is interesting that in all the standings (from overall to ERC Ladies) you can count only five guaranteed positions on the podium at the end of the season. First, the German Marijan Griebel won the title in Junior ERC U28 (class R5). Second, Sergei Remennik secured the third place in ERC-2, but the question of the title holder in the “serial” category remains open – Zelindo Melegari is only four points ahead of Tibor Erdi. Third, in the ERC Ladies classification all three prize-winners (Tamara Molinaro, Catie Munnings and Emma Falcon) are known, and no changes are foreseen. There is no doubt that in Latvia everything will “flare”!
Today the Russian Performance Motorsport team had a test session, setting up cars after the Italian asphalt roads for the gravel roads of Latvia. The four-kilometer special stage, selected for tests, shows the nature of local roads well. The day passed in regular mode and both crews were satisfied with the work done.
Alexey Lukyanuk, “We participate in gravel Rally Liepaja for the third time. These roads were used in the Championship of Latvia, so we know them. It’s fast, wide and very cool in general to drive here, especially when you do it in Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution – it’s a great pleasure. It’s a little more complicated in the R5, because it’s necessary to feel the track, to drive carefully and to slide less. “Evo” allows more freedom of action. This time it will be slippery as rains pour constantly, and even now at tests we have knee-deep water. So it is dangerous in places, especially in forest areas – it is always wet because of the fallen leaves, and the surface is more fat and slippery there. It will be interesting, even though we are used to drive here on the dry surface, this time everything will be different, but all the participants will be on equal terms”.
The competition will start on Friday, when the free training and the qualification will be held at a short (3.02 km) special stage “Dunalka”, consisting mainly of long straight lines with few quick turns. On Saturday seven special stages are planned – five big ones plus two passes of town SS in Liepaja. On Sunday the main load is scheduled – six special stages and more than half of competitive distance. In total, the Rally Liepāja route has a “baker’s dozen” of special stages and 204.22 km of competitive distance.