ERC event preview: Rally Liepaja

ERC event preview: Rally Liepaja

17.05.2019: One of the fastest and most spectacular rallies on the schedule awaits the FIA European Rally Championship crews when Rally Liepaja hosts the third round of the all-action 2019 ERC season and the second event to count for the all-new Abarth Rally Cup

One of the fastest and most spectacular rallies on the schedule awaits the FIA European Rally Championship crews when Rally Liepāja hosts the third round of the all-action 2019 ERC season and the second event to count for the all-new Abarth Rally Cup.



Essentials


What: FIA European Rally Championship round 3 of 8*
When: 24-26 May 2019
Where: Liepāja, Latvia
Stages: 13
Distance: 207.98 kilometres
Surface: Gravel
ERC appearances (since 2004 restructuring): 6 (2013-2018)




*Also counting for: FIA ERC1 Junior Championship, FIA ERC3 Junior Championship, ERC2, ERC3, FIA European Rally Championship for Teams, ERC Nations’ Cup, ERC Ladies’ Trophy, Abarth Rally Cup



Recent winners:



2018: Nikolay Gryazin/Yaroslav Fedorov (ŠKODA Fabia R5)
2017: Nikolay Gryazin/Yaroslav Fedorov (ŠKODA Fabia R5)
2016: Ralfs Sirmacis/Arturs Šimins (ŠKODA Fabia R5)
2015: Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Peugeot 208 T16)
2014: Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (ŠKODA Fabia S2000)





Overview



One of the fastest and most spectacular rallies on the schedule awaits the FIA European Rally Championship crews when Rally Liepāja hosts the third round of the all-action 2019 ERC season and the second event to count for the all-new Abarth Rally Cup. Forty-five crews will chase ERC points on the high-speed Latvian event from 24-26 May, with a record 23 eligible for ERC Junior to underline the championship’s ongoing efforts to provide a platform of progression for young talents from national level aiming for the top of the sport.



Early title pacesetter Łukasz Habaj heads the overall list for the Latvia-based Sports Racing Technologies operation, which expands to a two-car attack with the inclusion of teenage hope Oliver Solberg. Petter Solberg’s son is seeded number 10, one place ahead of hometown hero Mārtiņš Sesks, taking part in one of two prize drives as his reward for winning the ERC3 Junior title in 2018. Chris Ingram, the ERC1 Junior leader after two rounds, is the second seed followed by double ERC Junior title winner Marijan Griebel.



Defending ERC champion Alexey Lukyanuk is the fifth seed for what will be a wide-open battle for victory. ERC2 has a season-high eight entrants, including three drivers from the new-for-2019 Abarth Rally Cup, while Efrén Llarena, leader of the Pirelli-supported ERC3 Junior category, tops a 19-strong ERC3 line-up. Aside from the exciting entry, Rally Liepāja has undergone significant changes for its seventh consecutive ERC appearance.




Moving from October to May, Rally Liepāja’s opening leg on Saturday 25 May is based around Talsi, which has allowed organisers to include what are described as Latvia’s ‘golden fund’ of stages, before reverting to more traditional territory for the closing leg on Sunday 26 May. This year’s Rally Liepāja coincides with the annual FIA Volunteers Weekend and ERC drivers will be celebrating those who give up their time for free to help make motorsport events happen.





Rally Liepāja in 100 words




The brainchild of driver turned promoter Raimonds Strokšs and first run to great acclaim in 2013, Rally Liepāja was originally a winter event but switched to autumn for 2016 to ensure more guaranteed weather. The new date effectively made for an all-new rally as crews adjusted to gravel stages 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. For autumn read late spring in 2019 as this forward-thinking event moves to late May and an expanded route with stages in the Talsi region too.




What’s new for 2019?


While Liepāja remains the event’s hub, the stages will cover a much wider area than ever before with roads around Talsi to the north included for the first time. A move forwards from October to May is the other big change for 2019.



Changes to the ERC include the renaming of the ERC Junior categories: ERC Junior Under 28 becomes ERC1 Junior, ERC Junior U27 becomes ERC3 Junior with continued support from Pirelli. Meanwhile, R4-K and RGT cars are eligible for ERC2 points, the Abarth Rally Cup will be contested over six ERC rounds, while Rally Hungary joins the calendar for the first time as the deciding round in November.





Form guide: Efrén Llarena


The Rally Team Spain prospect is playing the title game. After winning ERC3 Junior in the Azores, Llarena settled for a podium on Rally Islas Canarias rather than risk all for a second win. And the approach is paying off as he prepares for his first Rally Liepāja, although he did complete the recce last October.




How to follow?


On TV and online: Live coverage of selected stages on Facebook. Daily highlights on Eurosport and YouTube. ERC All Access on Eurosport on 28 May. Event highlights broadcast around the world.

Videos, news update and live timing: Available at FIAERC.com

ERC Radio: Live from the end of all stages and selected service park visits. Available at FIAERC.com or download the official ERC App



Social media: Follow the ERC on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

Don’t miss! ERC Junior champion Sesks in home prize drive R5 debut


Mārtiņš Sesks will make his debut in an R5 car on his home round of the FIA European Rally Championship as the first of two prize drives for winning the ERC3 Junior crown in 2018. Teen talent Sesks, 19, had been due to take up his first prize drive on Rally Islas Canarias, but submitted a request to ERC promoter Eurosport Events to switch the Spanish asphalt event to his home rally. The request also required the approval of partner team Motorsport Italia but was swiftly approved. The second prize drive, planned for July’s Rally di Roma Capitale, is unaffected by the change of events. Sesks, who is from Liepāja and is the son of the city’s mayor Uldis Sesks, an ex-rally driver, will pilot a Pirelli-equipped ŠKODA Fabia R5.





- Richard Rodgers, photos FIA ERC

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/erc-rally-liepaja-preview---190782.html

17.05.2019 / MaP

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