ERC Junior review: Rally Liepaja

ERC Junior review: Rally Liepaja

28.05.2019: History was made on Rally Liepāja when ERC1 Junior newcomer Oliver Solberg became the youngest winner in the FIA European Rally Championship, adding stunning outright success to hi


History was made on Rally Liepāja when ERC1 Junior newcomer Oliver Solberg became the youngest winner in the FIA European Rally Championship, adding stunning outright success to his class triumph, as Ken Thorn won ERC3 Junior.


FIA ERC1 Junior Championship, Round 3 of 6
FIA ERC3 Junior Championship, Round 3 of 6



History was made on Rally Liepāja when ERC1 Junior newcomer Oliver Solberg became the youngest winner in the FIA European Rally Championship, adding stunning outright success to his class triumph.



Liepāja’s very own Mārtiņš Sesks, who was taking part in the first of two prize drives for winning the ERC3 Junior title in 2018, finished a hugely impressive second on his R5 debut with Chris Ingram strengthening his grip on the ERC1 Junior crown in third.



Czech federation-backed Filip Mareš was a fine fourth with newcomer Hiroki Arai from Japan in fifth as Sweden National Team’s Mattias Adielsson took sixth. Ingram’s Toksport WRT team-mate Alexandros Tsouloftas was seventh on his first high-speed gravel rally.



Estonian Autosport Junior Team’s Ken Torn took a debut victory in the Pirelli-supported ERC3 Junior category, chased home by Peugeot-driving Norwegians Sindre Furuseth and Steve Røkland. Jean-Baptiste Ley had been on course to make it a Ford Fiesta R2T 1-2 behind Torn until a costly error before stage nine dropped him back (see quotes below for details). The Frenchman finished fourth ahead of Rally Team Spain’s title leader Efrén Llarena and FPAK Portugal Team ERC’s Pedro Antunes.



Hungary’s Kristóf Klausz placed seventh with Germany’s Roman Schwedt scoring his first points in eighth as Finn Miika Hokkanen and Gregor Jeets from Estonia completed the top 10 followed by Swede Elias Lundberg, who restarted after crashing on leg one.



ACCR Czech Rally Team pair Dominik Brož and Erik Cais were less fortunate, both crashing out on the final day. Grégoire Munster parked his ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team Opel ADAM R2 with a broken driveshaft following contact. Quotes from all ERC Junior drivers in action in Latvia appear below.






Mattias Adielsson (SWE) ERC1 Junior
Co-driver: Andreas Johansson (SWE) Team: Sweden National Team Car: Citroën C3 R5 Position: Sixth



Adielsson had high hopes of a strong result on the closest thing to a ‘home’ rally for the Swede. Road position issues hurt his chances, although he did manage a top 10 overall finish for the first time



“I was aiming for a higher position on this rally but we were struggling with the road positon from the start and this put us in another rally all weekend. There was a lot of learning but we need more kilometres in the car although I was very happy with my driving on the final day. Andreas and me have done everything we could and we pushed really hard. I had one big moment on the last corner of SS5 but it was fun. It was 160kph sideways but changing down the gear to make the corner.”








Hiroki Arai (JPN) ERC1 Junior
Co-driver: Ilka Minor (AUT) Team: STARD Car: Citroën C3 R5 Position: Fifth



Impressive ERC1 Junior debut by the Japanese, who had plenty to learn (rally, car, co-driver, team and tyres) but he adapted quickly and showed good speed



“Considering this was the first time for me on this rally, my first time with my co-driver Ilka, my first time in this car and the first time on the Yokohama tyres, which is still a development tyre, this result is not so bad. We can improve a lot more in the future but we were making progress and getting as much information as possible. I had one overshoot in a junction and stalled the engine then on Sunday morning the car was always in stage mode and you couldn’t turn it off because of a connection problem. But I am happy.”






Chris Ingram (GBR) ERC1 Junior
Co-driver: Ross Whittock (GBR) Team: Toksport WRT Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5 Position: Third


He’s lacking budget to see out his title challenge but the points keep coming with a third podium in as many starts. His confidence struggles from the first two events were less evident in Latvia



“I know exactly where we are losing the speed so we just need to keep the pace consistently. But we’re close. It just takes a bit more kilometres because the car was working really well, the pacenotes were mega, the tyres perfect. It just takes me a little while to get into the zone and because I can’t afford to go off I need to get there gradually rather than just go flat out from the first corner and take big risks.



I just can’t afford to do that. We know we’re not pushing enough but it’s a tricky one. It’s easy to make a mistake and throw away a good position for the championship whereas the guys ahead had nothing to lose. On the second to last stage we hit a massive hole so we had to fix the radiator before the last one, but everything was fine and the last loop was really promising.”







Filip Mareš (CZE) ERC1 Junior
Co-driver: Jan Hloušek (CZE) Team: ACCR Czech Rally Team Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5 Position: Fourth



The Czech federation-backed talent’s third gravel rally in an R5 car ended in a fine fourth in class and sixth overall. But it was the experience gained that mattered most to the highly capable and honest driver



“We have to be satisfied with this result, just our third rally on gravel in an R5 car. Some stage times were good, some were worse but generally it was quite good for us and I would like to thank the whole team because it’s also their work. On the first morning we did some small mistakes and we had some small issues with the pop-off valve.




Generally, my performance in the second half of the first day was not what I wanted but I was trying to be patient, trying to make progress. I was a little too aggressive on the steering wheel and too wide in some so the time was not always the best. But we were on a good pace and to finish fourth in ERC1 Junior and sixth overall on my first gravel rally for eight months is quite satisfying after a difficult rally.”







Mārtiņš Sesks (LVA) ERC1 Junior
Co-driver: Krišjānis Caune (LVA) Team: LMT Autosporta Akadēmija Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5 Position: Second



As impressive performances go, this was in Oliver Solberg territory given it was the Liepāja resident’s debut in an R5 car, the first of two prize drives for winning the ERC3 Junior title in 2018



“For sure my experience was not that big and when I go into corners I was just feeling what the car does and what I’m doing, so it’s just practice all the time. We hit a straw bale in a narrow section in SS3. It was in first gear and I thought there should be nothing. But then I saw my front wing had come off but it was not problem and it has been a really nice experience to drive an R5. On slow corners and in hairpins in the R2 car you are chasing every millimetre in the corner.



But with the four-wheel drive you just go into the corner, you are sliding a bit but you have the torque and everything goes fast. I was feeling the lack of experience quite a lot, you need to be much faster with the steering for example. But I was able to build my confidence and my experience and this was my main objective. Before the rally I didn’t know how fast I would be so I didn’t have a position in mind. But I must be happy to finish in the top three. It was also nice to battle with the top guys, to be a couple of seconds from them.”






Oliver Solberg (SWE) ERC1 Junior
Co-driver: Aaron Johnston (GBR) Team: Sports Racing Technologies Car: Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 Position: First




Belied his 17 years to become the youngest winner of an FIA European championship counter on the back of a rapid, mature and largely error-free drive, his first on gravel in his Polo and his first in ERC Junior



“I have no words. It’s absolutely amazing. I’m so happy, it’s crazy. It’s the biggest day of my life. I have never driven so good as I’ve done now. It’s unbelievable, I can’t understand it. It’s been such a perfect rally. On the penultimate stage I was too cautious, I was driving too stiff. Then I thought I’ll just do what I’ve done the whole weekend and go flat out, and I won the last stage. I’m so happy. I was surprised I have to say on SS1 to be fastest by six seconds. I never expected that for sure.



OK, it wasn’t maybe the best plan on the long term but I always want to go hard from the beginning, so always flat out. Being fastest on the first stage was absolutely a dream. Alexey Lukyanuk has always been my hero and before the race I watched every video of him from Estonia, from Latvia, with the Evo, everything. I told my father, ‘how is it possible to go so fast?’ ‘I would never manage to do this,’ I said. And then I come on SS1 and I win it by six seconds, I was like ‘what just happened?’. It’s crazy.”






Alexandros Tsouloftas (CYP) ERC1 Junior
Co-driver: Antonis Chrysostomou (CYP) Team: Toksport WRT Car: ŠKODA Fabia R5 Position: Seventh




Adapted well to what was essentially unchartered territory for a driver used to the slower and more technical Cypriot stages. His speed was encouraging given his lack of experience



“We had a good position and a cleaner road on the first day and it was just fantastic, we’ve never carried so much speed in a corner before. Every single corner we were fixing our pacenotes for the second pass because our pacenotes were not so good for this type of rally and we didn’t expect to be able to go through corners so fast. Our road position on leg two was not helping us. There was too much sliding, too much wheelspin and everyone knows the stages while it’s my first time. Overall it was a nice rally, really fast and we were learning on every stage. I am happy with our result for the first time here.”






Pedro Antunes (PRT) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Paulo Lopes (PRT) Team: FPAK Portugal Team ERC Car: Ford Fiesta R2T Position: Sixth



FPAK-backed Antunes got to grips with high-speed gravel driving in a car he only sampled in testing during rally week, so much so that he took a stage win in the very competitive ERC3 Junior division



“I was happy to be at the finish. It was too much new things but I enjoyed it a lot. There are some crazy stages, so fast but beautiful. In stage three we went straight ahead in a junction and we lost some time. But we kept learning and kept trying to be as fast as we could to get the best result possible. We started leg two well with a win in the first stage but then we were more careful. Without those mistakes we could have been higher up in the classification.”






Dominik Brož (CZE) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Petr Tĕšínský (CZE) Team: ACCR Czech Rally Team Car: Peugeot 208 R2 Position: DNF (accident)




Brož was in the mix for a points finish on his first Rally Liepāja since 2017 when he went off the road on stage seven and rolled, inflicting car damage that his bank account and time schedule can ill afford



“I enjoyed the fast stages, we were driving clean and the pacenotes were good. The other guys were more experienced than me because they did the rally last year, I did not. That meant I was losing time to them. Then on stage seven, a right-three corner five kilometres before the finish, I brake for the corner, I go into the field but I don’t see the ditch. I hit the ditch and rolled two times. This is rally. The car is not bad but I will have lots of work because next week I must rent the car to a customer in Czech Republic.”






Erik Cais (CZE) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Jindřiška Žáková (CZE) Team: ACCR Czech Rally Team Car: Ford Fiesta R2T Position: DNF (accident)




It was a tough week for the former downhill mountain bike racer. A testing crash meant a replacement Fiesta had to be hurried to Latvia from Poland, before a second hefty roll spelt retirement



“I was scared after the crash in testing that I don’t feel the confidence. I just tried to stay in a good line and listen to the pacenotes. It was a fast corner, a left-hander and I had too much speed to turn right. I tried to go straight on but we hit something and rolled four times. It was bad luck for us but bad luck all weekend.”






Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (FRA) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Jacques-Julien Renucci (FRA) Team: Orsák Rally Sport Car: Ford Fiesta R2T Position: Fourth




If rallying was about pace alone, Franceschi would have been at least a worthy runner-up to winner Ken Torn. But there’s much more to it than that, as the French talent found out to his cost on the final morning



“The stages were incredible and we improved a lot because it’s our first time on this type of road and my first time in this car on gravel. It’s totally different and we enjoy a lot. Stage by stage we tried to improve but we were always being careful and working hard with the pacenotes. Before the start of stage nine it was raining a lot at the start of the stage and I wanted to change something in the car.


But I forgot to close the bonnet. From the start the bonnet was open to the end and we did 18 kilometres like this. Still there were some good points but we expected something better because as a competitor you always want to win. We made a mistake and it’s like that. But I am very happy about my pace for the first time here. To be in the fight with Ken Torn was incredible for me so I have to be happy with this.”





Sindre Furuseth (NOR) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Jim Hjerpe (SWE) Team: Saintéloc Junior Team Car: Peugeot 208 R2 Position: Second




Furuseth once again showed his potential with a return to the podium following the frustration of retirement on Rally Islas Canarias. Could have pushed Torn even harder had it not been for a stage three puncture



“After the retirement in Gran Canaria, this is a good result for me and means the championship is still on. We did two really good stages on the first day and one good stage with the puncture. It was a front-right puncture, a stone in the line, and we would have been in the lead without it. But we were still in the fight so no worries. We did one bad stage on Sunday morning, driving a bit too flat out and doing a couple of mistakes. It was rough out there with a few big hits but the car could take it and I knew what to do.”







Miika Hokkanen (FIN) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Rami Suorsa (FIN) Team: Mavisa Sport Car: Peugeot 208 R2 Position: Ninth



His exit on Saturday with wheel stud failure was a cruel blow for the Finn, who was on the Rally Liepāja podium in 2018. Two stage bests on his return on Sunday gave a hint at what might have been



“I was 15 kilometres from the start of the fourth stage when our wheel nuts gave up in the left front suddenly. That’s why we needed to retire. We were sad and for sure it’s a little bit frustrating to continue with the Rally2 because you don’t have the same confidence and feeling. It was a big shame to retire but we were lucky the bolts gave up in a slow section, not a fast section. We got some kilometres and of course it’s fun to drive these stages. We had some stage wins but we are not in the top standings.”







Gregor Jeets (EST) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Kuldar Sikk (EST) Team: Estonian Autosport Junior Team Car: Ford Fiesta R2T Position: Tenth




Scored championship points on his ERC3 Junior debut and his seventh rally following his switch from karting. Could have finished even higher had it not been for seven minutes lost with a turbo issue



“In stage three we had a problem with the turbo. We don’t have any power all the stage and we lost seven minutes so it was quite bad. The pacenotes were too slow in some places and I still need to improve my driving. It was an interesting rally for me, we had some problems but it’s good to be at the finish.”







Kristóf Klausz (HUN) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Balázs Kecskeméti (HUN) Team: Klaus Motorsport Car: Peugeot 208 R2 Position: Seventh




Klausz had his eye on a podium finish starting his sixth Rally Liepāja. Fifth fastest time on SS2 provided a welcome boost only for an off on the next stage to hit his hopes hard. He drove well thereafter



“The first stage was quite a good warm-up. In the second we did the fifth best time but in the third we braked too late and got stuck in a soft place. I didn’t always have the best set-up and did some mistakes. But we also had some good results and we will try again on the next round.”







Efrén Llarena (ESP) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Sara Fernández (ESP) Team: Rally Team Spain Car: Peugeot 208 R2 Position: Fifth



On his first high-speed gravel rally, championship leader Llarena just didn’t have the pace to consistently challenge for a podium although his fifth-place finish could yet prove pivotal in the title reckoning



“We didn’t do a good time in qualifying but on the first stage we tried to push and we were second. On the second stage I was sleeping, I lost some time. On the third one I tried to push but it was a very long stage and the time was not so bad. Saturday afternoon was worse than I expected. I tried to attack and catch the podium but it was impossible for us because we did not have the speed. It was just not my rally but we have one month to Poland and hopefully we will be back stronger.”







Elias Lundberg (SWE) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: David Arhusiander (SWE) Team: ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team Car: Opel ADAM R2 Position: Eleventh




Lundberg had been tipped as a podium contender based on his top-three finish on the all-gravel Azores Rallye. However, a crash on the very first stage dictated otherwise.



“We had a crash on the first stage. I took a too wide line on a Tarmac corner and it was gravel on the outside so I hit a ditch and rolled the car. It was a right-hand corner halfway through the stage. I only rolled once but it was over the hood and it was quite a hard impact on the landing and we broke both the right rear and the left front. Then we had some electrical problem on Sunday morning. Of course it’s really frustrating to not even do a good stage time. It wasn’t our best rally but now we look forward to Poland.”







Grégoire Munster (BEL) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Louis Louka (BEL) Team: ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team Car: Opel ADAM R2 Position: DNF (driveshaft)




Driving on a high-speed gravel event for the first time, Munster had plenty to learn and he was doing just that – while also improving his pace – when contact with a wooden pole led to his early exit



“It was not easy on these really fast roads. We were getting a good pace but in SS3 we had a moment in a right corner that tightened. We went off into a ditch and lost a lot of time but we were having fun all the way and getting more experience with every kilometre. Unfortunately, the rally ended earlier than expected. In SS8 I slightly touched a wooden pole and 100 metres later our front-right driveshaft gave up on us.



It was a shame because our pace was improving stage after stage as we finished SS7 only 0.4 seconds per kilometre from the fastest ERC3 Junior. Our intention was to reach the finish and grab as much experience as possible. We did not reach our goal but the positive thing is we had a lot of fun driving on these fast roads and that our pace improved trough the weekend.”





Steve Røkland (NOR) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Marius Fuglerud (NOR) Team: Steve Røkland Motorsport Car: Peugeot 208 R2 Position: Third




Røkland needed a strong result following a frustrating season-opening Azores Rallye. And he more than got one with a fighting podium finish five seconds behind his compatriot Sindre Furuseth



“I have to be happy because the Azores was not good for us, we didn’t start in Canarias, so to be on the podium in Latvia is really good. We lost some time when we damaged the unibolt hitting a big rock on SS2. The car was not going straight on the straight and also under braking it was difficult to know where to put the car. But I had the part with me so I could change it in the remote service. We could be happy with the speed and we were close to to the top. Sindre is also from Norway and he is my friend.”





Roman Schwedt (DEU) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Lina Meter (DEU) Team: Team ROMO Car: Peugeot 208 R2 Position: Eighth




Schwedt’s run of bad luck came to an end in Latvia with the German teenager and former karter making it to the finish on his first high-speed gravel event – scoring points for eighth place in the process



“They are really crazy stages and in stage three we had a little mistake, we missed a right-three corner, went straight into the woods and lost many, many seconds but only the bumper was a little bit damaged. After that we found a good flow and could push a little bit more. This rally was very different for me and I must learn many things. Every kilometre I felt it was going better and better but I am happy to be doing my next event in Poland and I hope it will be a good experience. Finishing my first rally is good for me and now I am really happy.”





Ken Torn (EST) ERC3 Junior
Co-driver: Kauri Pannas (EST) Team: Estonian Autosport Junior Team Car: Ford Fiesta R2T Position: First




Torn came, saw and conquered with an impressive debut victory in ERC3 Junior on his first Rally Liepāja. But while Torn was on top form, he was made to work hard for his win



“It’s a good result. Before the rally I came to enjoy the weekend and that’s what we did. It was my first time here and in ERC Junior. We always hope to win when we come to a rally but after quite a hard season start this is good emotion and enjoyed every kilometre with no problems. I made some mistakes on SS9 and maybe my pacenotes were quite safe on the final day. But we could fix it and go better.”



Petr Semerád and Roland Stengg were non-starters





 Richard Rodgers, photos FIA ERC

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/erc-junior-rally-liepaja-review-erc1-erc3---191363.html

28.05.2019 / MaP

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Rally Islas Canarias: Schwedt eingebremst auf dem Weg nach vorne
06.05.2019
Die erste Asphaltrallye im Kalender der ERC Junior hielt für Roman Schwedt viele neue Erfahrungen bereit, davon insbesondere eine, auf die er gerne verzichtet hätte: Auf Platz 7 mit aufsteigender Tendenz liegend, überhitzte der Motor des Peugeot 208 R2 und das Team Schwedt/Meter musste die Rallye am Samstag vorzeitig beenden. more >>
Grégoire Munster just misses out his first ERC podium
05.05.2019
Grégoire Munster and his co-driver Louis Louka finished in 24th place overall in the Rally of the Canary Islands. In the Juniors’ ranking Grégoire Munster ended in an excellent fourth place. A strong performance from the Opel Motorsport driver and Ambassador of Opel Belgium. more >>
Pirelli's new P Zero asphalt Rally tyre takes its second consecutive win
05.05.2019
Pirelli’s brand new P Zero RA asphalt rally tyre, which made a winning debut on the World Rally Championship in Corsica two months ago, has claimed its second major international win on the trot, courtesy of Pepe Lopez on the Rally Islas Canarias: round two of the European Rally Championship. more >>
ERC Juniors star as López wins Rally Islas Canarias following action-packed final day
05.05.2019
*Spaniard proves his talent with maiden FIA European championship victory *Thrilling fight for the podium as reigning ERC champion Lukyanuk retires from the lead *Bernardi lands ERC3 triumph, Franceschi scores debut ERC3 Junior win *Monarri is first Abarth Rally Cup winner more >>
ERC2 winner Monarri makes history with Abarth Rally Cup spoils
05.05.2019
Alberto Monarri became the maiden winner of an Abarth Rally Cup event to take place within the FIA European Rally Championship with his class victory on Rally Islas Canarias, the Spaniard also winning the ERC2 for good measure. Monarri (Abarth Spain – SMC Junior Motorsport) sparred with both Carlos David García (Ovrecame Competición) and Dariusz Poloński (Rallytechnolog more >>
Bernardi fends off Junior winner Franceschi for ERC3 victory
05.05.2019
*Franceschi and Rossel complete all-French ERC3 podium *Heartbreak for Furuseth as Llarena finishes second in ERC3 Junior for Rally Team Spain *Antunes takes first ERC3 top-three finish for FPAK Portugal Team ERCFIA European Rally Championship 2019, Round 2 of 8ERC3 Rally Islas Canarias leg two  4 May more >>
Retirements in Rally Islas Canarias
04.05.2019
FIA ERC RALLYESRally Islas CanariasSaturday, May 4th  20194     Lukyanuk Alexey     Arnautov Alexey     RUS     Citroën C3 R5     damaged suspension afte more >>
Rally Islas Canarias stage 16 overall final classification - Lopez takes victory
04.05.2019
FIA ERC RallyesRally Islas CanariasSP 16 - Valleseco 2, Saturday, May 4th 2019 1     15ESP     1     López J. / Rozada BorjaCitroën C3 R5     RC2 more >>
Rally Islas Canarias stage 15 overall classification top20
04.05.2019
FIA ERC RallyesRally Islas CanariasSP 15 - Galdar 2, Saturday, May 4th 20191     15ESP     1     López J. / Rozada BorjaCitroën C3 R5     R more >>
Rally Islas Canarias stage 14 overall classification
04.05.2019
FIA ERC RallyesRally Islas CanariasSP 14 - Moya 2, Saturday, May 4th 2019     1     López J. / Rozada BorjaCitroën C3 R5     RC21     01:48: more >>
Rally Islas Canarias stage 13 overall classification top 24
04.05.2019
FIA ERC RallyesRally Islas CanariasSP 13 - Arucas 2,Saturday, May 4th 20191     15ESP     1     López J. / Rozada BorjaCitroën C3 R5     RC21 more >>

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