Nikolay Gryazin is the Rally Liepāja hat-trick hero following his victory on round two of the 2021 FIA European Rally Championship season today (Saturday).
Gryazin, who also won Latvia’s ERC counter in 2017 and 2018, led the high-speed event from the opening stage to claim a hugely impressive triumph alongside co-driver Konstantin Aleksandrov in a Pirelli-equipped Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
He finished 17.3s ahead of Craig Breen, who claimed Team MRF Tyres’ first podium in the ERC in second with Alexey Lukyanuk extending his ERC title lead to nine points in third place for Saintéloc Junior Team after the Russian overtook Rallye Team Spain’s Efrén Llarena on Saturday’s opening test.
“After problems in Poland finally we are here in first place,” said Gryazin, the 24-year-old Latvia-based Russian. “We did a good job, no issues, no problems. For the last part I could relax because when you have a gap you can drive through. Everybody in the team did a good job and it’s always nice to win your kind of home rally.”
Llarena, the leading ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory finisher, took fourth with Toksport WRT’s Andreas Mikkelsen fifth in another Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo and the best of the Rally Liepāja newcomers.
After finishing third on his home round in Poland last month, ORLEN Team’s Miko Marczyk continued his strong run of form in sixth position with Hyundai Junior Driver Ole Christian Veiby marking his ERC return in seventh place, despite power issues masking his ultimate speed. However, the Norwegian was subsequently excluded after his car failed post-event technical checks.
Finland’s Eerik Pietarinen moved up to seventh in his older-specification Fabia with Yacco ACCR Team’s young Czech Erik Cais impressing by climbing up from P15 overnight to finish eighth. Chilean Emilio Fernàndez took ninth for Toksport WRT, while Simone Tempestini (Napoca Rally Academy) completed the top 10. Nil Solans (Rallye Team Spain) slipped to P11 due to time lost opening the road for his rivals behind, as Georg Linnamäe, Norbert Herczig (Škoda Rally Team Hungaria), Raul Jeets and Yoann Bonato (CHL Sport Auto) rounded out the top 15.
Alberto Battistolli was P16 with Hyundai Junior Driver Grégoire Munster P17 after various delays. ERC Junior winner Ken Torn was a fine P18 overall in his M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3 followed by Jarosław Kołtun and Russian Radik Shaymiev.
Umberto Scandola rolled his Hyundai Rally Team Italia i20 R5 into retirement on SS8. Fabian Kreim (Pole Promotion) was in the top-six fight when he stopped with damaged suspension on the same stage. Suspension damage cost Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Callum Devine vital time when a top 10 finish beckoned.
Dmitry Feofanov won ERC2 for the first time in his career with Liepāja’s very own Mārtiņš Sesks hitting back from a testing crash on Tuesday to score an ERC3/ERC3 Junior double in his Fiesta Rally4 after Friday pacesetter Sami Pajari rolled his Fiesta on Saturday’s first stage but continued to finish third behind Renault Clio Rally4 driver Jean-Baptiste Franceschi.
Yigit Timur took an impressive maiden victory in the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT, the arrive-and-drive series for the Clio Rally5 on MICHELIN tyres ahead of Andrea Mabellini. Dariusz Poloński made it back-to-back Abarth Rally Cup wins with Martin Rada second.
How Gryazin claimed an ERC Rally Liepāja treble
Heading into Saturday’s six high-speed gravel stages east of host city Liepāja, Nikolay Gryazin’s lead of 10.6s was far from secure. But he was 3.4s faster than Craig Breen through the opening test of the day to grow his advantage to 14.0s as Alexey Lukyanuk demoted Efrén Llarena for third.
Eager to make up more ground, Lukyanuk narrowed his gap to Breen to 11.0s by winning SS8. However, there was a scare for Lukyanuk on SS9, the European championship leader damaging the radiator of his Citroën C3 Rally2 after he ran wide on a corner and briefly dropped into a ditch.
Although temporary repairs ensured he could reach the midday service halt in Liepāja, Breen was now 16.0s to the good over Lukyanuk with Gryazin going quickest on SS9 to lead Breen by 15.2s with three stages remaining.
Gryazin was quickest again on SS10 before Andreas Mikkelsen signalled his intent with a brace of stage bests to win leg two and collect five bonus points as Lukyanuk settled for second behind Breen.
Feofanov’s former favourite helps him to first ERC2 victory, Poloński wins Abarth Rally Cup
Dmitry Feofanov said winning ERC2 for the first time made Rally Liepāja the “rally of my life” after he edged out reigning champion Tibor Érdi Jr following an accomplished performance. After making a late car switch from the Suzuki Swift Rally2 Kit he’d intended to use to his former favourite, a Mitsubishi Lancer, Feofanov’s decision paid off as the Lancer’s higher top-speed proved to be better suited to the fast-paced Latvian roads. Érdi Jr settled for second with Polish Subaru Impreza driver Subaru driver Michał Pryczek claiming a maiden ERC2 podium in third. Ainārs Igaveņš took fourth having been third after day one, his co-driving son Ralfs putting the drop of position down to a lack of recent competition experience. Poland’s Dariusz Poloński made sure of the Abarth Rally Cup laurels in fifth with Czech Mada Rada finishing second in the Abarth Rally Cup in sixth overall. Victor Cartier was unable to restart his Toyota Yaris Rally2 Kit on leg two due to engine damage.
Dominant Torn opens ERC Junior victory account in Fiesta Rally3
While newcomer Oscar Solberg focused on learning his M-Sport Poland-built Ford Fiesta Rally3 on his return to international rallying after 18 months, reigning ERC3/ERC3 Junior champion Ken Torn charged to a dominant victory in his Pirelli-equipped Fiesta. Estonian Torn was fastest in class on all 10 stages and regularly troubled the lower top 20 times to underline his ability and the performance of the FIA’s more financially accessible four-wheel-drive category.
Sesks finally triumphs at home in ERC3/ERC3 Junior after Pajari rolls back
The overnight leader in ERC3/ERC3 Junior, Sami Pajari was holding on to top spot after Saturday’s opening two stages as Liepāja’s favourite rallying son, Mārtiņš Sesks, closed to within 5.0s following back-to-back stage bests in his identical M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally4. But a low-speed roll on SS9 left the round one double winner down in fifth position and 3m33.5s behind new leader Sesks, who reached midday service with light radiator damage following a brush with a pole on SS9. But any fears Sesks might have had proved unfounded as his Rally Liepāja luck finally held. By finishing 1m16.6s behind Sesks, Jean-Baptiste Franceschi’s 1m10s time penalty for an early check-in at remote service on Saturday would ultimately not influence the final results with the Frenchman a strong second in his all-new Renault Clio Rally4. Pajari battled back to complete the ERC3 Junior podium but couldn’t prevent Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas from joining Sesks and Franceschi in the ERC3 top three. German teenager Nick Loof finished fourth in ERC3 Junior followed by Kaspar Kasari and Amaury Molle, who battled gearbox issues on Saturday morning. Daniel Polášek finished seventh with Norbert Maior restarting to finish eighth after suspension damage and a broken driveshaft put him out on SS2. Nikolai Landa, who crashed into a tree on the same stage, finished ninth after rediscovering lost confidence. Martin László, who stopped on day one with broken steering, returned to complete the top 10. Newcomer Joosep Ralf Nõgene stopped with a gearbox issue on Friday. Ola Jr Nore was in third when he retired his Clio Rally4 with damage on SS8. Łukasz Lewandowski drove his Opel Corsa Rally4 to ninth in ERC3 after rolling on day one.
From tough times to good times for Timur in Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT
Yigit Timur hit back from his opening round exit to win the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT on the back of an impressive performance from the Turkish driver. Italian Andrea Mabellini finished the new arrive-and-drive series for the Clio Rally5 on MICHELIN tyres in second. Ghjuvanni Rossi beat fellow Frenchman Bastien Bergounhe to third place by 3.0s, while it was a case of what might have been for Paulo Soria. The round one winner from Argentina slid into a ditch and got stuck on SS1 but restarted on Saturday and took class wins on all but one stage to claim fifth spot.
ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory members impress
Efrén Llarena was the best of the ERC-MICHELIN Talent factory members in fourth overall. An incentive scheme for young stars in Rally2 cars, Miko Marczyk placed sixth overall with Erik Cais eighth, Simone Tempestini in P10 and Grégoire Munster in P17 following delays.
P1 Racing Fuels Podium Challenge rewards drivers
The P1 Racing Fuels Podium Challenge continues in 2021. It rewards the top three finishers in ERC1 and ERC2 on all rounds of the championship with fuel vouchers that can be exchanged for P1 XR5 race fuel at subsequent events, helping competitors to further reduce the cost of competing. Across both categories, the winning drivers received 150 litres of fuel, while the second and third placed drivers received 100L and 50L respectively. More information: www.p1racingfuels.com
PROVISIONAL TOP 15 ERC POSITIONS (after 10 stages, 179.02 kilometres)
1 Nikolay Gryazin (RUS)Konstantin Aleksandrov (RUS) Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 1h30m50.3s
2 Craig Breen (IRL)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Hyundai i20 R5 +17.3s
3 Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Dmitry Eremeev (RUS) Citroën C3 Rally2 +30.9s
4 Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernándes (ESP) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +56.8s M
5 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Fløene (NOR) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +1m13.3s
6 Miko Marczyk (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +40.2s M
7 Eerik Pietarinen (FIN)/Antti Linnaketo (FIN) Škoda Fabia R5 +2m11.8s
8 Erik Cais (CZE)/Jindřiška Žáková (CZE) Ford Fiesta Rally2 +2m22.5s M
9 Emilio Fernàndez (CHL)/Rubén García (ARG) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +2m41.6s
10 Simone Tempestini (ROU)/Sergiu Itu (ROU) +2m47.9s M
11 Nil Solans (ESP)/Marc Martí (ESP) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +2m59.9s
12 Georg Linnamäe (EST)/Volodymyr Korsia (UKR) Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +3m03.1s
13 Norbert Herczig (HUN)/Ramón Ferencz (HUN) Škoda Fabia Rally 2 Evo +3m14.7s
14 Raul Jeets (EST)/Timo Taniel (EST) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +3m21.4s
15 Yoann Bonato (FRA)/Benjamin Boulloud (FRA) Citroën C3 Rally2 +3m39.1s
M = Eligible for ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory incentives
FIA ERC2: Dmitry Feofanov (LVA)/Normunds Kokins (LVA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
FIA ERC3: Mārtiņš Sesks (LVA)/Renārs Francis (LVA) Ford Fiesta Rally4
FIA ERC Junior: Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta Rally3
FIA ERC3 Junior: Mārtiņš Sesks (LVA)/Renārs Francis (LVA) Ford Fiesta Rally4
Abarth Rally Cup: Dariusz Poloński (POL)/Łukasz Sitek (POL) Abarth 124 rally
Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT: Yigit Timur (TUR)/Onur Aslan (TUR) Renault Clio Rally5
ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory: Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernándes (ESP) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo