Skoda crew wins at home

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - Pho­tos: ERC


alfs Sirmacis scored a dom­i­nant Euro­pean Rally Cham­pi­onship win on home soil in the penul­ti­mate round in Latvia as Ka­je­tan Kajetanowicz sealed his sec­ond straight ERC ti­tle.

With Rally Liepaja be­ing run mi­nus snow for the first time, the new-found home hero cap­i­talised fully on his lo­cal knowl­edge. At first it looked as if it could be an­other tight bat­tle be­tween the young Skoda driver and Alexey Lukyanuk, but the Rus­sian never re­ally got a look in on this oc­ca­sion.

It may have been dif­fer­ent had Lukyanuk not brought his Mit­subishi Lancer E10 in­stead of his usual Ford Fi­esta R5. He did win the last time he ral­lied the Lancer in Es­to­nia last year, but the Lat­vian stages were more tech­ni­cal in sec­tions than those north of the bor­der.

It was ac­tu­ally on the twisti­est stages of all – two runs over a street stage in Liepaja on Satur­day evening – where Lukyanuk was able to lead the way, but the crowd favourite had al­ready opened up an ad­van­tage of half a minute. Sirmacis then dou­bled that mar­gin to over a minute on the fi­nal day as he com­pleted a clean sweep of the gravel tests and claimed his third win from five starts this sea­son.

Lukyanuk’s sec­ond place came af­ter three straight re­tire­ments, and gives him a two-point buf­fer over Sirmacis to the fi­nal round in Cyprus in their fight to be run­nerup to Kajetanowicz.

The Pole needed just nine points in Latvia to com­plete his ti­tle de­fence, but his run to fourth wasn’t with­out stress. On Satur­day a deep cut on one stage blocked his Fi­esta’s cool­ing and over­heated the en­gine, while on Sun­day his en­gine cut out in the mid­dle of an­other. Even with­out those is­sues, he was strug­gling to beat Siim Plangi to third, the Es­to­nian mak­ing it two Mit­subishis on the podium.

Mar­i­jan Griebel snatched the ERC Ju­nior ti­tle from Opel team-mate Chris In­gram in a closely fought de­cid­ing round. In­gram built an early lead on Satur­day morn­ing, with Griebel 8.8 sec­onds back in fourth, but the Ger­man led by 0.7s come the end of the day.

In­gram lev­elled that on Sun­day’s opener but an off dropped him to fourth be­fore elec­tri­cal is­sues elim­i­nated his Adam R2 with two stages left. Griebel still had to take the win to take the ti­tle though and had Miko Ni­ine­mae and Alex Forsstrom within six sec­onds, but he held on to claim a prize drive in an R5 Fabia in Cyprus. As well as Forsstrom tak­ing sec­ond in only his sec­ond ERC ap­pear­ance, an­other stand­out per­former was debu­tant Martins Sesks, who cel­e­brated his 17th birth­day with fourth place and three fastest times – in­clud­ing one around the streets of the city where his father is the mayor.

A bro­ken gear­box for Gi­a­como Scat­tolon guar­an­teed Wo­j­ciech Chuchala the ERC2 ti­tle be­fore he crashed in the fi­nal stage, al­though the Subaru Poland driver’s un­beaten record in the class was al­ready com­ing to an end. He was joined in mak­ing a last-gasp exit by com­pa­triot Lukasz Habaj, who handed fifth over­all to lo­cal Skoda driver Rai­monds Kisiels.

Along­side Kisiels un­der Toni Garde­meis­ter’s awning was Kalle Ro­van­pera. The 15-year-old couldn’t com­pete in the ERC sec­tion of the event be­cause he’s too young but con­tested the same stages in the Lat­vian se­ries and beat Sirmacis to the fastest time on four of them.

‘Griebel takes Ju­niors and prize drive’ ERC Latvia, be­low

Kajetanowicz de­fends ERC Lat­vian takes third ERC win in de­but R5 sea­son

Sirmacis and Simins vic­tory

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