Liepāja, September 19, 2016
For the first time since a pure FIA European Rally Championship round takes place in Latvia, a local driver has won it – Sports Racing Technologies crew of Ralfs Sirmacis and Artūrs Šimins won their third ERC event of the year in Liepāja on Sunday afternoon. In addition to that, two champions were also crowned in Latvia – Kajetan Kajetanowicz / Jaroslav Baran became European champions for the second year in a row, while Marijan Griebel became the ERC Junior champion.
- Ralfs Sirmacis / Artūrs Šimins ©GO4SPEED.LV
Ralfs Sirmacis was seen as the favourite before Rally Liepāja, but competing on home soil adds some pressure, which his crew handled without issue. Alexey Lukyanuk demonstrated fantastic pace in this season’s first outing in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, coming in second overall.
“A fantastic feeling! Our goal was to win, and we managed to achieve it, although it was not a smooth ride to the finish. By the last few stages, we had gained a substantial lead and felt that we could relax a bit and drive cautiously, but doing so nearly ended in disaster. I made a few mistakes and nearly rolled the car on the very last stage, which could have forced us to retire. Luckily, we managed to avoid issues and came away with a victory!” admits Ralfs Sirmacis.
LOTOS Rally Team driver Kajetan Kajetanowicz has won the European championship for the second time in a row, which he clinched after finishing fourth in Rally Liepāja. “I cannot even describe this feeling. I have the best team on the planet! We have worked extremely hard to achieve this result. It is a great day for myself and everyone who believed in me! This is almost an unbelievable achievement, considering how many problems we have faced throughout the season. Thank you to my family and sponsors – they are amazing!” Kajetanowicz was clearly thrilled.
- Kajetan Kajetanowicz / Jarosław Baran ©GO4SPEED.LV
“I am very satisfied, as we are still in the running for second place overall in the championship, which we will try to achieve in Cyprus. Changing cars for this event definitely had an impact on my result, as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X is not as fast of a car, but I enjoyed the rally, and even managed to win the city super special stages!” says Alexey Lukyanuk.
“Of course, we made a couple of mistakes, but we did not damage the car, which is great. Even though we did not repeat last year’s result, this was still a successful event,” comments Latvian rally champion Siim Plangi, for whom this was only the second event of the season.
Battles in the ERC Junior championship proved to be even more exciting. Before leg two of the event, both title contenders, Marijan Griebel and Chris Ingram, were separated by just 0.7 seconds. The close fight, and driving on the limit, continued today, as the title would go to the winner of the event. This time, a technical issue decided the title fight, with Ingram having to retire on SS10 NPK Expert. To become champion, Griebel still had to win the event, which he did by 4.7 seconds.
“A crazy battle! All the drivers were extremely fast! After driving the first two stages a bit cautiously, we understood that it will not be enough and gave 110 percent the rest of the way. For SS10, we switched the front and rear tires, and this strategy paid off. A short while before the last stage we discovered that one tire is slowly deflating, but we solved the problem in time. I believe that this was the best drive of my career so far!” happily comments Griebel after the finish.
- Marijan Griebel / Pirmin Winklhofer ©FIAERC.COM
During the press conference, the prestigious Colin McRae Flat Out Trophy was also presented to the crew demonstrating a fighting spirit until the very end of the rally. For the first time ever, the prize was given to two drivers – 17 year old Liepāja native Mārtiņš Sesks and 15 year old Finnish driver Kalle Rovanpera, both of whom demonstrated great speed and fought for the top positions in their respective categories.
“The feeling after today’s stages is twofold – on the one hand, I ran off the road in one spot and lost valuable time, which could have cost me a spot on the podium. On the other hand, I probably could not have expected to do much better than this on my debut! I did not expect to do this well, not only in the standings but also in terms of my own performance!” LMT Autosporta Akadēmija driver Mārtiņš Sesks was happy after the finish.
“I feel great. We did much better today than yesterday, but getting used to the changing road conditions was no easy task. I hope to return to this rally next year!” comments Kalle Rovanpera.
- Kalle Rovanpera - Mārtiņš Sesks ©GO4SPEED.LV
Seventh round of the Latvian rally championship also took place on Sunday, with Ralfs Sirmacis winning LRC1 class, 24.6 seconds ahead of Rovanpera. Third position overall, and first in LRC2, was achieved by Mārtiņš Svilis, while Estonian Niinemae was the fastest in LRC3 class.
A special prizes were also handed out today. Liepāja city prize for the fastest overall time in SSS6/7 Great Amber was given to Alexey Lukyanuk / Roman Kapustin. Kuldīga city prize for the fastest overall time in SS1/5 Kuldīga was given to Kalle Rovanpera / Risto Pietilainen, and the Neste prize – a fuel card worth 100 EUR – for setting the fastest overall time in SS3/4 Neste was given to Sirmacis / Šimins.
All news and other information about Rally Liepāja is available on the official website at www.lvrally.com, as well as on social media: Twitter @LVRally, Facebook /LVRally, YouTube /RallyLiepāja and Instagram /lvrally. Results are available at www.autorally.lv!
FIA European Rally Championship round Rally Liepāja is possible thanks to the support of the Latvian government and the rally city of Liepāja. We would also like to thank our sponsors Neste, NPK Expert, Vivus.lv, our partner Kuldīga city, the provider of official cars Autobrava, as well as supporters Baltijas Helikopters, Blue Shock Race, Canon IB Serviss Rīga, Castrol, Fontaine Royal Hotel, Liepājas Olimpiskais Centrs, and SweCon. Informative support is provided by the official news portal DELFI and media partners StarFM, FHM, Go4Speed, JCDecaux, Kurzemes Radio and Zebra. Rally Liepāja would also not be possible without our rally friends: Dardedze, easyshop.lv, FN Serviss, Grandeg, Guard Systems, Holography, Jānis Pūce, N&J, Liepājas Datoru Centrs, Ramirent, Red Bull, SidusNet, SignTech, Skrīveru Saldumi, Venden, Veselīgas Uzkodas, and Törley. A special thank you goes out to the Latvian Automobile Federation.