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FIA ERC 2014 Event Preview: Rally Liepaja
Posted by: newsla on Jan 24, 2014 - 03:52 PM
WRC Rally News 2010
FIA ERC 2014 Event Preview: Rally Liepaja

While the battle for outright victory on round two of the FIA European Rally Championship is set to light up the Latvian winter wonderland on Rally Liepāja next week, 15 of the sport’s most promising young talents will be embarking on an exciting new adventure when the FIA ERC Junior Championship gets underway.


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A new initiative for the 2014 season, the ERC Junior Championship is for drivers 25 and under at the start of the year using R2-specification machinery on control MICHELIN tyres. Counting their best four scores from seven events, including one gravel-based rally, the winner will get the use of an R5 car on selected rounds of the ERC in 2015. The championship will also benefit from exclusive highlights on Eurosport and dedicated online promotion, while the drivers will receive media training from ERC promoter Eurosport Events.

Rally Liepāja took place for the first time in 2013 when it ran up the Baltic coast from Liepāja to Ventspils in the far west of the country. With Ventspils no longer included on the itinerary, a revamped route will feature stages in the Liepāja and Kuldīga districts only. It means all but one stage is completely unchanged from 2013, while the Rallyofchampions.com stage, run twice on Sunday, has never been used before.

With the stages taking place on ice and snow-covered gravel, Rally Liepāja is the second event of the 2014 season to count for ERC Ice Master points, which rewards surface specialists competing in the European championship. Rallying on ice and snow is a stunning spectacle as drivers push flat out on the high-speed runs. While suspension tweaks ensure traction and stability, companies such as MICHELIN, PIRELLI and YOKOHAMA supply special tyres fitted with more than 350 metal studs designed to bite into the surface beneath to provide grip.

Following the Qualifying Stage at 15:00hrs local time on Friday, which is used to determine the start order for leg one among the FIA and ERC priority drivers, crews cross the starting ramp on Liepāja’s promenade at 20:00hrs, ahead of the competitive action getting underway on Saturday. Leg one is based around the town of Kuldīga, 88 kilometres north of Liepāja, and includes three repeated stages. Following end-of-day service in Liepāja, Sunday’s route consists of a further three repeated tests, this time centred on Aizpute 50 kilometres north of host city Liepāja where the finish will take place at 16:25hrs on Sunday. Fifty-six crews have entered the rally, which also counts as a round of the Latvian championship.

ERC Juniors aim to build experience
While Jan Černý (Czech Republic), Risto Immonen (Finland) and Stéphane Lefebvre (France) will look to make the most of the experience they garnered from competing in Latvia last season, the ERC Junior category will be closely contested as the 15 young stars look to impress while gaining crucial experience at the same time. Petter Kristiansen (Norway), Mattias Olsson (Sweden) and Steve Røkland (Norway) are well versed in driving on snow and ice. Fabrizio Andolfi and Andrea Crugnola will fly the flag for Italy with young Romanian Florin Tincescu joining Crugnola in the Napoca Rally Academy line-up. German promise Marijan Griebel heads the new ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team, Chris Ingram has won numerous awards in the United Kingdom, while Jean-Mathieu Leandri (France) impressed on several ERC runs in 2013. Tomas Pospisilik (Czech Republic) is a graduate from autocross, while Kevin van Deijne (Netherlands) and Aleks Zawada (Poland) complete the entry of promising young stars.

Serious competition ahead in victory battle
Having challenged for victory in Latvia last season, Peugeot Rally Academy’s Irish ace Craig Breen is one of the favourites to win on his first start in this year’s ERC. However, ERC event winner Esapekka Lappi will also be in contention as the Finn gets his ERC campaign underway with ŠKODA Motorsport. German talent Sepp Wiegand will pilot a second factory Fabia S2000 under the ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland banner. Bryan Bouffier heads to Latvia fresh from finishing second overall on Rallye Monte-Carlo, and will be a contender in his debut in a Citroën DS3 RRC. Russian rising star Vasily Gryazin, who competes with a Latvian licence, is highly rated, while Jaromír Tarabus is embarking on a year-long ERC assault with Kresta Racing. Kajetan Kajetanowicz, the four-time Polish champion, was a stage winner on the ERC season-opener in Austria at the wheel of his LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5. French drivers Robert Consani and Jean-Michel Raoux will aim to score ERC points in their Peugeot 207 S2000s.

Orsak returns to lead the Czech challenge
Seven drivers from Czech Republic will be in action, including former ERC Production Car Cup frontrunner Jaroslav Orsák and ERC stalwart Antonín Tlusťák. As well as driving his Fabia S2000, Orsák will oversee ex-motocross rider Martin Hudec’s entry. All three will contest the Halls Winter Rally in Lithuania this weekend as part of their preparations. Meanwhile, Robert Adolf will compete in a second Kresta Racing Fabia.

Father and son make Latvia return
Experienced competitor Marco Tempestini and his teenage son Simone will head the Napoca Rally Academy line-up on their second start in Latvia. Tempestini Sr will drive a Ford Fiesta R5 with Tempestini Jr competing in a Subaru Impreza R4 STI.

Race for ERC Production Car Cup set to thrill
The ERC Production Car Cup will be hotly contested, with Estonia’s Siim Plangi, last year’s winner Vytautas Švedas from Lithuania, Austrian Hermann Neubauer, plus Hungarian duo András Hadik and Kornél Lukács all set to shine. Former rallycross star Łukasz Kabaciński steps up from the ERC 2WD Championship.

ERC two-wheel aces gun for Latvia glory
The competition will also be close among the two-wheel-drive runners. With the 15 ERC Junior drivers also eligible for ERC 2WD points, the entry is not just big on quality but also quantity. Category regulars Sławomir Ogryzek and Renato Pita will go up against several local drivers including Latvians Ralfs Sirmacis and Kristaps Feldmanis.

Tushkanova hoping for a model success
Ukrainian glamour model Inessa Tushkanova will be making her long awaited return to the ERC having been able to start in Latvia last year following a crash on a practice rally the previous weekend. Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer, Tushkanova will go up against Ekaterina Stratieva in the ERC Ladies’ Trophy. The event will take on added significance for Stratieva, with the Bulgarian driver stepping up to a Subaru Impreza for the first time, having competed in two-wheel-drive machinery only in the past.

The 20-year-old rising Russian star looks ahead to his ‘home’ round of the ERC

How excited are you and what does it mean to you to be competing on Rally Liepaja, which is effectively your ‘home’ round of the ERC?
“I am very happy to start in Latvia. It will be my home rally and I think we can fight for top five on this race.”

How will you prepare for the event?
“We will have two days of tests. We want to find good settings and learn something new. I wanted to have more tests, but the weather brought some snow just a few days ago in Latvia and I still have examination time at my university.”

What are the main challenges you face driving on ice and snow?
“Last year I was good on snow-covered surfaces. This year I will try to improve my results. I hope that this year the special stages will be not so fast like last year because my Ford Fiesta S2000 does not have the same top speed of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX R4 I drove last year.”

Can you explain how you set up your car for ice and snow and how important are the tyres?
“I’m sure that choosing the tyres will be easier than in Austria where the grip was changing. The most important thing is to find good a set-up for the suspension. We have a good set-up from Rally Sweden in 2013 and I hope that we will find better set-ups during the coming tests.”

What's your target for Rally Liepāja and what's your strategy going to be?
“I will try to push! I will try to drive to the maximum of my capabilities and the limits of my car.”

Who do you expect to be your biggest rivals?
“A lot of fast drivers are going to be participating in this rally. I cannot pick one in particular. I think it will be an interesting race.”

Why do you fly the Latvian flag on your car when you are Russian born and bred?
“Everyone is asking me this question. I am Russian and I live in Russia, but I have a Latvian competition licence. That's why I have the Latvian flag on my car. I started my training in Latvia, got my first licence there and took part in my first rally in Latvia.”

*Liepāja is known as the ‘city where the wind is born’ because of the breeze from the Baltic Sea.
*Citizens of Liepāja, Latvia’s third largest city, are described as tough, wise and daring.
*The Mayor of Liepāja, Uldis Sesks, is a big rally fan, so much so that he’ll be attending the pre- and post-event press conferences.
*Feeling hungry in Liepāja? Sklandrausis (carrot pie), black bread and biešu zupa (red beetroot soup) are all popular local dishes.
*Liepāja’s Olympic Centre, home to the rally headquarters and media centre, is big on variety when it comes to choosing sports – with basketball, volleyball, table tennis, and judo among the activities on offer.

Jari Ketomaa overcame Craig Breen’s early threat to win, as the ERC made its first visit to Latvia. Ketomaa, co-driven by Kimi Räikkönen’s former navigator Kaj Lindström in a Ford Fiesta RRC, had trailed Breen over the opening five stages but moved in front on stage six when the extra top-end speed of his turbocharged engine told on the super-fast ice-coated roads. Breen, in a Peugeot 207 Super 2000, remained in contention until stage 12 when a minor electrical glitch cost him precious time and prompted him to settle for a strong second place. François Delecour secured the final podium spot in another Peugeot after a close battle with Russian Alexey Lukyanuk, who retired with two stages left, after a brush with a snowbank damaged his Mitsubishi Lancer’s oil cooler. Vytautas Švedas inherited the showroom category laurels in a similar Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, while Risto Immonen claimed the ERC 2WD victory in a Citroën C2 R2 Max after long-term leader Stéphane Lefebvre dropped to second with gearbox problems.

EVENT ESSENTIALS (all timings local)
Starts: 20:00hrs, Friday 31 January, Vecā ostmala 4, Liepāja
Finishes: 16:25hrs, Sunday 2 February, Vecā ostmala 4, Liepāja
Headquarters: Olympic Centre Liepāja, Brīvības Street 39 LV-3401 Liepāja
Service park: There are three service locations:
Flexi D and Remote H (31 January-2 February): Zemnieku Street, LV-3401 Liepāja
Remotes A, B and C (1 February): City Square 2, Kuldīga
Service E, F and G (2 February): Aizpute Airfield
Entries received: 56
ERC appearances: One
Stages: 12
Stage distance: 240.66 kilometres (137.82 kilometres leg one, 102.84 kilometres leg two)
Liaison: 653.83 kilometres
Total: 894.49 kilometres
Surface: Snow and ice-coated gravel

Media accreditation and media centre:
Olympic Centre Liepāja, Brīvības Street 39, LV-3401 Liepāja
Opening times:
09:00hrs-22:00hrs, Thursday 30 January
09:00hrs-22:00hrs, Friday 31 January
06:00hrs-22:00hrs, Saturday 1 February
06:00hrs-22:00hrs, Sunday 2 February

Satellite media services will operate in Kuldīga and Aizpute respectively. Details will be available at media accreditation.

Free Practice (for FIA/ERC priority drivers): 13:00hrs, Friday 31 January, Grobina Parish (3.58-kilometre stage approximately 15 kilometres from the service park in Zemnieku Street, Liepāja)
Qualifying Stage (for FIA/ERC priority drivers): 15:00hrs, Friday 31 January, Grobina Parish
Shakedown (for all other drivers): 15:20hrs-16:45hrs, Friday 31 January, Grobina Parish (4.19-kilometre stage approximately 15 kilometres from the service park in Zemnieku Street, Liepāja)
Start order selection: 17:00hrs, Friday 31 January, Media Centre, Olympic Centre Liepāja, Brīvības Street 39, LV-3401 Liepāja
FIA Action for Road Safety photocall: 17:10hrs approx., Friday 31 January, Media Centre
Pre-event press conference: 17:15hrs approx., Friday 31 January, Media Centre. The following drivers will attend: Bryan Bouffier, Craig Breen, Vasily Gryazin, Chris Ingram, Esapekka Lappi and Inessa Tushkanova. Uldis Sesks, the Mayor of Liepāja, and Raimonds Strokšs, the Rally Director, will also be present
ERC Junior Championship launch and photocall: 17:45hrs approx., Media Centre
Ceremonial start: From 19:30hrs, Friday 31 January, Vecā ostmala 4, Liepāja
Post-event press conference: 18:00hrs, Sunday 2 February, Media Centre. Top-three drivers and co-drivers, plus the ERC Junior winner, Uldis Sesks and Jean-Baptsite Ley of Eurosport Events in attendance

PaddockTalk Perspective

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