Glory for Gryazin in Liepaja

Glory for Gryazin in LiepajaFrom ERC Media [ 14/10/2018 ].
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Nikolay Gryazin completed a perfect FIA European Rally Championship weekend on Rally Liepāja, scoring overall victory, the class win and the ERC Junior U28 title* alongside co-driver Yaroslav Fedorov. Gryazin extended his lead over nearest rival Chris Ingram with three stage wins on Sunday morning, bringing his Pirelli-shod Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5 carefully to the finish line on the final three stages of the season. “It feels good and I’m really satisfied,” said the 21-year-old Russian. “Our target wasn’t to push but to finish and now I can sleep well. I don’t show emotions too much but I’m really happy. We improved a lot this year, we had a good strategy and a good preparation for each event. Now I look to next year when I get two rounds of the ERC [in 2019] as my gift from Eurosport.”

Try as he might, Toksport WRT’s Ingram could not quite match Gryazin’s searing pace but secured a strong second place finish, which also secured him the runner-up spot in the ERC Junior U28 standings.

A titanic scrap over the final podium position went to the wire between Fredrik Åhlin and Fabian Kreim. Trading places multiple times across the weekend, Kreim had pulled in front by a mere 0.1s heading to the final stage but a monumental push by Åhlin won him third place back, also winning the final stage by 8.1s from Gryazin.

Though fourth place finisher Kreim missed out on a podium, the leading quartet still demonstrated the strength of the ERC Junior Under 28 category for young stars in R5 cars by winning every stage combined, the first time in history that ERC Junior U28 drivers have won every stage of an ERC event.

Łukasz Habaj (eSky Rally Team) completed the top five finishers, retaking the position after Eyvind Brynildsen crashed out on stage 10 while chasing Åhlin and Kreim for third.

Filip Mareš (ACCR Czech Rally Team) and Rhys Yates (Kresta Racing) continued the ERC Junior U28 domination on Rally Liepāja, finishing sixth and seventh overall and fifth and sixth in class respectively. Both were aiming to build confidence on the high-speed Latvian stages, outlasting several more experienced R5 rivals to secure strong finishes.

Ingram’s Toksport WRT team-mate Orhan Avcioğlu lost three minutes on the final stage after being forced to stop and change a puncture but still managed to retain eighth overall.

Tom Kristensson secured ERC Junior U27 honours while also finishing ninth overall, beating ADAC Opel Rallye Junior team-mate Mārtiņš Sesks for victory. Local favourite Sesks also wrapped up the ERC3 title* while also scoring a point in the overall ERC classification, completing the top 10 finishers.

ERC2 production class honours were secured by Sergei Remennik (Russian Performance Motorsport), recovering from a powersteering failure just before midday service to finish P12 in the ERC classification.

Emma Falcón was crowned this year’s ERC Ladies’ Trophy winner, scoring enough points to secure the title despite her main rival Catie Munnings (Saintéloc Junior Team) winning the event in their class.

Leg two recap: Gryazin on song as Juniors steal the show


Nikolay Gryazin already had one hand on the ERC Junior Under 28 trophy heading into leg two’s six stages, having scored five stage wins out of six the previous day.

Of those who had retired the previous day, Simone Tempestini returned with his Fiat 124 Abarth to secure victory in the RGT class, though PEUGEOT Rally Team’s Laurent Pellier and ERC Junior U27 star Sindre Furuseth would not be back on Sunday.

Stage seven had Gryazin back at his best, taking another 3.7s out of closest rival Chris Ingram with another stage win. He did even better on the next test, this time beating Ingram for fastest time by 5.8s.

Behind the leading duo, the closest battle of all was still in full swing. Fabian Kreim and Fredrik Åhlin had traded places three times on leg one in their duel for third place, with another swap taking place on stage eight as Åhlin nipped ahead. Neither of the young stars in R5 cars were not alone in their podium quest, as Eyvind Brynildsen had already taken fifth place away from Łukasz Habaj in the previous test and was closing in.

Gryazin completed the morning loop with another stage win but this time with Ingram only fifth fastest. He tip-toed around some errant rocks then dipped the right side of his Fabia into a ditch at speed, saving himself from potential disaster by keeping his right foot planted.

There was more drama in the support classes; ERC2 leader Sergei Remennik rocked up at the finish line with steam billowing from under his bonnet, suffering a power steering leak. Local favourite Mārtiņš Sesks was starting to lose fourth gear on his R2 car, forcing a gearbox change at service.

The action was turned up to 11 by Åhlin and Kreim once again on SS10, still inseparable in their battle over the final podium spot. As both Gryazin and Ingram reeled in their pace to ensure they would secure first and second in the ERC Junior U28 championship race, the young pair of drivers behind were pushing to the limit. So too was the last challenger for a podium, Brynildsen, who went off at speed not far into the stage and crashed off into a bank, retiring on the spot. Also caught out was ERC Junior U27 runner Kristóf Klausz, who spun and became stuck in a ditch for 20 minutes before continuing.

Åhlin had won the previous stage to edge another 0.4s ahead of Kreim but the ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland young talent responded in style, winning SS11 outright to retake third by a mere 0.1s. It was a tough stage on all the drivers, with three in all failing to make it through; Paulo Nobre went off the road at around the halfway mark, with non-points registered driver Niki Mayr-Melnhof rolling out on his first appearance in an ERC–run event. Oliver Solberg – son of 2003 world champion Petter – had not registered for ERC3 but was impressing regardless, locked in a tense battle with Sesks. His impressive run came to an end with engine failure.

And so the last stage of the 2018 ERC season was upon the crews. Orhan Avcioğlu had stopped in the stage to change a puncture but wouldn’t let his last minute misfortune dent what had been a successful first campaign for the Toksport WRT driver, bagging his third top 10 finish of the year in eighth place.

Plenty of celebrations were had at the finish line of SS15. Åhlin piloted his CA1 Sport Fabia to the final ERC stage win of 2018, ensuring young stars in R5 cars won every stage in Liepāja, while taking over eight seconds out of the entire field to comprehensively steal third place back from Kreim. The latter had suffered a lairy moment when running wide and momentarily putting Kreim's car on its side, which led him to back off for the rest of the stage. Tom Kristensson was almost lost for words after wrapping his ERC Junior U27 win and Emma Falcón won a first ERC Ladies’ Trophy title in a GC Motorsport-run PEUGEOT 208 R2, which she had borrowed as a replacement for her usual R3-spec Citroën DS3. But the biggest celebration was for Gryazin, who had sealed not only the ERC Junior U28 title but a prize drive for 2019.

ERC Junior U28: Gryazin champion as Åhlin and Kreim fight to the wire

Russian promise Nikolay Gryazin scooped a maiden FIA ERC Junior Under 28 championship title* on Rally Liepāja, while a titanic scrap between Fredrik Åhlin and Fabian Kreim for third provided a fantastic sub-plot. Starting the day with 19s in hand over nearest championship rival Chris Ingram in second place, Gryazin, 21, won all three stages during leg two’s morning loop, creating an unassailable lead of over half a minute which he would not relinquish during the afternoon. As both Gryazin and Ingram switched to a safety-first mode to secure their first and second place finishes – and the same positions in the overall championship standings – an extremely close battle over third came to a dramatic climax on the championship’s final stage of the year. Locked in battle since Saturday morning, ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland’s Fabian Kreim and CA1 Sport driver Fredrik Åhlin entered the final stage – the longest of the rally at 24.99 kilometres – separated by only 0.1s. Each had set the fastest time of anyone on SS11 and SS10, respectively. Such was the intensity of their battle both had closed up on Ingram, with Kreim only 13.7s behind in his own battle to take second in the championship from Ingram. However, after throwing his ŠKODA Fabia R5 off into a ditch at high speed and coming only centimetres from rolling over, he reigned in his pace, while Åhlin pushed on at full speed. Åhlin’s margin of victory on the final stage was 8.1s over the new ERC Junior U28 champion* and 8.3s over Kreim, demoting the German driver to fourth place. Autoklub of Czech Republic-backed Filip Mareš completed the top five young stars in R5 cars, steadily improving his pace across the weekend and improving from seventh to fifth by the rally’s end. It was the ERC Junior Under 27 graduate’s first career top five finish in the ERC Junior U28 category. Kresta Racing's Rhys Yates admitted he had underestimated the challenge of Liepāja’s lightning-fast roads but gained valuable experience in improving his pace notes and the positioning of his car, with sixth place his reward for successfully navigating a rally which had caught out many others. Laurent Pellier had been sixth at the end of leg one but technical issues forced PEUGEOT Rally Academy to retire his car on Saturday evening, electing not to restart and take part in Sunday’s action.

ERC Junior U27: Kristensson defeats Sesks on home turf

ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team secured a 1-2 finish in the Pirelli-supported FIA ERC Junior U27 category on Rally Liepāja but with Swede Tom Kristensson beating new champion* Mārtiņš Sesks to victory on his home event. Kristensson had already laid the groundwork for his second consecutive win on Saturday, with 18.8s in hand going into Sunday’s stages. Both scored an equal number of stage wins – three apiece – during leg two, Kristensson’s final margin of victory coming in at 20.7s after a very evenly matched day.

“I’m finding it really hard to find words,” said an ecstatic Kristensson. “I think we’re doing such a good job all weekend. I was really happy to do a successful end of this fantastic season with this fantastic team, Opel Motorsport.” “I am so happy right now I don’t really know what do! But it feels really good. A double win at the end of the season is fantastic.” Sesks had plenty to celebrate despite missing out on a victory on his home event. Kristensson’s late-season resurgence was not enough to stop the Latvian ace securing the ERC3 championship title*, his second place finish securing a second championship trophy this year. Miika Hokkanen ended his challenging season on a high note, repeating his podium finish on the previous event in Poland with another third place finish aboard his PEUGEOT 208 R2. His late success catapults him from eighth to sixth in the championship standings, leapfrogging fellow Saintéloc Junior Team drivers Simon Wagner – who was not present this weekend – and Catie Munnings. Roland Stengg secured his best ever result in ERC Junior U27 with fourth place, although his path to success was made a little easier by problems for his competitors. Mattia Vita, with whom he was locked in a very close battle for fifth place, was forced to retire on stage nine with an engine problem, while Kristóf Klausz spun into a ditch on SS11 to hand Stengg fourth. Munnings completed the top five in ERC Junior U27 and while she also scored ERC Ladies’ honours, the ERC Ladies’ Trophy went to Emma Falcón, who scored enough points with seventh in ERC3 to secure the title. Thanks to help from spectators, Klausz’s car was eventually rescued from the ditch he had been stranded in for 20 minutes, finishing the rally sixth in both ERC Junior U27 and ERC3, still ahead of Falcón despite his mistake. Sindre Furuseth had retired from third on Saturday and did not return for leg two due to a damaged engine.

ERC2: Remennik caps season with Liepāja win

Sergei Remennik scored his first win in the FIA European Rally Championship’s ERC2 category of the year in Latvia. With recently crowned ERC2 champion* Tibor Érdi Jr stepping up to a top-spec ŠKODA Fabia R5 in a non-points scoring entry this weekend, Russian Performance Motorsport driver Remennik was able to push on for victory, though his day was not without its dramas. A powersteering failure on stage nine caused a late scare but was remedied at midday service, allowing him to cap his second position in the ERC2 championship* with a win. Érdi finished P11 overall on his first appearance in an R5 car in the ERC, battling back from a puncture on Saturday afternoon with an impressive error-free drive.

Falcón beats Munnings to ERC Ladies’ Trophy title

Emma Falcón secured the 2018 ERC Ladies’ Trophy title on the final stage of Rally Liepāja, although her main competitor Catie Munnings secured victory on the rally itself. Munnings knew only a top five finish in ERC3 would improve her final championship position and, thanks to issues befalling fellow ERC Junior Under 27 competitors Mattia Vita and Kristóf Klausz, she progressed from seventh to fifth across the course of leg two. However, the Saintéloc driver’s gains were not enough to tip the balance in her favour for the title, with Falcón’s seventh place in ERC3 was enough to seal the trophy. “It has been a rally difficult year with many problems but I’m very happy to stay here and win the championship, said Falcón. “Thank you to Catie as well.” Falcón had taken a cautious approach throughout, with an unfamiliar GC Motorsport-run PEUGEOT 208 R2 replacing her usual Citroën DS3 R3T in Liepāja. PROVISIONAL TOP 10 POSITIONS (after 12 stages, 205.83 kilometres)
http://www.rallye-info.com/event_results.asp?event=731

FIA ERC2: Sergei Remennik (RUS)/Mark Rozin (RUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
FIA ERC3: Tom Kristensson (SWE)/Henrik Appelskog (SWE) Opel ADAM R2
FIA ERC Junior Under 28: Nikolay Gryazin (RUS)/Yaroslav Fedorov (RUS) ŠKODA Fabia R5
FIA ERC Junior Under 27: Tom Kristensson (SWE)/Henrik Appelskog (SWE) Opel ADAM R2
ERC Ladies’ Trophy: Catie Munnings (GBR) PEUGEOT 208 R2

ROLL OF HONOUR A reminder of who won what appears below*:

FIA EUROPEAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ERC1:
Driver: ALEXEY LUKYANUK (RUSSIA)
Co-driver: ALEXEY ARNAUTOV (RUSSIA)

FIA EUROPEAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ERC2:
Driver: TIBOR ÉRDI JR (HUNGARY)
Co-driver: GYÖRGY PAPP (HUNGARY)

FIA EUROPEAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP ERC3:
Driver: MĀRTIŅŠ SESKS (LATVIA)
Co-driver: RENĀRS FRANCIS (LATVIA)

FIA ERC JUNIOR UNDER 28 CHAMPIONSHIP:
Driver: NIKOLAY GRYAZIN (LATVIA)

FIA ERC JUNIOR UNDER 27 CHAMPIONSHIP:
Driver: MĀRTIŅŠ SESKS (LATVIA)

FIA EUROPEAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP FOR TEAMS
ADAC OPEL RALLYE JUNIOR TEAM (GERMANY)

ERC NATIONS’ CUP:
ADAC OPEL RALLYE JUNIOR TEAM (GERMANY)

ERC LADIES’ TROPHY:
EMMA FALCÓN (SPAIN)

*Subject to confirmation of results by the FIA