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Škoda Motorsport and Esapekka Lappi honoured as leader of Rally Liepāja

The first six special stages of the second round of FIA European Rally Championship – Rally Liepāja took place on Saturday, February 1. Towards the end of the day competitor of Škoda Motorsport team, Finn Esapekka Lappi (Škoda Fabia S2000) moved forward to leading position over the closest rival Vasily Gryazin (Ford Fiesta S2000)by as little as 2,6 seconds. Third position is currently taken by Craig Breen of Peugeot Rally Academy falling behind the leader by 59,2 seconds.

- Esapekka Lappi (Aigars Tīdmanis,

Night before Saturday was taken over by snowstorm in Liepāja, thus excusing the tactics established by the leaders the day before – to choose lower start position, because the crews starting from the front lines drove through a thick layer of snow thus taking in less favourable position in comparison with the competitors.

French crew Robert Consani/Vincent Landais (Peugeot 207 S2000) with the 47th result in the first special stage Sporta bārs Optibet 1 started as the first in the rally. Repeated race through the same special stage over rutted cover of snow resulted in much competitive result with the 13th best time. I am Mr. Cleaner, but it’s ok – I’m learning to drive through the snow,” said 31-year old Consani currently participating in his first winter rally in his entire career.

Closing the first day of rally with three best times of special stages the pilot of Škoda Motorsport Esapekka Lappi took the leading position of the race over his closest rival Vasily Gryazin by 2,6 seconds. ”Half of the turns deny from acceptable maneuver, because the wheels keep constantly spinning. I drove at maximum speed, on the border of risk. Roads are a little similar to the ones of Finland, it was a real fun.”

- Vasily Gryazin (Aigars Tīdmanis,

Surprise of the first day of Rally Liepāja was prepared by Vasily Gryazinparticipating with Latvian licence showing the best time in the second and third special stage standing in the honoured leader’s position for the most of the day. I am surprised for the results, since the special stages are very slippery, but I am trying to drive at maximum speed,” said Gryazin. ”I think I will have a good sleep. I am happy, and I will try driving as fast as I can tomorrow.”

Pilot of Peugeot Rally Academy Craig Breen (Peugeot 207 S2000) closed the first day of Rally Liepāja in the third position, just at the end of the day gaining on from the closest rival, repeated champion of Poland Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Ford Fiesta R5). “This is the hardest winter rally I’ve ever seen in my life,” 23-year old Breen said after the first special stage. “I’ve never experienced anything like that before – as soon I step into the rhythm, the car hits me out of it. Snow is so deep that it is hard to drive. I don’t know what to do, I can’t drive any faster – every time I try to raise the speed, it ends outside the road. This is not my lucky day.”

- Craig Breen (Aigars Tīdmanis,

Fastest crew of the first special stage Sporta bārs Optibet 1 was one of the rally’s favourites, French crew Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri (Citroën DS3 S2000), winners of the high second position in the first round of World Rally Championship (WRC) Rallye Monte Carlo. However, in the next special stage the pilot made a mistake and damaged car’s radiator, which led to forced default.

Fierce fight for victory has begun also within Production cup, where Estonian racer Siim Plangi (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) currently takes the leading position outranging Latvian Mārtiņš Svilis (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) by 4,2 seconds.

New Czech talent Jan Černy (Peugeot 208 R2) has moved forward in ERC Junior Championship outranging Finn Risto Immonen (Citroën C2) by 7,5 seconds. Pilot of LMT Autosporta Akadēmija Ralfs Sirmacis (Ford Fiesta R2) who was third fastest racer in front- wheel drive car class after SS5 ecoRent 2, became a fierce competitor of the fastest European junior racers.

Simultaneously the first round of Latvian rally championship took place on Saturday, where the first position in overall classification was taken by Vasily Gryazin, followed by Siim Plangi (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X), who outpace Mārtiņš Svilis by a shy 4,2 seconds.

- Vasily Gryazin (Aigars Tīdmanis,

N4 group was won by Siim Plangi, while the R5 group winner was Vasily Gryazin. While the winner in the front-wheel drive R2 group was won by Latvian champion Ralfs Sirmacis (Ford Fiesta).

Six more special stages with the total distance reaching 102.84 kilometres are left to go for Sunday. Start of tomorrow’s first special stage SS7 1 is scheduled at 8:00. Rally Liepāja closing and award ceremony will commence at 20:30 in Liepāja promenade.