It was a battle of attrition on this year’s dramatic Rally Liepaja, round 2 of the FIA European Rally Championship and it was Irishman Craig Breen that survived to take the top spot. The Peugeot Academy driver put the disappointment of Austria behind him and took victory by 1m 40.7s in his 208 T16 R5. ERC2 winner Siim Plangi took an impressive second with Dominykas Butvilas in third.
After the drama of day 1 which saw two of Breen’s main rivals, Alexey Lukyanuk and Kajetan Kajetanowicz, crashing out it was a case of getting to the finish for the Irishman. The conditions had changed once again and crews had to contend with heavy blizzards of snow and freezing fog. A cautious start for the Peugeot Academy driver saw him set a time 17th fastest time on the opening stage of the day but over the remaining tests Breen was right on the pace going third fastest on the last five stages, bettered only by Lukyanuk and Kajetanowicz who restarted the rally this morning.
The Irishman’s effort has netted him 37 championship points Breen was understandably delighted, saying “I’m always happy, but today I’m very happy! It was a really good weekend for us. The conditions were very difficult.
“Yesterday we had a lot of rain and all the snow that had been collected in the stages over the last weeks melted within a couple of hours, so it was really tricky. Today we had the opposite, a lot of snow that came during the night and again in the day, which was blown by the wind and made visibility very difficult. It was quite a unique rally.”
ERC2 was dominated by Estonian Siim Plangi in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. Plangi won the category by over four minutes from Lithunia’s Dominykas Butvilas who had to fight off the attack from local driver Martins Sivilas who finished third. Plangi, who isn’t competing the full championship, took €7000 in prize money after an impressive performance.
In the ERC Junior rally Emil Bergkvist doubled his advantage from day 1 to take victory on the first round of the ERC Junior Championship and an incredible seventh overall in his ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team Adam R2. The Swedish driver finished just over 30 seconds ahead of Steve Rokland who took advantage of Mattias Addielsson’s roll to take second place. Local driver Ralfs Sirmacis impressed with his third place winning three of the days stages and taking the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy for his efforts. Addielsson managed to recover from his stage 8 off to finish fourth.
The European Rally Championship heads to Northern Ireland for round three where competitors will tackle the infamous Circuit of Ireland Rally. The event kicks off on April 2 from Belfast City.
Rally Liepaja Top 10
1. Craig Breen / Scott Martin 1:18:43.3
2. Siim Plangi / Marek Sarapuu + 1:05.0
3. Dominykas Butvilas / Kamil Heller +4:42.2
4. Janis Vorobjovs / Andis Malnieks +4:51.0
5. Martins Svilis / Ivo Pukis +4:58.0
6. Emil Bergkvist / Joakim Sjoberg +5:03.6
7. Raul Jeets / Andrus Toom +5:04.9
8. Igor Bulantsev / Marina Danilova +5:06.0
9. Ralfs Sirmacis / Arturs Simins +5:16.4
10. Steve Rokland / James Aldrige +5:16.4