Russian driver Alexey Lukyanuk made his intentions known by setting fastest time on the Qualifying Stage for round nine of the 2016 FIA European Rally Championship, Rally Liepaja. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X driver posted a time of 2m13.590s on the 4.57-kilometre test, beating championship leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz to top spot by 0.751 seconds.
“It’s really nice to be in this car,” he said. “It’s so heavy that in first practice I was completely confused with the braking dynamics and we missed corners because I was going too fast. But it’s easy because it’s like riding a bicycle: once you know it you don’t forget it.”
Ralfs Sirmacis started his home event in a positive fashion by ending the stage third fastest, 1.85 seconds slower than Lukyanuk. The Skoda driver hasn’t unleashed his true pace yet as he admitted to making a number of mistakes on the test.
Lukasz Habaj took fourth ahead of the Mitsubishi of Siim Plangi with Raul Jeets in sixth. Frank Tore Larsen and Dávid Botka meanwhile set identical times to the thousandth of a second in seventh and eighth.
Miko Niinemäe set the pace in the ERC Junior category. The Rally Estonia winner was 0.065 seconds ahead of Finish driver Joonas Tokee. Latvian teens Nikolay Gryazin and Mārtiņš Sesks were also close behind. Championship contenders Marijan Griebel and Chris Ingram took seventh and eleventh respectively.
The event gets underway on Saturday morning with the 12.70km Kuldīga stage.