Nikolay Gryazin won the final round of the 2018 FIA European Rally Championship, Rally Liepāja, last weekend and secured the ERC Junior U28 title as a result.
Coming into round eight of the 2018 season, the U28 battle was between Gryazin, Chris Ingram and Fabian Kreim and it was the Russian who came out on top, winning the Austrian event by 43.3s ahead of Ingram.
With the win and drop scores taken into effect, Russian Gryazin effectively won all four of the four events that he chose to count scores with in 2018 and therefore couldn’t be beaten to the championship win. He said on his victory: “It feels good and I’m really satisfied. 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.”
Behind in second, Ingram tried his best to catch the Russian who dominated throughout the two-day event, but the Brit had to settle for the runners up spot both in the event and in the championship race.
The battle for the final step on the podium went down to the final stage after Kreim and Fredrik Åhlin swapped positions throughout the weekend and were separated by just 0.1s going into the Liepāja Tebra finale. The Swede produced a stunning final stage win by 8.1s over Gryazin to leapfrog the young German driver into third with Kreim having to settle for fourth both in class and overall.
The top four all took at least one stage win from the twelve available, meaning that for the first time in ERC history, every stage on one round of the championship was won by drivers competing in the U28 class.
Łukasz Habaj took fifth overall and was the leading ERC class driver, with the Pole finishing ahead of Filip Mareš, Rhys Yates and Orhan Avcioglu who survived losing three minutes on the final stage while changing a puncture to hold onto eighth overall. Eyvind Brynildsen was running in fifth when he crashed spectacularly on stage 10 and retired from the rally as a result.
It wasn’t to be a fairy-tale finish to the season for local hero Mārtiņš Sesks in the ERC Junior U27 class as teammate Tom Kristensson won his second consecutive event. Sesks, who originates from the Liepāja area, did manage to secure the ERC3 win on home soil however as he finished runner up behind the Swede.
With the top two trading fastest stage times throughout the weekend, eventually finishing 20.7s apart, third went to Finn Miika Hokkanen in a Peugeot 208 R2. Roland Stengg and Catie Munnings rounded out the top five. Sergei Remennik made the most of Tibor Érdi Jr’s step up to an R5-spec car in Latvia and took the ERC2 victory and despite her rival’s win on the event itself, Emma Falcón secured the ERC Ladies Trophy championship after finishing fifth in ERC3.