Preview: 2018 Rally Liepāja: Three Way Battle For U28 Honours In Latvia

by Steven Batey

The final round of the 2018 FIA European Rally Championship takes place this weekend with Rally Liepāja in Austria as Nikolay Gryazin, Chris Ingram and Fabian Kriem bid to become FIA ERC Junior Under 28 champion.

Beginning on Saturday morning, the rally sees 12 gravel stages split evenly across the weekend with over 200km of stage miles awaiting the crews.

With Alekey Lukyanuk having secured the main ERC championship last time out and not competing this weekend, attention switches to the ERC J28 class where just eight points separates the leading trio of drivers as they look to win a one-off WRC prize drive in 2019.

Gryazin, winner of Rally Poland two weeks ago, has a seven point lead over Ingram with German driver Kreim just a further point adrift in third.

If the Russian wins this weekend, he is guaranteed the title after drop scores are accounted for as he would have effectively won four rallies from four starts in 2018 – his two rivals so far have only won one rally each without looking at the drop scores effect.

Photo Credit: Gregory Lenormand / DPPI

ERC J28 also sees Fredrik Åhlin return to the championship this weekend after missing the previous two rounds, while Rhys Yates, fresh from competing on Dayinsure Wales Rally GB last weekend, makes his fourth ERC appearance of the season as he continues his European campaign on top of his British Rally commitments in 2018. Laurent Pellier and Filip Mareš also compete in Latvia.

Mārtiņš Sesks is already the winner of the ERC Junior Under 27 championship after securing the title last time out in Poland, but the Latvian hero will have the chance to show why he is the man to beat as he competes on home soil.

Photo Credit: Gregory Lenormand / DPPI

Sesks originates from rally base Liepāja and will be looking to put on a show for his home fans this weekend. Teammate to Sesks and winner last time out Tom Kristensson will be wanting to show his potential with another win on Sesks homeland, while several other drivers including Miika Hokkanen and Mattia Vita, who has finished fourth for the last three events, could be on for good results this weekend.

One man to watch out for at the front of the overall field could be Tibor Érdi Jr, who steps up to a R5-spec Skoda Fabia for the first time. The ERC2 champion opted to skip the previous round in Poland having already wrapped up the title so that he could collect his car ready for this weekend and the Hungarian is hoping to turn his one off appearance this weekend into a full R5 season campaign in 2019.

Tibor Erdi Jr makes his R5 debut this weekend. Photo Credit: media.fiaerc.com

The ERC Ladies Trophy will go down to the final round as both Catie Munnings and Emma Falcón are tied on 275 points. Munnings come into the event in better form, but anything could happen this weekend.

The final round of the 2018 FIA ERC also sees several interesting one-off entries including newly crowned European Rallycross Champion Reinis Nitišs in a Mitsubishi Evo X while Oliver Solberg, son of Petter, enters in a Peugeot 208 R2.

2018 Rally Liepāja takes place this weekend between October 13-14.

 

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