The 2020 FIA European Rally Championship returns with round two of the season this weekend in Latvia with Rally Liepāja, where series leader Alexey Lukyanuk is aiming to make it back-to-back wins.
Lukyanuk heads there with several drivers hot on his heels as the ERC regulars are again joined by several WRC drivers who are using the event to prepare for championship’s return next month.
As with sport around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the event this weekend with only a limited number of tickets on sale to the public, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies both also being cancelled.
The itinerary has also been changed, with the event now taking place within a 200km barrier to try and keep the competitors in a small of an area as possible.
10 stages over two days totalling 180km of competitive miles is set to take place this weekend, with Latvia playing host to the second event of what is a now a six-round series.
Someone who has to be considered as a potential winner is defending Liepāja winner Oliver Solberg, who famously became the youngest ever winner of a European round last year.
Solberg finished fourth overall in the opening round of the year, Rally di Roma Capitale, last month, and again enters the series in a Volkswagen Polo R5.
Another WRC regular competing this weekend is Mads Østberg. The Norwegian is entered in his familiar Citroen C3 R5 and has to be in the running for a strong result.
Østberg’s former Citroen WRC teammate Craig Breen is also in contention after a strong maiden appearance in the MRF Tyres backed Hyundai i20.
The Irishman set a string of competitive stage times in the asphalt season opener last month and could make the most of his vast rallying experience on the first gravel event of the season this weekend.
Nikolay Gryazin could also be up near the top of the timesheets and will be looking to prove a point against his world championship rivals Solberg and Østberg as he makes his first international rallying appearance since Rally Mexico back in March.
ERC1 Junior has a total of nine names on the entry list, with drivers including Efrén Llarena and Breen’s MRF teammate Emil Lindholm all wanting to prove they can compete against experienced WRC regulars.
Callum Devine, who’s ERC season opener was cut short with mechanical problems, will also want to be getting his season underway properly this weekend as he returns in the class.
After drama on the very last stage of the rally in the ERC3 Junior class, Ken Torn leads the standings after rival Pedro Antunes crashed out.
Portuguese driver Antunes doesn’t compete in Latvia, so Torn, who took the win in the new Ford Fiesta Rally4 last time out, will be battling against drivers including Pep Bassas and Junior WRC regular Dennis Rådström.
ERC2 sees a strong entry this weekend, with eight drivers set to take part. Winner in Rome Zelindo Melegari will be arguably the favourite for the win.
He won’t have it all his own way however, as former champion Tibor Érdi Jnr will make his first appearance in the class for over a year so the battle between the pair could potentially be great to watch. Andrea Mabellini, Dariusz Poloński and Martin Rada line up in the Abarth Rally Cup.
The second round of the 2020 FIA European Rally Championship, Rally Liepāja, takes place this weekend.