ERC A FULL 2014
ERC Rally Liepaja day two report: Lappi lands Latvia ERC gold
2 Febraury 2014
Esapekka Lappi began his 2014 FIA European Rally Championship campaign in style with a thrilling victory in the Latvian ice and snow as Jan Černý shared the limelight by claiming the inaugural ERC Junior spoils on Rally Liepāja.
Glamour model Inessa Tushkanova also had reason to celebrate after she won the ERC Ladies’ Trophy in 28th overall and ninth in the ERC Production Car Cup category. Elsewhere, Latvian Jānis Vorobjovs clinched the Production Car spoils outright with young Russian star Vasily Gryazin earning the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy after he finished second overall behind Lappi.
The ERC Ice Master accolade was also settled in Latvia with Formula One race winner Robert Kubica landing the coveted award after the points he scored winning the ERC season-opener in Austria proved sufficient. The Pole, who wasn’t competing in Latvia, still tops the ERC drivers’ standings, albeit now level on 39 points with Lappi. Gryazin is two points adrift.
Driving a ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia Super 2000 on Michelin tyres, Lappi began Sunday’s six stages with a slender 2.6-second lead over Gryazin. But the Finn was immediately playing catch-up when Gryazin outgunned him through this morning’s opening stage. Lappi, co-driven by fellow Finn Janne Ferm, retaliated on the very next test. And while Gryazin was never able to get back on terms, thanks in part to a gearbox glitch on his Pirelli-shod Ford Fiesta S2000, which he shared with co-driver Dmitry Chumak, the 20-year-old’s outstanding run belied his lack of experience.
But it was Lappi, already a two-time winner in the ERC, who came out on top with a 34.7s winning margin at the finish in Liepāja this evening. “It was the perfect weekend with no problems at all and it was nice to start the season like this,” said Lappi, 23. “We were in fighting mode to get a victory and thanks to Vasily for the fight. Yesterday we had more snow than the other guys at the back so I had to be cautious not to do mistakes because of this. Today the road conditions were more equal and it was good to push because we had a clean line all the time. It was also a good learning process for me. I also have to thank my team and Michelin for great tyres.”
Behind Gryazin, Craig Breen overcame set-up woes to open his 2014 ERC account with third place on what is likely to be his final appearance in his Peugeot Rally Academy 207 Super 2000 before he switches to a 208 T16 for next month’s Acropolis Rally. Kajetan Kajetanowicz took fourth for LOTOS Rally Team in his Ford Fiesta R5 with Sepp Wiegand completing the top five for ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland after winning stage 11. Like fellow youngster Breen, Wiegand was unable to recover the time lost on day one due to road position and set-up issues.
A damaged engine prevented Bryan Bouffier (Citroën DS3 RRC) from restarting following his exit from the lead on Saturday morning. Engine woes also meant there was no return for Marco Tempestini. Jaroslav Orsák retired with a broken flywheel on stage 11, while fellow Czech Jaromír Tarabus crashed out on stage nine.
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