Day report: Gryazin continues to hold off Ingram for Liepāja lead
Nikolay Gryazin continued his strong FIA European Rally Championship form to lead Rally Liepāja ahead of Junior rival Chris Ingram, despite late drama with a puncture on the final stage of leg one.
Sports Racing Technologies driver Gryazin won the first five stages, gradually increasing his lead over Ingram in their battle for ERC Junior U28 championship honours. His lead nearly came unstuck on stage six, picking up a rear-left puncture around halfway through the Škoda (Vilgāle) test.
Despite his puncture, Gryazin lost only 0.6s to stage winner Ingram, finishing the day with 19s in hand.
ERC Junior U28 title outsider Fabian Kreim completed the top three places, the ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland driver taking a podium position away from CA1 Sport’s Fredrik Åhlin on the day’s penultimate stage.
Łukasz Habaj holds fifth, within striking distance of the podium battle. The eSky Rally Team pilot is 6.8s behind Åhlin and a further 2s off Kreim.
A lack of top-end speed hampered Eyvind Brynildsen through Rally Liepāja’s faster stages, much of which is high speed, fifth gear sections. With a 10kph top speed deficit compared to the dominant ŠKODA Fabia R5 in his Ford Fiesta, he ended leg one in sixth, a mere 0.3s behind Habaj.
ACCR Czech Team’s Filip Mareš gradually improved his pace throughout the day, moving from ninth to seventh overall and assuming control of fifth in ERC Junior U28. That position initially came at the expense of PEUGEOT Rally Academy’s Laurent Pellier, who fell behind Mareš before midday service.
Though Pellier finished eighth overall after leg one’s six special stages were completed, he arrived at the SS6 finish line with his engine switched off and with his car’s water temperature rising. He must reach the service park and check in to service to ensure he retains his overall position – and sixth in ERC Junior U28 – otherwise he faces retirement.
Rhys Yates continued the ERC Junior domination of Rally Liepāja, finishing the day ninth overall and the seventh ERC Junior U28 runner in the overall top 10, with only 13.5s in arrears to Pellier ahead. Orhan Avcioğlu completes the ERC top 10 aboard his Toksport WRT Fabia.