The all-action 2021 FIA European Rally Championship continues with Rally Liepāja, a second consecutive fast-paced gravel counter, from July 1-3.
ESSENTIALS
What:2021 FIA European Rally Championship round 2 of 8*
When:July 1-3, 2021
Where:Liepāja and Talsi, Latvia
Stages:14
Distance:181.74 kilometres
Surface:Gravel
ERC appearances (since 2004 restructuring):9 (2013-2020)

*Also counting for:ERC2, ERC3, ERC Junior, ERC3 Junior, European Rally Championship for Teams, Abarth Rally Cup, Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT. ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory incentives available

Recent winners:
2020:Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)
2019:Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)
2018:Nikolay Gryazin/Yaroslav Fedorov (Škoda Fabia R5)
2017:Nikolay Gryazin/Yaroslav Fedorov (Škoda Fabia R5)
2016:Ralfs Sirmacis/Arturs Šimins (Škoda Fabia R5)

The rally in 100 words:
The brainchild of driver turned promoter Raimonds Strokšs and first run to great acclaim in 2013, Rally Liepāja was originally a winter event but switched to autumn in 2016 for more guaranteed weather. The new date effectively made for an all-new rally as crews adjusted to gravel roads free of snow and ice. Although the time of year had changed, the high-speed stages in western Latvia continued to thrill drivers and spectators alike. Organisers of this forward-thinking event made more changes for 2019 with a late May date and an expanded route taking in popular stages around the Talsi region.

The main changes for 2021:
Taking place in July for the first time, Rally Liepāja enters unchartered territory with a Saturday rather than a Sunday finish. Apart from SS7/SS10, Neste, all stages have been modified since 2020, when the event took place in mid-August. SS3/SS4, Talsi, is a new stage for 2021.

The route in short:
Rally Liepāja is all about high-speed gravel stages. Following Free Practice (14h15-17h15) and the Qualifying Stage (17h30) on July 1, crews head northeast from Liepāja to the city of Talsi on Friday July 2 where the opening leg’s six special stages are located. A remote service (15h05) at Talsi Airfield provides brief respite and a chance for minor repairs and new tyres. Crews are due back in Liepāja by 19h45. Saturday’s route (July 3) features two double-use stages (Neste – Paplaka – and Liepāja – Vecspils) plus the single-use Invest in Liepāja – Mazbojas – and Canon Biznesa centrs Liepāja – Podnieki). Three stages take place in the morning with a further three following midday service in Liepāja, where the finish is scheduled at 17h30. SS7/SS10 is located southeast of Liepāja with SS8/SS12, SS9 and SS11 run from east of the host city.

OVERVIEW
The all-action 2021 FIA European Rally Championship continues with Rally Liepāja, a second consecutive fast-paced gravel counter, from July 1-3.

A key component of the ERC calendar since it first ran in 2013, the Latvia-based event welcomes a record-breaking, talent-packed driver line-up, new cars, new teams, new categories, new rules, plus the latest crop of exciting young guns aiming to prove their worth as they continue the step up from national level to the world stage via the ERC.

While the ERC’s focus remains on providing a clear path of progression for drivers aiming for the top of the sport, it continues to be open to all-comers with a vast array of driver age and experience – plus machinery from the FIA Rally Cars Pyramid – all in action.

A best-ever 62 crews have entered the ninth running of Rally Liepāja with 60 eligible for ERC points. The event is a round of the revamped FIA ERC Junior Championship for Rally3 cars on Pirelli tyres, plus the new-for-2021 Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT, the arrive-and-driver series for the Renault Clio Rally5 using MICHELIN tyres. MICHELIN is also providing incentives for young talents in Rally2 cars using its products via the ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory.

Administered by the FIA and promoted by Eurosport Events, the ERC is the established step-up series to the FIA World Rally Championship and is backed up by a global broadcast package, which includes extensive coverage on the various Eurosport platforms. Four stages on each event are shown live onFacebookandYouTube, while ERC Radio is on-air from all events.

ERC 2021: WHAT’S NEW?
*ERC1 Junior is renamed ERC Junior and is for Rally3 cars on Pirelli tyres. The champion gets a season in the Rally3-based WRC3 in 2022 as his or her incredible prize.
*A new prize package is on offer in ERC3 Junior with a full ERC Junior season in 2022 for drivers using the Ford Fiesta Rally4 from M-Sport Poland (or three events for those competing in another brand of car).
*ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory rewards young drivers in Rally2 cars on MICHELIN tyres with a variety of incentives, including some to reduce budgets, during the season.
*Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT provides entry-level action on an arrive and drive basis for the MICHELIN-equipped Renault Clio Rally5.
*The gravel-based Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras in northern Portugal joins the ERC schedule for the first time, while long-term ERC partner events, Azores Rallye, Barum Czech Rally Zlín and ORLEN 77thRally Poland return after not running in 2020.
*M-Sport Poland has unleashed its all-new Fiesta Rally3 challenger, the first of its kind built to the FIA’s new rules. There are new Rally4 cars from Opel and Renault, while Rally2 Kit cars from Suzuki and Toyota are in contention for ERC2 points.
*Drivers in Rally2 cars are permitted to use a maximum of 16 tyres on asphalt and gravel events, with Rally3 drivers allowed to use a maximum of 16 tyres on asphalt and 12 on gravel rallies. For drivers in Rally4 and Rally5 cars, no more than 12 tyres can be used on asphalt or gravel.
*All drivers holding ERC priority status can score overall championship points in 2021, regardless of the type of FIA rally car they are competing in (Rally2, Rally3, Rally4, Rally5, Group N, Rally2 Kit and RGT).

ABARTH RALLY CUP CONTINUES TO OFFER SPECTACULAR PRIZES
The search is on for the 2021 Abarth Rally Cup winner – and the recipient of as much as €85,000 in prize money. The one-make series for the Abarth 124 rally on Pirelli tyres forms part of the ERC structure for the third season and provides drivers of various ages, and with differing levels of experience, the chance to compete on international-standard events on gravel and asphalt in the spectacular rear-wheel-drive scorpion-badged sportscars from Italy. Backed up by extensive media coverage, expert technical support and an on-event replacement parts service, Abarth Rally Cup contenders will chase a round-by-round prize money pool of €24,000 per event, plus an end-of-season bonus of €25,000. Because the Abarth 124 rally is built to RGT regulations, Abarth Rally Cup crews are eligible for ERC2 points and the coveted FIA title awarded to the winner of the European championship’s production-based category. ClickHEREfor more information.

CLIO TROPHY BY TOKSPORT WRT IS GO FOR 2021 ERC
Accessible arrive-and-drive rallying is new for the FIA European Rally Championship in 2021 courtesy of the exciting Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT. Using the Renault Clio Rally5 on MICHELIN tyres as standard, the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT takes place over five ERC events and offers a number of prizes and incentives to competitors. A joint initiative from Renault Sport Racing, FIA European and world title-winning team Toksport WRT and ERC promoter Eurosport Events, the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT uses a format unique to the ERC. ClickHEREfor more information.

ERC-MICHELIN TALENT FACTORY INITIATIVE SUPPORTS EMERGING STARS
FIA European Rally Championship promoter Eurosport Events is delighted to announce the creation of the ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory for the new season. Recognising the achievements of registered ERC drivers aged 28 and under at the start of 2021 competing in the championship in Rally2 cars on MICHELIN tyres, the ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory also offers a number of incentives, including special tyre prices on first six events of ERC 2021 with the best performing driver receiving their full tyre allocation for the final two events of the season from MICHELIN. VIP visits to MICHELIN’s Clermont-Ferrand headquarters in France for the three best performing ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory members following the first six events of the season are also provided. ClickHEREfor more information.

P1 RACING FUELS PODIUM CHALLENGE REWARDS ERC DRIVERS
The P1 Racing Fuels Podium Challenge continues in 2021 and rewards the top three finishes in ERC1 and ERC2 on each round with fuel vouchers that can be exchanged for P1 XR5 race fuel at subsequent events, helping competitors to further reduce the cost of competing. Across both categories, the winning drivers receive 150 litres of fuel, while the second and third placed drivers receive 100L and 50L respectively. ClickHEREfor more information.

RALLY LIEPĀJA TALKING POINTS
*FIA European Rally Championship leaderAlexey Lukyanukis reunited with co-driverDmitry Eremeevin a Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 Rally2.Alexey Arnautov, who partnered Lukyanuk to victory in Poland, is unavailable due to work commitments.

*Andreas Mikkelsenfelt his lack of knowledge driving his Toksport WRT Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo on gravel held him back on round one. The Norwegian has experience of the Talsi stages from 2010.

*Miko Marczykbegan his 2021 ERC bid with a home podium in Poland and can count on previous Rally Liepāja running from 2020 and the might of the Latvia-based Sports Racing Technologies, which is behind his ORLEN Team entry.

*After marking his second ERC start and his first on gravel in Poland, Rallye Team Spain’sNil Solansreckoned the best is definitely yet to come from he and world-level-winning co-driverMarc Martí.

*Efrén Llarena, who completes the Rallye Team Spain ERC1 attack, has previous Liepāja pedigree and heads to Latvia keen to build his experience behind the wheel of his RaceSeven-run Fabia.

*Norbert Herczig, a winner of four Hungarian titles, took a fine fifth in Poland on his return to Škoda power.

*French championYoann Bonatoimpressed on a rare gravel outing in Poland for the Citroën-powered CHL Sport Auto squad. Yacco ACCR Team’s young Czech talentErik Caisalso showed well in Mikołajki in his Ford Fiesta Rally2.

*ChileanEmilio Fernàndezmade it two points finishes from two ERC starts in Poland in the second Toksport Fabia.

*Although a technical fault and broken suspension deniedCraig Breena possible Poland podium, the Irishman scored three stage wins for Team MRF Tyres driving a Hyundai i20 R5.

*Nikolay Gryazinwas also out of luck in Poland, retiring from a comfortable lead with a double puncture, but as a two-time Rally Liepāja winner, the Latvia-based star will be one to watch this weekend.

*Umberto Scandolawill look to build on his strong start to his ERC adventure with Hyundai Rally Team Italia. Like fellow frontrunners Bonato, Fernàndez, Mikkelsen and Solans, Scandola has never contested Rally Liepāja before.

*Callum Devinecrashed heavily on his Rally Liepāja debut last season, but the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver has the talent to make the headlines for the right reasons in his Fiesta.

*Myriad delays wreckedGrégoire Munster’shopes of a flying start to his ERC campaign in Poland. His obvious pace and Liepāja knowledge will help him to bounce back.

*Armed with plenty of world championship pace and experience, Hyundai Junior DriverOle Christian Veibyis back in the ERC for the first time since 2015. The Norwegian is joining forces with top Finnish team Printsport, which is also running a Škoda for FinnEerik Pietarinen, who took an ERC podium in Latvia last season.

*Pole Promotion’s three-time German championFabian Kreimwas on form in Poland but was forced out on the opening morning due to an electrical issue.

*Georg Linnamäemakes his delayed ERC return in Latvia after being forced to skip ORLEN 77th Rally Poland following a crash on a previous event. SpaniardLuis Vilariñoalso starts in Latvia after cancelling plans to compete in Poland.

*Out of luck in Poland, Romanian championSimone Tempestinihas what it takes to fight in the top five, while young ItalianAlberto Battistolliwill be on an experience-building mission in Latvia withSimone Scattolindue to return to co-driving duties in place of stand-inLorenzo Granai.

*Tempestini is one of five young stars in Rally2 cars eligible for the ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory incentives along with Erik Cais, Efrén Llarena, Miko Marczyk and Grégoire Munster.

*Raul Jeets,Aloísio Monteiro,Lars Stugemo, plus Irish pairCathan McCourtandJason Mitchellwill also be on Rally Liepāja duty, with Jeets taking over the entry earmarked for sonGregor Jeets, who is recovering from a back injury.

*Latvia-basedDmitry Feofanovfinished second in ERC2 in Poland on his debut in a Suzuki Swift Rally2 Kit, while FrenchmanVictor Cartieralso impressed by finishing one place behind driving his self-built and self-engineered Toyota Yaris Rally2 Kit.

*Tibor ÉrdiJrclinched the first of his three ERC2 titles on Rally Liepāja in 2017, while experienced localAinārs Igaveņšwas second in class on the Latvian event last season with sonRalfsco-driving.

*After placing fifth on his ERC2 debut on his home event in Poland, Michał Pryczek is all set for his first Rally Liepāja in the Subaru Historic Rally Team Impreza he shares with father and co-driverJacek.

*Martin Radais back in the Abarth Rally Cup and will battle round one winnerDariusz Polońskifor supremacy. The Abarth 124 rally drivers are also eligible for ERC2 points.

*Oscar Solbergmakes his ERC Junior debut in Latvia in a Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally3 from M-Sport Poland after cousin and world championship starOliver Solbergstepped in by essentially handing over the €100,000 he earned for winning the ERC1 Junior crown in 2020. Reigning ERC3/ERC3 Junior championKen Tornprovides strong opposition on an event he knows well from two previous starts.

*Another two examples of the Krakow-built Fiesta Rally3 are entered on Rally Liepāja forZoltán László– father of ERC3 Junior contender Martin – andIgor Widłak.

*FinnSami Pajari(Ford Fiesta Rally4) is the driver to beat in ERC3 and ERC3 Junior following his Poland victory double. Rallye Team Spain’sPep Bassas(Peugeot 208 Rally4) andŁukasz Lewandowski(Opel Corsa Rally4) are contenders for ERC3 honours, while the ERC3 Junior line-up features 13 young talents all using Pirelli tyres.

*RomanianNorbert Maiorand Germany’sNick Loofjoined Pajari on the Poland ERC3 Junior podium, while OT Racing’sKaspar Kasari(Estonia) and CzechDaniel Polášekalso placed well.

*Liepāja’s very ownMārtiņš Sesksis the 2018 ERC3/ERC3 Junior champion and returns to European competition for his home event ahead of the resumption of his Junior World Rally Championship campaign in Estonia next month.

*Renault Clio Rally4 pairJean-Baptiste Franceschi(France) andOla Jr Nore(Norway) were fast but lacking in good fortune in Poland, where Austrian promiseNikolai Landaand Rallye Team Spain scholarship driverAlejandro Cachónalso retired. Hungary’sMartin Lászlówas in the podium fight when he was forced to retire on the penultimate stage with a broken front-right steering arm.

*Amaury Mollehit back from early frustration to finish sixth among the ERC3 Junior contingent in Poland on a rare start on gravel.

*Joosep Ralf Nõgeneis preparing for his ERC3 Junior debut on Rally Liepāja. The 18-year-old from Estonia is the youngest driver among the ERC-registered runners and took up rallying last season following a career in crosskarts.

*Paulo Soria, from Argentina, tops the Clio Trophy by Toksport WRT, the all-new arrive-and-drive series for the Renault Clio Rally5 on MICHELIN tyres. French pairGhjuvanni RossiandBastien Bergounhecompleted the Clio podium in Poland whereAndrea Mabellini(Italy) and Turkey’sYigit Timurwere also in action, albeit out of luck due to tyre damage and an accident respectively.

ERC Q&A: NIKOLAY GRYAZIN
The two-time Rally Liepāja winner, the 23-year-old former ERC1 Junior champion has what it takes to challenge for a third ERC victory in Latvia, this time in his Movisport Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.

As a two-time Rally Liepāja winner what does it take to be successful on this event?“I started my career in Latvia so I have quite a good understanding of the type of gravel there is. I have some knowledge of the roads and also experience of different cars on this rallly. But I am not the only one with such experience so I will need to prove myself and have a good fight on what is an amazing event.”

For a driver new to Rally Liepāja, how would you describe the event, the challenge you face and the nature of the stages?“The stages are quite fast and you need to be ready not to lift the pedal through the fast and blind corners over the crests because the gravel is quite soft and you can really go flat out. You need to trust the car but you need to be brave and push through the corner with really high speed. You think the corner will not give you the permission to go flat out but the Latvian gravel helps you stay on the road.”

What are the best things and worst things about Rally Liepāja?“I would say the worst thing is the stage in Talsi where I crashed last year and also in 2017 where one of the other rallies I was competing on had the same stages. I was crashing in the same corner but in the other direction. I hope this year I will go through this corner more safely. The best things are the beach, when the weather is nice, and the fast roads. The people are also really nice in Latvia and it’s really easy to talk to them. I think the organisation is the best in Latvia.”

How frustrating was your Poland retirement and how keen are you on revenge in Latvia?“The frustration was quite big as you can see from FIA ERC on the YouTube I was really upset. When you are doing your job in a proper way and something goes wrong for sure it’s frusrating but I never blame anyone, it happens in life and it’s a kind of experience. We were there to win, we set some fastest times and it will make us stronger. For sure I am looking for revenge in Latvia when I hope to fight with the other fast drivers. I’m really excited because I feel good in the car so let’s see how it goes.”

What’s your strategy for this event and what do you believe you can achieve?“I will try to fight for the win and for sure I will try to manage a time gap to try to drive to the finish safely and not risk too much. But we need to fight in the beginning for a good result and after we will try to manage the speed. It’s nice to push all the time but still we need to be smart.”

HOW TO FOLLOW?
On TV and online:
There will be live coverage, including from the ERC’s camera in the sky, plus expert commentary and analysis from Julian Porter and Chris Rawes, onFacebookandYouTubeof the following:
Pre-event press conference/selection of starting positions:19h45, Thursday July 1 onFacebookandYouTube
SS1:SC Grupa/Euorvia (Mundingciems), from 12h00, Friday July 2 onFacebookandYouTube
SS5:Sixt rent a car (Laidze), from 15h40, Friday July 2 onFacebookandYouTube
SS7:Neste 1 (Paplaka), from 09h00, Saturday July 3 onFacebookandYouTube
SS12:Liepāja 2 (Vecspils), from 15h25, Saturday July 3 onFacebookandYouTube
Daily highlightswill be shown on Eurosport and Eurosport Player. Friday’s wrap-up is due to broadcast at 23h15 with Saturday’s action on air at 22h30. Several videos will be published onFIAERC.comandYouTubebefore, during and after the rally. TheERC All Accessmagazine show will be broadcast on Eurosport at 21h50 CET on July 6, while the extendedRally Reviewprogramme is distributed to global broadcasters.
Videos, news update and live timing:Available atFIAERC.com
ERC Radio:Live from the end of stages. Available atFIAERC.comor download the official ERC App.
Social media:Follow the ERC onFacebook,Instagram,Twitter.

RALLY LIEPĀJA FIVE FACTS
1:Rally Liepāja ran for the first time in 2013 with Jari Ketomaa/Kaj Lindström taking victory in a Ford Fiesta RRC. It was the first and only year the really finished in Ventspils, up the Baltic coast from the host city.
2:In recent years, Rally Liepāja has formed part of the Festival of Speed Kurzeme, which brings powerboat racing to the city’s Tirdzniecības canal, plus other motorised attractions to the local area.
3:Two former Liepāja winners, Craig Breen and Esapekka Lappi, have both gone on to secure factory drives in the World Rally Championship, while Nikolay Gryazin was part of Hyundai’s WRC2 line-up in 2020 and continues in the division this season driving a Movisport-entered Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
4:Oliver Solberg is the event’s youngest winner after taking top spot in 2019 aged 17 years, eight months and three days. In fact, the result made him the youngest ERC event winner.
5:Liepāja can claim to be the only Latvian city outside the capital Riga to offer air, land and sea transport options, while its former city council chairperson, Uldis Sesks, is an ex-rally driver of note and father of Mārtiņš Sesks, the 2018 FIA ERC3 and ERC3 Junior champion.
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