ERC: Breen on course for success in Latvia

Craig Breen leads round two of the FIA European Rally Championship, after an incredibly difficult opening day of Rally Liepaja that saw many of the top drivers retire
Craig Breen leads round two of the FIA European Rally Championship, after an incredibly difficult opening day of Rally Liepaja that saw many of the top drivers retire.

Co-driven by Scott Martin, the Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16 driver made no mistakes on the day's five ultra-fast stages, despite the Latvia road conditions changing from snow and ice to gravel as the temperature rose above freezing.

In the trickiest of conditions, Breen completed all 114.13 kilometres of stages without a problem to go into the overnight halt with an advantage of 1m23s over ERC2 class leader, Siim Plangi.

“I'm not doing anything stupid or taking any risks,” said Irishman Breen. “On the first stage we had a bit of a push and I was quite pleased with the time. When we got the news about Alexey pLukyanuk] on the second stage on the last one I just wanted to get through it without taking any stupid risks.”

The thawing snow and ice and unforgiving Latvia ditches contributed to a number of major retirements – and Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Alexey Lukyanuk, Jonathan Hirschi and Jaroslav Orsák all failed to reach the end of the first day of competition.

Lukyanuk had led after the opening stage, but whilst trying to extend a 0.7s advantage the Belarus driver rolled his new Ford Fiesta R5 on SS2, after sliding into a ditch.

European championship leader Kajetanowicz had been a fantastic runner-up spot on his second rally using the long Pirelli studded tyres. Unfortunately, on the final stage of the day his LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5 stopped on the apex of a tight left hand hairpin with wheel damage. There was some consolation for the Polish driver, however, as his stage results were enough to crown him ERC Ice Master champion.

Jonathan Hirschi suffered an early exit, when the Swiss driver put his Peugeot 208 T16 off into a ditch on a fast section on road on SS1, while both Jaroslav Orsak (Skoda Fabia S2000) and Giacomo Costenaro (Peugeot 207 S2000) stopped on SS5 with reported broken wheels.

Raul Jeets had a good run to an overnight 10th place, despite the digital dashboard display not showing what gear his MM-Motorsport Fiesta R5 was in for half the day. Robert Consani suffered from his running position, a wrong tyre choice in the afternoon and “a very bad day” to end the leg 11th in his Peugeot 207 S2000.

Jarosław Koltun kept out of trouble in his Fiesta R5 to finish the day in 18th, Martin Hudec completed his first ever day's rallying in a Fabia S2000 in 20th – despite a big 100 metres slide on SS5 – while Antonin Tlusťak had been very pleased with his tyre choice for the morning's stages, but then lost four minutes on SS4 in his Fabia S2000 and dropped to 27th.

The event now concludes on Sunday. The route features three stages run twice east of host city Liepāja and over a competitive distance of 91.60 kilometres. The action begins with the 11.33-kilometre Sporta Bars Optibet test at 08h30 local time. With the Liepaja City Special no longer running due to the warmer than expected weather conditions, the finish has been brought forward to 15h30 local time.

Related Pictures

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Craig Breen / Scott Martin. Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16. Rally Liepâja (Latvia) [Pic credit: ERC]

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