Breen Tames Latvian Snow in ERC Classic – Rally Liepaja 2015 Report

The second round of the 2015 European Rally Championship season took place on the treacherous ice and snow covered stages of Rally Liepaja in Latvia. The crews had to survive two days of slippery stages and, whilst many of the top runners found the conditions too hard to handle, it was the Peugeot 208 T16 of Craig Breen who dominated, winning the rally by nearly two minutes from two ERC 2 runners; Estonian Siim Plangi and Lithuanian driver Dominykas Butvilas took the other places on the podium.

The opening day saw just five stages but few would have predicted the carnage that those stages brought. It was Alexey Lukyanuk who set the fastest time on the opening stage however on the following test the Ford Fiesta R5 driver rolled after sliding into a ditch, effectively ending his rally. Breen’s team-mate Jonathan Hirschi didn’t even get that far after suffering a similar fate on the opening stage whilst S2000 runners Jaroslav Orsak and Giacomo Costenaro both broke wheels on the closing test. All of this allowed Breen to move into a commanding lead ahead of ERC championship leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz but the Pole also became a victim of the opening day when he stopped at a hairpin on SS5 with damage to his wheel. With virtually none of the leading cars now in contention, this allowed drivers in other categories to finish the day in high placings. Plangi and Butvilas both drove consistent days to be the best of the rest behind Breen, with leading ERC Junior runner Emil Bergkvist running a superb fourth place in his Opel Adam R2; in fact there were no less than four ERC Juniors in the top 10. The leading ERC 3 driver not eligible for ERC Junior points was Aron Domzala, who was running in 30th place overall.

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The second and final day was made up of six stages after the cancellation of the Liepaja City Special and Breen was in command for the second day in succession, allowing him to cruise to his first ERC win since the 208 T16’s debut at last year’s Acropolis Rally.

“Things changed very quickly but we stuck to our pace and this is an awesome result,” said Breen post-rally. “You have to go back through the history books, to the 1960s, for the last time an Irishman won on snow. It’s a big boost for me and after winning on gravel and Tarmac in Greece last year I’ve now won on snow so that makes me a bit of an all-rounder. Hopefully this will be the first of many this year and the championship challenge is very much back on.”

Since many of the leading R5 and S2000 cars had hit trouble on the previous day, Plangi took second place in his Mitsubishi and was incredibly just 100 seconds behind Breen at the finish. Butvilas took third after temporarily losing his place to local driver Janis Vorobjovs in the middle of the day; the latter would go on to pick up a puncture on the final stage of the rally that would drop him to seventh in the ERC classifications. Russian Igor Bulantsev finished fourth overall but wasn’t eligible for ERC points, so that position went to another Latvian, Martins Svilis. Robert Consani recovered from a terrible first day to finish in fifth position with sixth and leading ERC Junior driver going to Bergkvist, who drove a brilliant rally. Two more ERC Juniors finished in the top 10; Steve Rokland and Ralfs Sirmacis finished eighth and ninth respectively in their Peugeot 208 R2s and Estonian Raul Jeets finished in the final points-paying place in tenth. The restarting Lukyanuk won five out of the six stages on the final day, perhaps indicating what might have been, whilst Kajatanowicz held on to his ERC championship lead with the points he gained on the day.

But Breen was victorious here on the Latvian snow and now the ERC circuit moves on to his home rally, the Circuit of Ireland, in early April.

Rally Liepaja 2015 ERC Results

Pos. Driver Name Co-Driver Name Car Time/Diff
1 C. Breen S. Martin Peugeot 208 T16 1:56:49.1
2 S. Plangi M. Sarapuu Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +1:40.7
3 D. Butvilas K. Heller Subaru Impreza STI +5:48.6
4 M. Svilis I. Pukis Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +6:39.2
5 R. Consani M. Vilmot Peugeot 207 S2000 +6:51.5
6 E. Bergkvist J. Sjoberg Opel Adam R2 +7:29.9
7 J. Vorobjovs A. Malnieks Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +7:58.0
8 S. Rokland J. Aldridge Peugeot 208 VTi R2 +8.00.0
9 R. Sirmacis A. Simins Peugeot 208 VTi R2 +8.09.1
10 R. Jeets A. Toom Ford Fiesta R5 +8.36.0

Rally Liepaja Breen Win

ERC Standings After Round Two

Pos. Driver Name AUT LVA Pts
1 K. Kajetanowicz 25 + 14 0 + 6 45
2 C. Breen 0 + 3 25 + 12 40
3 R. Consani 18 + 10 10 + 2 40
4 A. Lukyanuk 15 + 10 0 + 7 32
5 S. Plangi 18 + 10 28
6 D. Butvilas 15 + 8 23
7 J. Tarabus 12 + 10 22
8 M. Svilis 12 + 3 15
9 M. Fischeriehner 10 + 4 14
10 E. Bergkvist 8 + 4 12

ERC

ERC 2 Results

Pos. Driver Name Co-Driver Name Car Time/Diff
1 S. Plangi M. Sarapuu Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1:58:29.8
2 D. Butvilas K. Heller Subaru Impreza STI +4:07.9
3 M. Svilis I. Pukis Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +4:58.5
4 J. Vorobjovs A. Malnieks Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +6:17.3
5 D. Botka P. Michalik Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +9:57.1
6 K. Hideg I. Herek Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +11:30.7
7 L. Kabacinski G. Dachowski Subaru Impreza STI +11:45.5
8 V. Stajf F. Rajnoha Subaru Impreza WRX STI +13:14.9
9 I. Tushkanova D. Chumak Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +45:08.0

Rally Liepaja Plangi

ERC 3/ERC Junior Results

Pos. Driver Name Co-Driver Name Car Time/Diff
1 E. Bergkvist J. Sjoberg Opel Adam R2 2:04:19.0
2 S. Rokland J. Aldridge Peugeot 208 VTi R2 +30.1
3 R. Sirmacis A. Simins Peugeot 208 VTi R2 +39.2
4 M. Adielsson C. Back Peugeot 208 VTi R2 +1:45.1
5 J. Armstrong N. O’Sullivan Peugeot 208 VTi R2 +2:57.2
6 C. Ingram G. Moreau Peugeot 208 VTi R2 +3:58.7
7* A. Domzala S. Gospodarczyk Citroen DS3 R3 +10:38.4
8* R. Nitiss M. Neiksans Ford Fiesta R2 +10:41.5
9* K. Klausz B. Kecskemeti Renault Clio R3 +11:53.7
10 D. Gago J. Carvalho Peugeot 208 VTi R2 +24:47.0

* = Not eligible for ERC Junior Points

RallyLiepajaBergkvist

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