The FIA European Rally Championship moves to Latvia with Rally Liepaja and Team MRF Tyres is looking forward to the gravel challenge with Craig Breen and Paul Nagle in their Hyundai i20 R5.
The rally has attracted another strong entry list with 33 drivers competing in the top running Rally2 or Rally2 Kit machinery.
Ten stages and 179km of competitive action will greet the crews across the rally that starts with qualifying and shakedown on Thursday before the event takes place on Friday and Saturday.
The Friday stages are held in the north of the country, in Tulsi. In total four stages and 88km of action will take place, and the crews will only have a remote service to repair any issues with the car. This ensures that drivers will need to balance speed to ensure there is no damage to the car.
Each of the Friday stages are used just once with four stages in total.
The running gets underway at noon local time with the longest stage of the rally. At 27km SS1, the SC Grupa / Eurovia test will prove vital. The teams have another 25.94km stage before the remote service.
The second loop takes in two 17km stages, firstly with the Sixt Rent a car stage in Laidze before the Ramirent stage in Andumi.
The crews must return to service in Liepaja where the Team MRF Tyres crew will prepare the car for the Saturday action.
Saturday sees six stages and 91km of competitive action.
It starts at 9 am local time with SS7- Neste 1 in Palplaka before the 12km SS8 – Invest in Liepāja! (Mazilmāja) and 16km SS9 – Liepāja 1 (Vecpils).
Stages seven and nine are repeated but the crews will visit the 9.93km SS11- Canon Biznesa centrs Liepāja (Podnieki) in the final loop of the rally.
Rally Liepaja represents the second gravel rally of the 2021 season. The gravel in Latvia offers a different challenge than that of Poland.
Breen and Nagle took three stage wins for Team MRF Tyres in Poland, demonstrating the pace and the high level of development that the team has undertaken in the past 12 months.
While both are fast, loose surface rallies, the Latvian surface should not produce the same ruts as was seen in Poland, and the roads are wider, ensuring a new challenge for the team.
Craig Breen said:
“I am looking forward to getting back on gravel and revisiting a rally we did last year. The pace the Team MRF Tyres car had in Poland was very strong and I am looking forward to revisiting a rally we did last year to examine our development.”
“Rally Liepaja is a rally I enjoy. The roads are fast and more open. It is a rally that I won many years ago when it was held as a snow rally. Now in the summer, I look forward to the challenge on the dry gravel.”
“There is a strong field this weekend for the ERC. Making it through the Friday will be important as there is only a remote service and long stages. The development exercise for Team MRF Tyes is the most important thing again and being able to return to a rally we have done before will be valuable.”
Team MRF Tyres finished fifth and sixth with Breen/Nagle and Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen in 2020, in what turned out to be the only gravel rally of the season.
Each stage of the rally will be broadcast on the radio at http://www.fiaerc.com/live-radio. In addition, the pre-event press conference along with stages 1, 5, 7 and 12 will be streamed live on the FIA ERC Facebook and YouTube accounts.
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