Sesks completes dominant ERC Rally Liepāja win

Mārtiņš Sesks took an astonishing European Rally Championship freshman victory by winning all 12 stages

FIA European Rally Championship 2022 Stop 5 – Liepaja, Latvia

Mārtiņš Sesks ended the second and final leg of Rally Liepāja just as he did yesterday, winning every stage and taking the overall victory by over one minute in his Team MRF Tyres Skoda Fabia.

Hayden Paddon meanwhile finished his European Rally Championship return in sixth after growing his confidence with the Hyundai.

There was little in Sesks’ way as – in his first Rally2 start of the year – he cruised to victory in the fifth round of the season, taking 12 from 12 stage wins throughout Saturday and Sunday. It also was Sesks’ first ERC win.

“This is just pure joy! It’s so incredible,” he said. “I had this opportunity thanks to Team MRF Tyres and Sports Racing Technologies and it was such a fantastic weekend. I think it’s my best rally yet.”

FIA European Rally Championship 2022 Stop 5 - Liepaja, Latvia

Despite there being no competition for the victory, there were battles emerging elsewhere across the top 10 through Sunday, the key one being a battle for second with Efren Llarena, Mikko Heikkilä and Tom Kristensson in the mix.

But for Kristensson it wasn’t meant to be, as he fell victim to a tyre issue on the second pass of Vecpils on the ninth stage, dropping him from third and out of the top 10.

That promoted Heikkilä to third and just 2.2 seconds behind Llarena, and this gap quickly diminished with the Finn taking second on the next stage.

However it was late heartbreak for Heikkilä in the fight for second as he just came up short on the final stage, 0.6s separating him from Llarena.

FIA European Rally Championship 2022 Stop 5 - Liepaja, Latvia

“We tried our best here. I did a really good stage,” Llarena said. “We are really happy with our performance. We know Poland and Latvia would be difficult for us, so to get a podium I am really happy.”

With ERC points-leader Llarena finishing second and second-in the-standings Nil Solans only coming home 12th after his troubles yesterday, Llarena’s lead at the top of the championship continues to grow.

Ken Torn put in a drive that was good enough for fourth after a tense battle unfolded through Sunday with Estonian countryman Gregor Jeets. Torn held his cool in the final few stages to keep ahead of Jeets by eight seconds.

Paddon looked much more comfortable in his i20 N Rally2 compared to yesterday after suffering an off on Saturday’s first pass of Kāķīši and saying he didn’t have a good feeling with the car.

But with more driving under his belt Paddon was happy with the performance that he was able to put in to finish sixth as he heads to Rally Estonia in two weeks’ time.

“We’ve certainly taken a big bite of the apple for the challenge we’ve got ahead,” he said at the end of the final stage. “We’re a very small team, but we’re all on the same page. We’ve got a week now until Estonia and if we can take another step there it will be good. Apart from a scratched front guard, mission accomplished.”

Alberto Battistolli and Javier Pardo battled it out early in the day for seventh, and a strong second pass of Vecpils put Battistolli right on Pardo’s tail. He eventually took the position on stage 10 and sealed the position in the final two stages.

Simone Tempestini was chasing down Yoann Bonato for much of the day, when he managed to move into ninth on the first pass of Tebra and displace Bonato, with the pair finishing in that order come the end of the final stage.