Sesks dominating in ERC, Paddon runs eighth

A flawless Liepāja day for Mārtiņš Sesks as former WRC star Hayden Paddon joins the ERC fray

FIA European Rally Championship 2022 Stop 5 – Liepaja, Latvia

Mārtiņš Sesks took a clean sweep of stage victories on Saturday to lead Rally Liepāja, while European Rally Championship returnee Hayden Paddon sits in eighth after a brief excursion earlier in the day.

Ahead of the weekend, Paddon had never driven a Hyundai i20 N Rally2, yet after the first two stages he sat in second and looked to be having a comfortable start.

But on the first pass of Kāķīši on stage three, Paddon found himself facing the forestry after a slight mistake which put his car off the course.

It wasn’t long before he got going again, but it came with a costly loss of 30s which dropped him from second and out of the top 10.

FIA European Rally Championship 2022 Stop 5 - Liepaja, Latvia

From then on it become a day of learning for the former World Rally Championship driver.

“We’re pretty limited in what we can do today,” he said after stage four. “We’ve just got to keep getting miles, keep driving the car and get used to the little things it does and doesn’t do. We know there’s a lot more speed to come, but we’ve got to keep it reasonably steady.”

Throughout the day there was no weather threat to the drivers with storms focused mainly on the Liepāja region.

But as the clouds moved onwards, small showers of rain began to hit at the end of the second passes of Mundigciems and Kāķīši, throwing a spanner in the works for what had been a relatively straightforward day for most drivers.

FIA European Rally Championship 2022 Stop 5 - Liepaja, Latvia

At the front it was plain sailing for home hero Sesks who had little to worry about across the days running and heads into Sunday with a 22.9s lead over championship leader Efren Llarena.

One driver who was desperate for a straightforward day was Nil Solans. Yet on the final stage of the day he suffered a front-right tire issue, meaning he lost his third place and is now out of the top 10.

That promoted Tom Kristensson to third at the end of Saturday, he holds a six second advantage over Mikko Heikkilä.

Alberto Battistolli was another driver whose day looked to be going well before trouble struck. Two mistakes on stage three dropped him from the front-running positions and he now sits 11th.