Solberg extends Liepaja lead as Breen suffers puncture

Team MRF's charge was held back while Solberg improved up front


Oliver Solberg edged further ahead at the front of the European Rally Championship leaderboard on Rally Liepaja, while Craig Breen dropped back with a puncture on his Hyundai.

Citroën’s Mads Østberg was fastest on Sunday morning’s opening stage but took only 0.1s out of Solberg, who went on to win the next two tests and extend his lead over Østberg in second place to 22.4s.

Rally di Roma winner Alexey Lukyanuk remains third, 10.2s behind Østberg. Though he’s in third place in the overall rally standings he’s set to bank second-placed points for his title challenge, as Østberg isn’t a ERC-registered driver this weekend.

Three drivers began the day separated by 6.4s in the battle for fourth place, but both Team MRF drivers encountered trouble during the morning loop to give Eerik Pietarinen a comfortable advantage of over 20s in fourth.

Breen had charged up to fourth place on Vecpils, the first stage of the morning, but was bemused to suffer a puncture on the loop-ending Paplaka and drop back down to sixth.

“I didn’t deserve that, I touched absolutely nothing, I have no idea what happened,” remarked Breen.

His team-mate Emil Lindholm had already dropped back on Vecpils after getting his line wrong over a jump and ending up in a field, damaging the front bumper of his Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo and dropping almost half a minute to Breen.


Breen’s puncture then promoted Lindholm to fifth, with the pair now separated by only 0.3s heading to the final loop of stages on Sunday afternoon.

Grégoire Munster remains in seventh and wasn’t able to capitalize on problems for those ahead. He suffered a spin of his own on Vecpils and ended the loop further behind sixth place than when he set off on Sunday, now 13.3s in arrears to Breen.

Eighth-placed Mikko Heikkilä edged a little closer to Munster, reducing the gap to 14.8s, while last year’s ERC3 Junior champion Efrén Llarena broke into the top 10 on the last stage of the loop with ninth place.

Llarena was helped by issues for those ahead of him and bad road position for Erik Cais, who was road sweeping as first car on the road in 10th.

Motorsport Ireland junior driver Callum Devine quickly stole 10th away from Cais but his rally ended on Mazilmāja as he crashed out. He wasn’t the only one caught out, as ERC3 Junior runner Amaury Molle went off at exactly the same corner.

Raul Jeets, father of ERC3 Junior frontrunner Gregor Jeets, encountered an unusual problem as the gear lever snapped off in his Fabia.

He fixed the problem by duct-taping a wheel wrench to what was left of his gear selector but as second car on the road he also suffered, dropping to 11th overall behind Latvian championship runner Ville Pynnönen.

American pairing Sean Johnston and Alex Kihurani climbed to 12th overall ahead of Cais, despite suffering with dust entering the cockpit of their Citroën C3 R5 throughout the morning.

“I was hacking like a dude who smokes two packs a a day!” commented Johnston at the end of Vecpils.

Mārtiņš Sesks and Ken Torn continued their close fight for ERC3 victory, separated by 2.8s in their Ford Fiesta Rally4s.

Sesks had inherited the lead late on Saturday when Torn became stuck behind an ailing Miika Hokkanen, but began Sunday by edging further head with stage wins on Vecpils and Mazilmāja.

Torn conceded he was “a bit too careful” on Vecpils and upped his pace on Paplaka, clawing 1.6s back with his first stage win of Sunday.

Any hope of Dennis Rådström closing up to the lead duo ended on Mazilmāja when he spun at a junction, ending the loop 46.9s behind Sesks.

Former World Rallycross Championship driver Reinis Nitišs is fourth, with the younger Jeets completing the top five in a 2019-spec Fiesta.

Two-time ERC2 champion Tibor Érdi Jr is all set for victory on his first rally in the production class since winning the title in 2018.

Érdi is over two minutes ahead of fellow Mitsubishi Lancer driver Ainars Igaveņš, who inherited second after Dmitry Feofanov’s Lancer suffered a turbo issue on Paplaka.

Results after SS7

1 Solberg (Volkswagen) 1h07m39.0s
2 Østberg (Citroën) +22.4s
3 Lukyanuk (Citroën) +32.6s
4 Pietarinen (Škoda) +1m16.4s
5 Lindholm (Škoda) +1m39.9s
6 Breen (Hyundai) +1m40.2s
7 Munster (Hyundai) +1m53.5s
8 Heikkilä (Škoda) +2m08.3s
9 Llarena (Citroën) +3m03.7s
10 Pynnönen (Škoda) +3m09.6