Rally Liepāja-Ventspils preview
Forty crews will be in action on 15 stages
Going fast on snow is big news – just ask downhill skier Johan Clarey, who became the first person in history to top 100mph (161kph) during a World Cup skiing event in Switzerland recently.
In the FIA European Rally Championship, the drivers go even faster on snow – considerably faster in fact – and will be demonstrating just how fast when the series heads to Latvia for the first time next week for Rally Liepāja-Ventspils (1-3 February).
Taking place between the cities of Liepāja (say Leepia)and Ventspils on Latvia’s Baltic coast to the west of the capital Riga, Rally Liepāja-Ventspils is a brand new event and the first designated pure snow rally to form part of the ERC schedule since the series was restructured in 2004.
And with the bulk of the stages taking place on high-speed country roads coated with snow and ice and littered with sweeping turns, jumps, dips and blind crests, the action will be sensational with extensive coverage available on Eurosport, Eurosport Player and at www.fiaerc.com.
Forty crews will be in action on 15 stages split between three legs over a competitive distance of 243.00 kilometres. However, because the distance covered on leg one does not exceed 25 per cent of the total competitive length, bonus points will only be handed out to the top seven competitors in the overall, Production Car Cup and 2WD classifications after legs two and three.
While the battle for outright victory is likely to be between leading seeds Jari Ketomaa, Craig Breen and François Delecour (pictured), one driver set to attract significant attention will be Inessa Tushkanova.
The 25-year-old glamour model from Ukraine will compete for FIA ERC Production Car Cup honours where her rivals will include top Russian Alexey Lukyanuk, rapid Estonian youngster Siim Plangi and talented Czech Jaroslav Orsák. All four will drive Mitsubishi Lancers.
“I don’t have any hopes and dreams about big prizes in Latvia, but I find it very important to participate in the rally for my career since the level of ERC is very high and my plans for rally do not stop after one year,” said Tushkanova.
The ERC 2WD Championship will also provide plenty of action with category leader Hannes Danzinger (Renault Clio R3) up against, among others, top Latvian Ralfs Sirmacis (Ford Fiesta R2) and Italian Elwis Chentre (ŠKODA Fabia R2). Stéphane Lefebvre, meanwhile, will be giving Peugeot’s 208 R2 its ERC debut.
As well as Peugeot 207 Super 2000 drivers Breen and Delecour and Ford Fiesta RRC-mounted Ketomaa, Jan Černý, who will pilot a Fabia S2000, is the reigning ERC 2WD champion and a future prospect, while Antonín Tlusťák is due to prepare for Rally Liepāja-Ventspils by contesting the Halls Winter Rally in Lithuania tomorrow (Saturday). Raimonds Kisiels is the highest-seeded local driver in a MINI John Cooper Works S2000.