Photo Gregory Lenormand / DPPI

*Russian youngster beats Rovanperä to maiden outright win
*Ingram lands 100,000 euros career progression fund with ERC Junior U27 triumph
*ERC2 victor Érdi Jr joins Kajetanowicz as an ERC champion
*Castrol Ford Team Turkey wins FIA European Rally Championship for Teams

Nikolay Gryazin and Chris Ingram were the big winners when the 2017 FIA European Rally Championship concluded on Rally Liepāja today.

Riga-based Russian Gryazin, who turned 20 on Saturday, claimed his first victory in the FIA ERC Junior Under 28 Championship – and had double reason to celebrate after he beat event-long rival Kalle Rovanperä to overall victory by 18.5s following two days of challenging stage action in Latvia.

“It was really good and a good birthday present for me,” said the Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5 driver, who becomes the seventh winner from eight ERC events in 2017. “All the race it was quite okay, some places near the limit. Kalle was really fast and I’m happy to win after a good competition.”

By winning the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship following a four-way title battle, Ingram earns 100,000 euros to put towards an FIA ERC Junior Under 28 campaign for 2018 when he steps up to a top-of-the-range R5 car for the first time.

The Opel Rallye Junior Team driver narrowly missed out on ERC Junior title glory last season but now gets the perfect opportunity to step up to the next level in accordance with the ERC’s mission to provide a vital platform of progression for young talents.

“My first ERC round was here in Latvia four years ago and I’ve been trying to win this title ever since so to do it is the best thing ever,” said Briton Ingram, who also claimed the ERC3 title. “I’ve been working towards this moment pretty much every day for the last four years. I’ve been so dedicated and everything has paid off now. I now have the best cash prize in rallying that will help me progress and as soon as I get home I’m going to be speaking to people to try and do the whole European championship next year.”

Tibor Érdi Jr overcame a four-point deficit starting the event to secure the ERC2 crown ahead of Zelindo Melegari as FIA World Rallycross Championship star Reinis Nitišs bagged the category honours on his home event, which marked only his third rally start. Castrol Ford Team Turkey beat ACCR Czech Team to FIA European Rally Championship for Teams success.

Elsewhere, Kajetan Kajetanowicz and co-driver Jarek Baren wrapped up the overall ERC title for a record-breaking third consecutive season after his challenger, Bruno Magalhães, crashed out on Saturday evening’s Liepāja City Stage. After spending the night under observation in hospital, a battered and bruised Portuguese has been told he will make a full recovery.

Leg two recap: Gryazin grabs ERC gold
Nikolay Gryazin started Sunday’s closing leg 18.3s ahead of Kalle Rovanperä but came under instant attack when his 17-year-old Finnish rival outpaced him by 7.1s on the first stage of the day. That result cut Gryazin’s lead to 10.2s, which became 10.1s when Rovanperä went quickest again on SS9. But Gryazin responded in style on SS10, winning by 7.1s.

It was a performance the Russian described as “on the limit in some places”, and meant he led by 17.2s at midday service in Liepāja. Following the cancellation of SS11 due to a civilian helicopter crash close to the stage finish, Gryazin won SS12 to head to the final stage in front by 19.7s. Although Rovanperä was quickest in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5, it wasn’t enough to prevent Gryazin from climbing on to the top step of the podium.





Łukasz Habaj started the afternoon in a close battle with José Suárez for fourth, which became third when Kajetan Kajetanowicz withdrew his LOTOS Rally Team Fiesta for personal reasons. Albert von Thurn und Taxis completes his first season in the ERC with a fine fifth place.

ERC Junior Under 28: Big day for Gryazin
Nikolay Gryazin secured second place in the FIA ERC Junior Under 28 Championship standings behind champion Marijan Griebel with his maiden category win on his ‘home’ event. José Suárez started leg two trailing his Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Pepe López by 1.0s but moved ahead when his fellow Spaniard crashed out on this morning’s opening test. Suárez secured third in the final rankings.

ERC Junior Under 27: Ingram at last
The battle for the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 Championship was turned on its head when overnight leader Jari Huttunen went off the road on SS8, picking up two punctures in the process. With only one spare on board, the Finn was forced to complete the morning loop with only three fully-inflated tyres on his Opel ADAM R2. With Huttunen delayed, Chris Ingram moved into the class lead and drove without error to the finish to claim the title. Local driver Mārtiņš Sesks came back from a spectacular roll to finish second with ACCR Czech Team’s Filip Mareš third at the end of his first season of international competition. Huttunen beat Aleks Zawada to fourth with Kristóf Klausz sixth, Buǧra Banaz seventh, Tamara Molinaro eighth and Karel Kupec ninth following mechanical issues. Technial problems put Dominik Brož out on the final stage. Ingram won the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy for his efforts.

ERC2: Nitišs the winner, Érdi Jr the champion
FIA World Rallycross Championship star Reinis Nitišs took full advantage of fellow Latvian Jānis Vorobjovs going off the road on SS8 to win ERC2 on his third rally as Tibor Érdi Jr, who finished second, took the title ahead of Zelingo Melegari after the Italian retired on the final stage stranded in a ditch. Sergey Remennik had been second but stopped to change a damaged tyre on SS10. He finished third to round out a promising maiden ERC campaign under the guidance of driver coach Alexey Lukyanuk, who had been leading outright until an electrical fault dropped him back.

Magalhães targets ERC return
SEAJETS-backed Bruno Magalhães plans to hit back from his Rally Liepāja exit, which cost him a shot at the ERC crown, by returning to the FIA European Rally Championship in 2018 for another title challenge. Magalhães, competing in Latvia for the first time, started the event trailing Kajetan Kajetanowicz by 24 points but lost all hope of silverware when he crashed into a tree on the Liepāja City Stage after being caught out by a large build-up of water. After being given the all-clear following an overnight stay in hospital, Magalhães said: “I am feeling okay. I didn’t want what happened to happen but what we have done for the whole championship, to come second is amazing. I came here trying to win. I didn’t happen but now I focus on a new project for next year because I love this championship and I want to come back. I improve a lot, even on this rally I improved my pace on the second pass on the stages I did twice. This is a very specific rally and I knew before it would be very difficult to win the title. But we tried, I tried to fight. My body hurts but it’s normal after an accident like this. I will be fully recovered.” Magalhães postponed his honeymoon to take part on the rally and finished second in the provisional final standings ahead of Bryan Bouffier, who remained in front of Alexey Lukyanuk. The Russian was caught out on the same corner that proved Magalhães’ undoing. Rally Liepāja wasn’t included on Bouffier’s ERC schedule for 2017.

PROVISIONAL TOP 10 POSITIONS (after 13 stages, 157.28 kilometres)
1 Nikolay Gryazin (RUS)/Yaroslav Fedorov (RUS) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +1h19m22.1s
2 Kalle Rovanperä (FIN)/Jonne Halttunen (FIN) Ford Fiesta R5 + 18.5s
3 Łukasz Habaj (POL)/Daniel Dymurski (POL) Ford Fiesta R5 +2m52.8s
4 José Suárez (ESP)/Candido Carrera (ESP) Peugeot 208 T16 +3m00.9s
5 Albert von Thurn und Taxis (DEU)/Bjorn Degandt (BEL) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +5m32.3s
6 Reinis Nitišs (LVA)/Māris Neikšāns (LVA) Mitsubishi Lancer Lancer Evolution IX +6m15.1s
7 Linas Vaškys (LTU)/Laurynas Paškevičius (LTU) Mitsubishi Lancer Lancer Evolution IX +8m17.9s
8 Tom Kristensson (SWE)/Henrik Appelskog (SWE) Opel ADAM R2 +8m22.7s
9 Tibor Érdi (HUN)/György Papp (HUN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X +8m30.5s
10 Chris Ingram (GBR)/Ross Whittock (GBR) Opel ADAM R2 +8m55.3s

FIA ERC2: Tibor Érdi (HUN)/György Papp (HUN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
FIA ERC3: Chris Ingram (GBR)/Ross Whittock (GBR) Opel ADAM R2
FIA ERC Junior Under 28: Nikolay Gryazin (RUS)/Yaroslav Fedorov (RUS) ŠKODA Fabia R5
FIA ERC Junior Under 27: Chris Ingram (GBR)/Ross Whittock (GBR) Opel ADAM R2
ERC Ladies’ Trophy: Tamara Molinaro (ITA)
Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy: Chris Ingram (GBR)

RALLY LEADERS
SS1: Nikolay Gryazin
SS2-4: Alexey Lukyanuk
SS5-13: Nikolay Gryazin