Rally Liepāja: “black race”
The final day of the Latvian race that closed the 2017 season in the FIA European Rally Championship was even worse than the previous one – all sporting events suddenly lost their value against the background of Sunday’s disaster, when a private helicopter with four people aboard crashed during SS-11 passage (according to preliminary information, one person died, three others are in critical condition). The European season ended so apocalyptically for the Russian Performance Motorsport Team crew – a serious accident of Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov at the city stage in Liepaja on Saturday, then such a “black” final of the whole European Championship…
On the second rally day the team was represented only by the crew of Sergei Remennik and Mark Rozin, who took the tenth place in the overall standings and continued the struggle for the ERC-2 podium. There was a whole series of unpleasant events, it started with the accident of Janis Vorobjovs (the race leader in the ERC-2 classification), who went off the track at the first morning special stage… Soon after Remennik faced some troubles and had to change the punctured wheel at SS-10. The problem seemed not to be crucial while driving on the track, but after the jump the car behavior caused fear. The crew stopped for the wheel replacement and lost almost four minutes – it immediately threw guys from the second to the fourth place in their category.
But the ugliest situation has developed at SS-11, near the helicopter crash site. The organizers immediately stopped the race so as not to interfere with the rescue services that went to the disaster scene. However, the Internet immediately began to spread completely wrong information about the incident – some online media even published the news that “the race was stopped because of a serious crash of the Russian driver Sergei Remennik”, although there was not the slightest mention of any incident with our crew participation. There were only two current reports – “Remennik stopped” and “Reinis Nitiss was stopped by the red flags”. And that was all, no more details! But it was enough to immediately launch the so-called “news” about the “serious accident”… In fact the crew received a signal from the judicial rally services through the GPS device that the special stage was stopped, and started to drive in a road mode in accordance with the Regulations, not trying to show the best time.
Sergei Remennik, “The season was not as we’ve planned – we wanted to show a better result. Of course if to compare us with the regular category members, then in Liepaja we drove faster, but our merit is that we are more qualified for gravel races. The biggest irony is that at the beginning of the year we made the main bet on the gravel stages, but were able to get all scoring points at the asphalt rallies, where our experience was minimal. We got the first “gravel” points for the last stage – Rally Liepāja.
Summing up the season results, we have received a lot of food for thoughts. Now it is necessary to calm down a bit and wait for the new regulations to appear, to form a carefully weighed decision about our participation in the next racing season. We are negotiating with Eurosport about attracting more participants to our standings in order to make it more interesting. Our decision to participate depends in part on what changes will be made to the ERC2 regulations.
I would like to thank everyone who supported us. Of course the season result is not only our crew outcome, but also the sequence of Aleksey Lukyanuk’s coaching work, the Prospeed Team result that served the sports car and drove from the westernmost to the easternmost point of Europe with us. Great thanks to our families who understood our absence, and to companies where we work that also “treated us with understanding” and allowed to travel to Europe. I’m happy the season is over. But 24 hours after the race finish I start to feel sad a little and want to drive again!”
Now we can summarize the FIA European Rally Championship results in some categories. Pole Kajetan Kajetanowicz (145 points) became the overall Champion third time in a row; Alexey Lukyanuk with Alexey Arnautov scored 73 points (victory in Spain, second place in the Czech Republic) and finished the season fourth in the overall standings; Sergey Remennik and Mark Rozin secured the third place in ERC-2 (114 points, four podiums), and Hungarian Tibor Erdi became the Champion in this category.