When the 2009 Cyprus Rally starts on Friday 13 March, it will mark only the second time ever that a rally crew from Latvia participates as an official entry in the FIA Production car World Rally Championship. Fresh from their excellent fifth place in the opening P-WRC event in Norway in February, Andis Neiksans and co-driver Peteris Dzirkals are aiming for another points finish in Cyprus.
As with all the rallies he is contesting in the 2009 P-WRC, Cyprus Rally will be a trip into the unknown. Andis has never competed in Cyprus and moreover, has never done an asphalt rally in his career [the first day of the rally is on tarmac]. Nevertheless he remains upbeat about his chances: “This will be my first ever experience on asphalt, as I am used to competing on gravel in the Latvian Rally Championship. But we must remember that it will be the first time for all the competitors to run on asphalt using gravel tyres. So I am optimistic – let’s see how it goes for us and for everyone! Our aim remains the same – to finish as many rallies as possible and be in points in every event we finish.”
Fifth place in P-WRC and 17th position overall in Rally Norway – the best international result ever for Latvian rallying – was warmly welcomed in Latvia. In the country where between 20,000 and 60,000 spectators (from an overall population of 2.4 million) attend every round of National Rally Championship, Sunday of Rally Norway meant it was difficult to connect to the official WRC website, wrc.com from Latvia. The statistics should definitely show huge traffic to the site from Latvia.
“I must say that fifth place was an unexpectedly good result for our debut. When we first saw the list of entries, we thought it will be very difficult to get into the points. But we started with the second-fastest time on the superspecial and then consistently posted top-six times for the rest of the event. So we know the speed is there. We need more mileage in WRC events and then aim for even better results. It’s not possible to challenge for podium positions at the moment with such limited experience.
“Our sponsors – Latvia’s largest mobile network operator LMT (Latvijas Valsts Mezi) and construction company LEC – are very supportive. They do not expect miracles – they want us to be consistent and get as many points as possible. So we will try our best in Cyprus. Eyvind Brynildsen and Martin Prokop, second and third in the P-WRC rankings respectively after Norway, are not doing Cyprus but former P-WRC champions Nasser Al-Attiyah and Toshi Arai are. So the top 5 looks pretty booked on paper and it will be a challenge to do as well as we did in Norway,” says 23-year-old native of Bauska, Latvia.
Andis Neiksans/Peteris Dzirkals will tackle six P-WRC rounds this season in their AMP Motorsport-prepared and LMT-sponsored orange Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Rallies in Norway and Cyprus will be followed by events in Portugal, Italy, Greece and Great Britain.