moves him up to 3rd in P-WRC
It was another strong showing from the LMT Rally Team crew of Andis Neiksans and Peteris Dzirkals Sunday. The Latvian crew finished fifth in the FIA Production car World Rally Championship category of the FxPro Rally Cyprus and as a result, moved to third place overall in the 2009 P-WRC rankings.
The Latvian crew started the rally with only one P-WRC event under their belt – they finished fifth on their debut in Norway a month ago, so this weekend was another trip into the unknown. They have never competed in the type of conditions that this rally is famous for and they have never competed on asphalt, the surface for the first day of FxPro Rally Cyprus.
Nevertheless, the Latvians did well on the first day. They were ranked fifth in P-WRC before the last stage, when they suffered a gearbox problem which left them with only fourth and fifth gear for the last ten kilometers of SS6, costing a huge amount of time. The appalling weather conditions (the rain in the service park was so bad that even tools floated away) meant that there was simply not enough time to change the gearbox, as well as swap from tarmac to gravel dampers in the end of day service. The team subsequently picked up 2 minutes and 20 seconds penalty for leaving service late, dropping them to tenth in class.
Leg Two was a much better day for the Latvian team. During the second leg, Neiksans/Dzirkals were sixth fastest amongst all PWRC participants. This performance boosted them to seventh in P-WRC at the end of Day Two, only 14.5 seconds adrift of fifth place.
The third and final day was even better for the Latvians, despite adopting a conservative approach. Neiksans and Dzirkals chose not to push hard but to stay on the road and not risk their AMP Motorsport-prepared Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. This turned out to be the right approach and eventually led the Latvian team to fifth position at the finish of a hard and grueling FxPro Cyprus Rally.
“That was tough,” admitted Andis Neiksans at the finish. “At first we thought the tarmac stages would be the greatest challenge because of our limited experience on that surface. But in the end, the gravel tests turned out to be the toughest – I have never before competed in such hard conditions! Rocks, holes, first-gear bends – that was a new experience for us. At the end of Leg Two we watched Cyprus TV and noticed that our driving style was very different to that of the leaders. We changed our style and that paid dividends right away – we were a lot faster.
“It’s surprising to see that now we are third overall in P-WRC – we did not expect that in our debut season! Our sponsors – mobile network LMT, Latvijas Valsts Mezi and construction company LEC – also did not expect such good results for us. We are very happy for ourselves and for our fans. There are tens of thousands of rally fans in Latvia who are interested how we do in P-WRC and we are glad that we can deliver the results which exceed all expectations.”
Finishing 15th overall in a round of the FIA World Rally Championship is a record position for a Latvian crew in world rallying. The previous best was 17th overall, also achieved by Andis Neiksans and Peteris Dzirkals, on Rally Norway 2009.
The next P-WRC round for the LMT Rally Team crew will be Vodafone Rally de Portugal, taking place from 2 – 5 April in the Algarve region of Portugal. After that, the LMT Rally Team will compete in Italy, Greece and Great Britain.