Mikko Heikkilä finds himself in fifth place after the opening day of the fourth round of the European Rally Championship, Tet Rally Liepaja. Starting fourth on the road, Heikkilä has struggled with the disadvantage of loose gravel on Latvia's fast gravel roads.
Mikko Heikkilä, 31, and his co-driver Samu Vaaleri, 26, currently hold fifth place after the opening day at Tet Rally Liepaja in Latvia. This two-day ERC event will continue on Sunday with four stages.
The day began with the longest stage of the rally, the 27.56-kilometer Tukums 1. Heikkilä started the dust-filled stage fourth on the road and finished seventh fastest. Special Stage 2, Tukums 2, was cancelled due to safety concerns regarding the dusty conditions.
"The dust was really thick, but I suppose it's the same for everyone except the first car. It felt a bit dangerous, as there were moments when you couldn't see anything. I already knew that it would be a difficult day due to the loose gravel. In this rally, it was clear that the qualifying stage would be crucial, and unfortunately, we didn't succeed there, and now it's costing us quite a bit," lamented Heikkilä after the opening stage.
On the second loop of stages, the rain arrived to Liepaja area, keeping the dust at bay. The wet conditions also helped Heikkilä a bit, who increased his pace and recorded the sixth, fourth, and second fastest times on the afternoon forest stages.
"We didn't get enough rain for our liking. The roads were only slightly damp, whereas more rain would have benefited us more. Due to the loose gravel, there's not much more we can do. My driving feels good, but we're still struggling. It's my own fault that the qualifying stage didn't go well, but that doesn't take away the frustration," Heikkilä explained.
Heading into the final day of the rally, Heikkilä will start from fifth position. Being in fifth place at the overnight halt also means he will start fifth on Latvia's fast stages.
"Tomorrow, our starting position will be slightly better. We'll try to continue without mistakes; today, there weren't many, just a few minor things. Hopefully, our times will improve tomorrow," summed up Heikkilä regarding Sunday's prospects.
Tet Rally Liepaja will continue June 18th with four stages and 77.08 kilometers of special stages.
Tet Rally Liepaja results after SS6/10:
1. Martins Sesks 43:26,0 Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 LVA
2. Hayden Paddon +28,3 Hyundai i20 N Rally2 NZL
3. Mads Ostberg +36,3 Citroen C3 Rally2 NOR
4. Robert Virves +45,5 Ford Fiesta Rally2 EST
5. Mikko Heikkilä +56,5 Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo FIN