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Latvia ERC: Esapekka Lappi takes lead from surprising Vasily Gryazin

Esapekka Lappi, Skoda, Liepaja ERC 2014

Esapekka Lappi grabbed the Rally Liepaja lead from young Russian Vasily Gryazin at the end of a surprise-packed first day of the European Rally Championship's Latvian round.

Monte Carlo Rally hero Bryan Bouffier had led the first stage of the event, only to damage his PH Citroen's radiator on SS2, forcing him to retire with an overheating engine.

That handed first place to 20-year-old Russian Gryazin, who competes under a Latvian licence.

Running seventh on the road helped Gryazin as the stages had been covered with a fresh blanket of snow overnight, but it was not the sole reason why he was able to pull half a minute clear of the field in his Sports Racing Technologies Ford over the first three stages.

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Factory Skoda driver Lappi then started to reel him in, though. Three straight stage wins for the Finn allowed him to inch ahead of Gryazin by 2.6 seconds at the end of Saturday's final stage.

After battling with Lappi at first, Craig Breen and last year's Rally Poland winner Kajetan Kajetanowicz slipped away from lead contention, with Breen escaping from Kajetanowicz to hold a secure third, albeit a minute off the top spot.

The second works Skoda of Sepp Wiegand languished as low as 22nd in the morning as the German struggled with the conditions, but he subsequently picked up his pace and recovered to fifth.

Leading positions after SS6:

Pos  Driver                Team/Car               Time/Gap
 1.  Esapekka Lappi        Skoda                1h17m30.6s
 2.  Vasily Gryazin        SRT Ford                  +2.6s
 3.  Craig Breen           Sainteloc Peugeot        +59.2s
 4.  Kajetan Kajetanowicz  M-Sport Poland Ford    +1m35.9s
 5.  Sepp Wiegand          Skoda                  +2m19.3s
 6.  Siim Plangi           Mitsubishi             +2m23.5s
 7.  Martins Svilis        SKN Mitsubishi         +2m27.7s
 8.  Raul Jeets            MM Ford                +3m20.6s
 9.  Vitaliy Pushkar       Boar Mitsubishi        +3m22.7s
10.  Janis Vorobjovs       Mitsubishi             +3m26.1s
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Lappi clinches Latvia ERC victory