The Baltic Sea Rally Championship 2024 commences with the thrilling Rally Sarma

The 2024 Baltic Sea Rally Championship kicked off with the Sarma Rally during the second weekend of February, signaling the commencement of the 2024 season. This inaugural event was hosted by one of Latvia's oldest regularly held rallies – the traditional winter Rally Sarma. 46 rally crews from eight countries entered the Baltic Sea Championship. Latvia's triumph in the national cup standings was no surprise, given that this rally concurrently served as a stage in the Latvian Rally Championship.

In Class 1, an exciting showdown unfolded as the Turkish duo Kerem Kazac / Ali Emre Yilmaz, piloting a Ford Fiesta Rally2, convincingly outpaced the Ukrainian ladies team Nadiia Soboleva / Tetyana Kravtsova, who encountered significant delay in a snowbank during the second special stage.

In Class 2, after the withdrawal of the leaders, the Polish pair Tymoteusz Abramowski / Sebastian Wach, two Estonian crews, Kristjan Kajakas / Ari Tiukkanen, and Esmar-Arnold Unt / Raiko Lille, both with Ford Fiesta Rally3 rally cars, took over the fight for victory. Kristjan Kajakas initially led the class but later lost the position, finishing 14.2 seconds behind Esmar-Arnold Unt. The third place went to the Latvian crew Ilja Zakmans / Estere Zakmane.

The challenging snowbanks of Rally Sarma added excitement to the battle in Class 3. The combined Turkish-Latvian crew Can Alakoc / Andris Malnieks (Renault Clio Rally4) lost more than a minute in the first special stage and couldn't recover by the rally's conclusion, despite posting similar stage times to the leaders. The victory went to the 14-year-old Finn with a Latvian licence Isak Hatanmaa, with co-driver Juho Koski-Lammi, driving a Peugeot 208 Rally4. The Lithuanian duo Mantas Bartkuvenas / Ugnius Vainevicius (Ford Fiesta Rally4) secured the third position on the podium.

The fiercest competition unfolded in Class 4, where participants also fought for victory in the overall standings of the Rally Sarma 2024. The Estonian duo Egon Kaur / Allan Birjukov with a Hyundai I20 VRT showed unstoppable speed, staying ahead of both the Latvian Rally Championship leaders Emils Blums / Didzis Eglitis (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) and Matiss Mezaks / Mikelis Mezaks (SRT Proto 02), who were separated by only 0.46 seconds at the finish.

A surprising turn of events occurred in Class 5, where debutant Ralfs Sirmacis, with European and Latvian championship experience, piloted a BMW 330 alongside co-driver Janis Sokolovs. Despite an open engine hood in the final stage, they maintained a lead of over a minute. The battle for second place in this class was intense, with Atis Bruņinieks / Janis Strazdins (BMW 328) finishing 2.4 seconds ahead of Zigurds Kalnins / Renars Salaks (BMW Compact).

Up until the fourth stage, an exhilarating competition unfolded in Class 6, but the Estonian duo Oskar Männamets / Holger Enok had to withdraw due to a defect in their Citroen C2 R2 Max. As a result, without any hindrance, Madars Dirins / Gints Lasmanis (Honda Civic) secured their third victory in this season's winter rallies. The third position was claimed by Kristaps Telle / Kaspars Griva (Ford Focus).

For comprehensive information on the results of Rally Sarma 2024, visit the Latvian Rally Championship website at autorally.lv. Additionally, detailed insights into the Baltic Sea Rally Championship can be found at uus.autosport.ee/sport/ralli/

The baton of the Baltic Sea Rally Championship has been passed to Länsirannikon Rally, scheduled for May 24-25 in Finland.

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