This weekend, on February 10th, the battle among Latvian rally crews against neighboring country athletes for victory in the overall standings of the Rally Sarma will continue in the Gulbene region. Since Ivars Vasaraudzis victory in 2010, no Latvian rally crew has been able to achieve this. Although initially it seemed that this would be the year when it could happen, Rally Sarma 2024 got the opportunity to kick off the 2024 season of the new Baltic Sea Rally Championship. Consequently, participants not from the Latvian Rally Championship also entered the rally, adding complexity to the competition for Latvians in their home rally.
One of the potential leaders in Rally Sarma 2024 is unquestionably the Estonian Egon Kaur, who will drive a Hyundai i20 VRT rally car. The same car has already proven itself in the hands of another pilot in the first round of this year's Latvian championship. Kaur convincingly won the Winter Rally Aukštaitija with this car and will undoubtedly try to repeat the success in Rally Sarma. Kaur will start with the number 1.
Latvian hopes rest on the shoulders of Emīls Blūms, who with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX has managed to outpace the fast Hyundai i20 VRT once this season. The duel between Blūms and the experienced Kaur promises to be a highlight, adding an extra layer of intensity to the competition.
Even crews assigned numbers 3 to 5 are not much slower, and they will not only provide an interesting battle among themselves but also surely interfere in the fight for victory in the overall standings. With the number 3 will start Polish pilot Jaroslaw Koltun, who has managed to secure a place on the podium in several rallies in Poland and the Czech Republic with his Ford Fiesta Rally2. Certainly, both Kalvis Blūms, who consistently demonstrates increasingly stable results in each subsequent rally, and the veteran of Rally Sarma, Jānis Vorobjovs, who has specially prepared for his 27th start in Rally Sarma, will undoubtedly strive to prevent it.
However, one must not forget the two crews with Škoda Fabia SRT Proto rally cars, especially Matīss Mežaks. In preparation for the largest rally event of this summer in Latvia, he has decided to participate in the Rally Sarma. It is known that the chosen car is sufficiently fast, and Matīss has enough experience in motorsports to stake his claim for a place in the overall standings.
Although the main attention will be focused on the battle for the overall standings, it should not be forgotten that there will be several micro-battles throughout the. For example, in the LRC3 class, the potential leader is the Polish Tymoteusz Abramowski, but two Estonian pilots, with Kristjan Kajakas being the fastest, will also start with identical equipment. Guntis Lielkājis, who will return to this class after a two-year break, has always delighted spectators with an attractive driving style and notable results.
The battle in the LRC4 group will definitely be interesting, where two future foreign champions, participants in Latvia's new rally driver program - Isak Hatanmaa and Can Alakoç, as well as Lithuanian Mantas Bartkuvėnas and German representative Maxim Kan, will compete with technically equivalent cars. This class will be interesting to watch as they will go on the track one after another – starting with numbers 29 to 32, allowing for a direct comparison of driving styles and speeds.
In the LRC5 group local contenders Emīls Blūms, Kalvis Blūms and Jānis Vorobjovs will set tempo for an exciting competition while will fight for victory in overall. One of the most interesting participants in this class is the Finn Saku Vierimaa – a sixty-seven-year-old Finnish rally driver who has been competing in rallies for more than forty years. This will be his debut in the Sarma Rally and his first appearance in a Peugeot 208 N5 rally car.
In the rear-wheel-drive car class LRC6, the battles promise to be the most exciting. In this class, Zigurds Kalniņš will maintain the pace against the Pole Jacek Sobczak, and the debutant in this class Ralfs Sirmacis will try to keep up. In this class, no one should underestimate anyone, as the results of previous rallies show that at least in some special stages, Dāvis Birže, Rolands Jaunzems, Viesturs Tilgass, and others can win.
In the front-wheel-drive class LRC7, fun battles are expected. To make it not so easy for Madars Dīriņš to win, the toughest competitors from Estonia, Karel Tölp and Oskar Männamets, have applied for Rally Sarma. Other athletes in this class will find it difficult to keep up with the pace set by this trio while competing for victory.
It is hoped that in the inclusion of historic rally cars, Andris Spilva, Intars Rezakovs, and Māris Erts will be able to keep up with the pace set by Kristaps Dzīvītis this time, and the competition will not be just for the lower steps of the podium.
Rally Sarma 2024 kicks off on February 9th in the heart of Gulbene, with the main event scheduled for February 10th.
For detailed information on the competition and the participant list, visit the Latvian Rally Championship website at autorally.lv. Secure your tickets for Rally Sarma 2024 on the eKase.lv platform at pre-sale prices until the competition day.