In between asphalt rallies on ERC route Martins Sesks will be contesting on gravel this weekend with a Skoda Fabia Rally2-Kit car, the one which powered him to multiple ERC Open victories earlier in the year. The local Rally Cēsis is well known for its fast, jumpy and pretty tricky gravel roads where one can’t drive without a good ambition and strong pace notes.
How do you feel about this come back with Rally2-Kit this weekend?
Well, Proracing Rally Team always does a great job of making my drive safe and confident. And the short practice we had yesterday was no different. I totally agree that Rally Cēsis can be called a Small Otepe. And being similar to Otepe roads, makes them close enough to the Finnish WRC. Our practice revealed winding roads and opaque jumps. You have to crash all the time. It’s going to be a very flowing and interesting rally. To go fast on those roads every driver will need good confidence.
For Liepāja and Rome ERC rounds you chose to drive Skoda Fabia Rally2. Whereas for Rally Cēsis you are switching back to Skoda Fabia Rally2-Kit with Proracing Rally Team. What is the reason for this switch and what is the difference between these two cars?
We have tested the car’s potential in Gulbene, the first round of the Latvian Rally Championship, as well as in several rounds of the European Rally Championship in the Open category. As a crew, we have been able to see that despite the lower engine power and lower top speed until 160 km/h the kitcar accelerates, brakes and handles identically to the Rally 2 car. Generally speaking, Rally2 and Rally2-Kit cars are at the same level of performance. Both cars have got plenty of set-ups. Possible to change dampers, springs, roll-bars, angles, geometrical measurements, engine maps and many other things. The most pleasing thing is that Rally2-Kit car reacts very well, even to the smallest changes. And this is very nice to feel it. The biggest difference between those two cars is the running costs. Exploitation of the Rally2-Kit is more than twice cheap as Rally2. This is a key argument for me – to get the double mileage for the same budget.
Can you share your personal experience with Rally2-Kit during the ERC 2022 season?
My key target this year was to drive a 4WD car and gain as much experience as possible. We started the year with practice in Lapland and the first round of Latvian Rally Championship Rally Sarma in Gulbene. After the first rally it was totally clear that Rally2-Kit was the right selection for the ERC. During three successful ERC rounds with Rally2-Kit car we gained a lot of useful experience on gravel, as well as found out how to be competitive against Rally2 drivers at the same time. All three events gave three victories in ERC Open category, and made me think about selecting Rally2 for the home event in Liepaja. I was very delighted to use the experience gained with the kitcar and push hard with Skoda Fabia Rally2 for a win.
You’ve noted many times that experience plays a crucial role in rallying. What kind of experience is the most important one?
For me personally it is very important to understand the behavior of the car and know exactly it’s reaction when I push to the maximum. Also, understanding of the road surface and grip, braking and handling limits are important. With Rally2-Kit car these feelings came rather quickly. It took several tests to build my confidence and drive at a good pace. Proracing Rally Team provided me with a well packed car. I had to adjust only a few things for a comfortable ride.
As a driver you have worked with many rally teams. Rally2-Kit is built in Lithuania by Proracing Rally Team. How important it is for you to work with a team that know the car from A to Z?
Well, no doubt this is a huge advantage for me as a young driver to work with passionate professionals who see the win-win benefits of such cooperation. The knowledge, service and mutual development potential offered by Proracing Rally Team is amazing. Each and everyone on this team shares the same interest in my driving as well as the performance of the car. Thanks to the countless kilometers of practice and testing that have helped me develop. Proracing Rally Team has huge experience in ERC and has worked with many top-level drivers during these years. It is always a pleasure to visit clean service zone and see their high everyday work standards.
Obviously Proracing Rally Team has built a good car and your ERC Open performance has highlighted the excellent performance of the car, too. Is there anything particular you’ll be testing in Cēsis?
Well, Proracing Rally Team has prepared new gravel dampers settings for testing in Cēsis. The car is indeed very good and has helped to excel my driving. I very much trust the team, the car, and that helps me push to the maximum. Reliability is the most important thing nowadays, because rallies are challenging. As far as I know Proracing Rally Team has developed two Rally2-Kit cars and documented a 5000ss km mileage database. They work on the same level as Skoda Motorsport Factory Team. I was impressed they prepared more than 20 different car settings and adaptation options for various racing events and specifications. They are serious players.
What are your expectations for Rally Cēsis result wise?
Well, since we have never competed there we have no particular expectations, rather looking forward to an exciting race and a competitive performance with N4, Proto and Rally2 cars. And not to forget to make the whole event enjoyable for our local fans and spectators.