Callum Devine will debut his recently acquired Ford Fiesta Rally2 on this weekend’s Rally Žemaitija. The Irish driver is using the Lithuanian event to prepare for Rally Poland’s fast and narrow gravel stages that are set to open his latest European Rally Championship campaign.
Friend of Rally Insight, Vilius Šaltenis, has kindly offered to preview the first event of his home country’s rally season. Vilius runs his own rally blog, Rally Week, if you haven’t heard of it you need to check it out!
Now, here is Vilius’ inside info on what lies ahead for Devine and co-driver James Fulton this weekend.
Rally Žemaitija is located around Kelme, in the western part of Lithuania. In recent years this event usually opens up the summer rally season in Lithuania, but as the winter rally didn’t take place because of the pandemic this year, Žemaitija will open the 2021 season.
The event gives us an idea of what to expect for the rest of the season, as usually all competitors come to this rally fully prepared and with new machinery.
Rally Žemaitija is considered one of the most technical rallies in Lithuania. This year’s route has a mix of fast, flowing, and really technical parts with some jumps included.
Gravel roads are located in both open fields and deep forests, with some passages through small villages. The gravel is quite soft in places as the whole spring was really wet and roads are still damp.
Late runners can expect some big ruts but some stages will be run only once to prevent this.
This year’s edition consists of 14 special stages; two of them will take place in Kelme town on Friday.
The rest of the twelve stages will be driven on Saturday with two half-hour service zones between them. The shortest stage is 5.7 kilometres and the longest one at 17.75 km will end the rally.
For the first time in its history, Rally Žemaitija will also host the Polish Rally Championship. This should have happened last year but the pandemic didn’t allow the Polish Championship to come.
Rally Žemaitija will host over 100 crews from all over Europe, as some foreign crews take advantage of it to prepare for ERC rounds in Latvia and Poland.
The fight for victory should be as fierce as ever. The reigning Lithuanian champion and Dakar rally star Vaidotas Žala will have a tough job to claim another victory, as his native colleagues have improved a lot in recent years.
Dominykas Butvilas had a lot of kilometres with Finland’s champion Teemu Asunmaa and a fresh face in the R5 category Vladas Jurkevičius is learning insanely fast with the famous SRT team. All three drive Skoda Fabia R5 cars.
Polish champion Miko Marczyk will drive a Rally2 Fabia and is one of the main contenders along with Polish and Slovakian champion Grzegorz Grzyb.
We can’t forget world-famous gearbox and suspension manufacturer Martynas Samsonas who is seeded third in his Ford Fiesta N5. Samsonas has already done six rallies throughout Europe this year and is in phenomenal form.
Devine is joined by more visitors like ERC regular Erik Cais from the Czech Republic and Valeriy Gorban from Ukraine in his old school Mini Cooper WRC.
Lists, results, and GPS tracking will be available at http://autorally.lt/ throughout the event.
Words and photos courtesy of Vilius Šaltenis – https://rally-week.com/