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All comments – Lithuanian Vasiļiauskas, Estonian Strelkovs and Latvian Šteinbergs win the grand Latvian drift season opening

With a record number of participants, the opening of the Latvian drifting season was held last weekend at the Biķernieki track, which was also the stage of the Baltic, Estonian and Livonian championships.

The grandiose event delighted not only with the large number of participants, but also with high-level fights and a great atmosphere, which was ensured by the large number of spectators gathered in the stands. Lithuanian Andrius Vasiļiauskas won the PRO class, Estonian Frediriks Strelkovs won the Semi Pro, while Armands Šteinbergs won the Street class this time.

At the opening of the season, a total of 139 participants from five countries – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden and Armenia – went to the start. The largest number of entries has traditionally been in the Street class with 66 drivers, while the Pro Am and PRO classes have 38 and 35 drivers respectively. On Saturday for all three classes this time practice and qualifying races were held, while the main competition day with final races and tandem battles was on Sunday.

Reinis Ozoliņš demonstrated an excellent ride in the PRO class qualification, who managed to win with 97 points. North European drift champion Nikolas Bertāns ranked behind him with 92 points, and another Latvian, Raivis Alkshars, ranked third with 90 points. Estonians dominated Semi Pro class qualification this time, taking the first 4 places. Behind Simon Suuvemaa, Arti Kannisto, Randar Kajo and Siim Roop, Edgars Jenčs ranked fifth as the highest Latvian. In the Street class, young talent Daniels Baumanis showed the best result in the qualification with 96 points.

Latvians did very well in the PRO class final races, as four Latvian drivers were able to compete up to the TOP 8 – qualification winners Ozoliņš and Bertāns, as well as Edvards Žodziņš and last year’s Latvian champion Rolands Bērziņš. Ozoliņš was able to deal with the winner of the first stage of the Baltic Championship, the Armenian Raman Kandratsenko, Bertāns won over the Estonian Karel Piiroja, while Bērziņš convincingly beat the Lithuanian Silvestras Bielauska. The Lithuanian Vasiļiauskas entered the TOP 4 as the only foreigner, beating Žodziņa in a fierce battle.

Vasiļiauskas continued her winning streak in the TOP 4 round as well, demonstrating phenomenal speed and winning over Ozoliņa, while in the second semi-final Bertāns managed to beat Bērziņš in a dramatic battle. In the fight for the third place, Ozoliņš and Bērziņš both made trips with mistakes, however, Ozoliņš made a more significant mistake, straightening up in his following trip, so the third place this time went to Roland Bērziņš. In the final, Bertāns made a beautiful leading run against the Lithuanian Vasiļiauskas, however, in the second run, the engine of the Latvian pilot’s car lost power, which forced him to stop the run and suffer a loss. It should be noted that Bertan had engine problems almost throughout the day, however the team took risks and went all the way, trying to fight for victory. It almost succeeded, ending the day with the second place, while Andrius Vasiliauskas was on the top step of the podium.

The Semi Pro TOP 32 races began with several surprises, as the first, third, fourth and sixth place finishers in the qualifiers were eliminated. Several surprises also crystallized in the following battles, for example, the Estonian Kristjan Jarve, who qualified as the 32nd and last, but managed to enter the top four in the final races. There, the Estonian pilot was confronted by the experienced Latvian Edgars Jenčs, who demonstrated a great performance and made it to the final. In the second semi-final, the Estonians got their revenge, when Frederik Strelkov won over the Latvian Rudolph Salmani. Also in the final, Strelkov showed a high class, beating Yenča and winning the Semi Pro class. In the duel for the third place, Salmanis beat the Estonian Jarvi, thus, just like in the PRO class, two Latvian pilots were on the podium.

Exciting battles were also held in the Street class, with two full TOP 32 tandem firs taking place on Sunday – STREET X and TOP 32 STREET X. Riders who ranked between 33rd and 64th in qualifying compete with each other, thus allowing to accumulate tandem experience in the competition mode. The first place in these battles goes to Kirill Malinovski, the second is Harry Bildart, and the third is Kirill Voitenko. Armands Šteinbergs, who also won at the end of last season, had a great start to the season in the big final races of Street TOP 32. The second place goes to Matīs Lācis, while the third this time is Elvijs Kulijevs, who ranked second in last year’s overall ranking.

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