WRC

Candidate Rally of Russia leg one monring summary

Zhigonov leads after first loop. After the first loop of stages of "Novorossiysk Rally of Russia 2008" multiple Russian champion Andrey Zhigunov, driving Mitsubishi Lancer, leads the event by over a minute from 18-years old Evgeniy Novikov in a...

Zhigonov leads after first loop.

After the first loop of stages of "Novorossiysk Rally of Russia 2008" multiple Russian champion Andrey Zhigunov, driving Mitsubishi Lancer, leads the event by over a minute from 18-years old Evgeniy Novikov in a similar car.

Mountain roads proved to be very tough on rally cars. Just few crews avoided any problems, and come to the service park there was a lot of work to do for engineers and mechanics. Mountain stages were ruthless to incautious driving, and hence a careful and sensible approach proved to be decisive for showing good results. The Nord-Ost continued developing its strength, taking its toll on the rally. A strong cross wind had a huge influence on cars' behavior en-route, and also didn't make the life of technical staff any easier in the service-park. A cold wind from the sea what can be worse conditions for working on an open quay? And though the sun was shining bright, it didn't warm at all. But still, the atmosphere in Novorossiysk was really hot thanks to the great action on stages. To say they were interesting is to say nothing. The roads offered a whole range of natural obstacles to cope with: fords, bumps and narrow forest sections. Loose gravel was the reason of many mistakes, and even ultra-experienced crews couldn't avoid making them. Slippery surface in some parts of the route made it especially tricky, as even a slightest wrong move could lead to overshooting a junction or in worst case hitting a tree. There were different impressions from the stages, but even those who experienced some troubles, praised the efforts of organizers, who had prepared such an interesting route.

The action began with one of the most interesting and high-altitude stages of the rally "Semigorje" stage. The first four crews to complete the distance were the main favorites for triumph on the event. But the fact was that none of them could avoid problems. Evgeniy Vertunov, driving first and sweeping the road, also faced another handicap when the power steering on his Impreza had failed. Come second, Alexander Zheludov might have hoped for a better result than finishing one minute behind the winner. In addition, he had to stop after the finish line to check the damages to his car, a ripped bumper being just a cosmetic one. Third to cross the finish line was Evgeniy Novikov, who posted the best time, more than half a minute ahead of his closest rival, but an oil leak out of a damper, which failed before the finish, meant only the beginning of problems for him with two long stages still to go before the service. Using his road position advantage, Andrey Zhigunov drove very fast, but experienced an off which led to the loss of thirty seconds. This brought him the 2nd best result, and already on the next stage did he use the misfortunes of Novikov to his favour, taking a one-minute lead and increasing it with another 9 seconds before the crews went back to service. At the same time, it was all over for Evgeniy Vertunov, who opted to return to the service park and apply for SupeRally return. Driving on such rough and twisty mountain roads without power steering assistance is all but impossible. It didn't go Zheludov's way neither, as the leader of the championship had an off and lost more than four minutes. The crew managed to improve the situation on SS3 as they lost just 12 seconds, the reason for the poor pace in the morning being a wrong tyre choice.

FWD crews brought no less excitement and sensations to the first WRC candidate event in Russia. Firstly Igor Dautov set 6th best time overall, only to lose a huge amount of time with electrical problems on the following stage. Then it was time to shine for the newly crowded N3 champion Sergey Naryshkin in Ford Fiesta ST. Third overall on "Neberdzhay" stage and sixth best time on "Markoth" allowed him to move up to 4th place in the general classification of the rally! Moreover, there're 4 more N3 crews inside the top-10, including last year's champion Alexander Mikhailov, driving Honda Civic TypeR car. In addition, two only representatives of A8 category hold 5th and 9th places respectively, as they have provided fans with a spectacular fight between the Impreza N11 and the Lancer EvoVI.

-credit: rally-russia.com

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