Zheludov close to victory on WRC candidate After a dramatic opening day of the WRC candidate Novorossiysk Rally of Russia 2008 Alexander Zheludov, driving Subaru Impreza N12, started the final day with a lead of forty seconds. The current leader...
Zheludov close to victory on WRC candidate After a dramatic opening day of the WRC candidate Novorossiysk Rally of Russia 2008 Alexander Zheludov, driving Subaru Impreza N12, started the final day with a lead of forty seconds. The current leader of the national championship approached the morning stages in a careful, but rapid manner, which, combined with retirement of his main rival, allowed him to increase his advantage to almost 6 minutes by the afternoon service.
Forty-two crews started the second day of action, with 23 of them being yesterday retirees, who returned under SupeRally rules. However, the percentage of retirements promised to be even higher today as stages "Gudzeviy", "Utrish" and "Prudi" were renowned to be even tougher. Moreover, the wind, which had started just before the rally, was still gathering its strength. It had an especially big influence on the longest special stage of the day, rocky "Utrish", the half of which ran in mountains just above the sea. It was evident that there would be a lot of mistakes and retirements on this stage, but few expected there would be so many troubles already on "Gudzeviy" stage instead.
Alexander Zheludov, though stretching his advantage, also couldn't avoid some breathtaking moments, as he finished the stage with a damaged front end of his car. The moment of truth came on SS8, when Alexander got his confidence back and set the best time, while his main rival Timofey Vorobjev stopped one kilometer from the start of SS8 after damaging steering of his car. This left Zheludov with a huge advantage on top of the board, as his closest rival turned out to be Sergey Naryshkin in Ford Fiesta ST of Group N3, who was promoted to 2nd (more than 6 minutes behind the leader) following Vorobjev's problems. Eventually there were 5 N3 crews in top10 after the first loop of stages, underlining the speed and reliability of 2-litre FWD cars, especially Ford Fiestas. These cars proved to be much stronger and more suitable for mountain stages' conditions, than even powerful A6 cars. Igor Dautov and Elena Golubkina, both driving Citroens, retired with damaged driveshafts on their cars, while Sergey Bakulin also failed to finish the stage behind the wheel of his Lada. But overall three morning stages weren't as tough on cars as crews expected them to be.
Once again the morning wasn't lucky for the two pre-event favorites, who had re-started today under SupeRally rules. Andrey Zhigunov showed only 5th result and finished the stage with developing problems in the transmission of his Lancer, very uncertain if he could continue driving at good pace. The crew of 5-times Russian champions lost another 6 minutes on the next stage, but failed to make it to the finish of SS9 because of a broken driveshaft. Evgeniy Novikov was planning to attack so that he could climb as high as possible to stay in touch with Zheludov in the fight for the drivers' title. Unfortunately, he first went off on SS7, but was able to return on the road and complete the stage. Surprisingly, Evgeniy's experienced Australian co-driver Dale Moscatt handed their time card away to stewards, but at the same time Evgeniy repaired the car and ordered Dale to take the card back. But while they were tackling the next special stage, a command from the HQ came that according to the FIA general prescriptions crew #3 must give the time card back at the finish of SS8. Representatives of the team applied to the HQ for explanations, and it's still uncertain whether their car will be allowed to continue.
The only unpleasant accident happened on SS7, when four teenagers on a quadrocycle found the way to avoid marshals and appear on the route. Then they moved towards the coming car of German Formanyuk. The experienced driver couldn't avoid the accident and hit the quadrocycle. The teenagers were slightly injured, this proving a warning for spectators, that the safety rules must be strictly obeyed. After the incident the stage was run as a road section.