Sousa Seals Maiden Victory In Jordan S-WRC
Portugal’s Bernardo Sousa made a perfect debut in the 2011 Super 2000 World Rally Championship in Jordan this weekend after claiming his first series win behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000.
The results at the second round of the S-WRC have now made for an exciting battle at next month’s event in Sardinia. With Bernardo Sousa now in joint second place alongside fellow Fiesta S2000 driver Martin Prokop, both drivers will be eager to snatch the championship lead from Karl Kruuda who is only five points ahead.
Nasser Al-Attiyah increased his leading margin to nearly two minutes by the end of the first day but an engine glitch caused the Qatari’s retirement on Saturday’s opening stage – a bitter disappointment for the eight-time MERC champion who was hoping to secure his sixth rally win of 2011 this weekend.
Spyros Pavlides returned to the wheel of the Fiesta S2000 after his debut in Portugal last month in an attempt to challenge the other S-WRC title-runners competing in the Middle East. Despite not being classified to score S-WRC points, the Cypriot was running fifth in class before a broken gearbox in Stage 10 forced him to retire. Pavlides opted not to return under SupeRally regulations for the final day of action.
Frigyes Turán had a disappointing debut in the S-WRC this week – the Hungarian was running third on Saturday morning but wad forced to retire on the event’s penultimate stage due to a mechanical problem.
S-WRC position: 1
Final position: 10
Bernardo Sousa reported difficulties with the car set-up on Friday’s opening loop and suffered from a spin on Stage 7. A change in set-up at the midday service vastly improved the young driver’s stage times on the repeat afternoon pass and he was closely matching the pace set by some of the World Rally Cars. At the end of the first day, Sousa was placed second in the S-WRC and eleventh overall.
Sousa took advantage of Nasser Al-Attiyah’s retirement on Saturday’s opening stage to move into the lead. With no immediate threat behind and with a lead of over one minute, Sousa opted for a more cautious driving approach. However, a problem with rear suspension damage on the young driver’s Fiesta S2000 going into the day’s final stages saw Estonia’s Karl Kruuda close the gap. Sousa was able to nurse his car safely home and finished with a much deserved 25 points, promoting him to joint second in the overall championship standings.
Bernardo Sousa said:
“I’m lost for words and absolutely delighted with my first win in S-WRC. Yesterday morning didn’t go so well for me but and I said last night, Nasser [Al-Attiyah] was winning his rally and I was winning the other. He knows the stages well here and the times he was setting were incredible – it was impossible to catch him and I would have been very happy with second. Then Nasser had his problems this morning – obviously it’s not how I wanted to win but that is the nature of rallying. It’s been the perfect start to the championship though – we had a tough time in the championship last year and I really appreciate the 25 points we got this weekend, I can’t wait to get to Sardinia now.”
S-WRC position: Retired
Final position: Retired
Eager to make up for his exclusion from the previous round in Mexico, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah make a near-perfect performance in M-Sport’s new generation rally on Friday. The recent Dakar Rally champion lead the S-WRC by an astonishing 44 seconds by the end of the second stage and continued to post five-fastest stage times throughout Friday’s leg. A misfire in the afternoon cost the Qatari driver approximately 45 seconds but he had an impressive two minute lead over Sousa and was lying tenth overall by the end of the day.
Al-Attiyah’s engine glitch was fixed at the Friday evening service but disaster stuck for the flying Qatari as his Fiesta S2000 was struck down with a broken piston on the day’s opening 14.16 km stage. The disappointed driver was forced to retire and his hopes of his sixth rally win in 2011 was over.
Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
“Everything has been going so well for me this year but it seems I have no luck in this championship. I was very disappointed after Mexico and then when we had our engine problems this morning, I couldn’t believe our bad luck. I know this event very well but unfortunately it was engine problems and there is nothing I could do about that. I must concentrate on Sardinia now and hope that my bad luck is over so that I can push to pick up valuable championship points at the next round.”
S-WRC position: retired
Overall position: retired
Hungary’s Frigyes Turán made his debut in the S-WRC this week after gaining valuable seat time in the Fiesta S2000 at Rally de Portugal last month.
Turán initially reported difficulties with grip on the loose gravel during Friday’s repeat loop covering 72.15 km and was placed sixth in S-WRC after the event’s opening stage. The team made some set-up changes at the midday service and the Hungarian climbed the WRC leaderboard throughout the afternoon, closing in on the other S-WRC contenders and finishing fourth in class - 36.4 seconds off a podium position.
After a good morning and the retirement of early leader Al-Attiyah, Turán was promoted to third place in the S-WRC. However, disaster struck on the penultimate stage when his Fiesta S2000 suffered from mechanical problems and the disappointed Hungarian was forced to retire from his debut event.
Frigyes Turán said:
“What can I say? I am very disappointed to have made it so close to a podium finish on my first S-WRC event and to retire so close to the finish. I had a great day yesterday – everything was going well and I had a very good feeling with the car. For sure, it is not the result that I had hoped for but I must stay positive – we have another six events this year and I hope that the experience we have learned this weekend will benefit us when we return to the championship next month.”