Rally Italia Sardegna
Fiesta S2000 Crews Strive For Sardinian Success
The Ford Fiesta S2000 has already won the first two Super 2000 World Rally Championship (S-WRC) rounds in 2011, and five crews contesting Rally Italia Sardegna next week will try to ensure M-Sport’s new generation rally car also clinches the third.
With two Ford Fiesta S2000 drivers currently placed in the top three of the S-WRC standings, Martin Prokop and Bernardo Sousa will both be striving for victory to overhaul current championship leader Karl Kruuda who lies just five points ahead.
Prokop got off to a flying start this year, scooping 25 points at the S-WRC series-opener in Mexico and taking an early championship lead. The Czech driver opted to skip the previous round in Jordan but returns to the S-WRC field as the most experienced Fiesta S2000 driver to contest next week’s Rally Italia Sardegna. The former P-WRC champion will be looking to make the most of his past experience on the Italian roads to challenge for a win and reclaim top spot in the standings.
Reigning Portuguese Rally Champion Bernardo Sousa secured his maiden S-WRC victory in Jordan earlier this month, awarding him 25 points and propelling him to joint second in the overall standings. The young driver already has experience of the Mediterranean event after contesting 2009’s Rally Italia Sardegna, and will be aiming continue his points-scoring consistency in 2011 to push for another podium spot next week.
Six-time MERC champion Nasser Al-Attiyah has endured a trying start to the season after being excluded from the opening round in Mexico due to a technical infringement, closely followed by a retirement whilst leading comfortably in Jordan. The experienced Qatari is now looking for a clear run in Sardinia to allow him to go on “maximum attack” and challenge for a win to put him back into title contention.
Hungary’s Frigyes Turan made his debut in the S-WRC at Jordan Rally earlier this month and was sitting in third place until his Fiesta S2000 suffered from mechanical problems on the final day. Despite his retirement, Turan felt he was able to learn a great deal about the Ford Fiesta S2000 from his experience in the Middle East, and will look to continue the battle with the other S-WRC front-runners when they return to action in Europe next week.
Estonian hot shot Ott Tänak chose to drop the previous S-WRC round, but had already made an impressive debut in Mexico where he finished third overall and took 15 championship points. The 23-year-old made his first WRC appearance in the WRC at 2009's Rally Portugal, and was part of the Pirelli Star Driving programme last year where he achieved a series of strong results including winning the Production Class in both Finland and Wales Rally GB. Tänak will tackle the Italian round of the championship for the first time next week and will be looking to use the guidance from long-term mentor, and former Ford WRC factory driver, Markko Märtin to help steer him towards another big result that will underline his potential.
Martin Prokop said:
“I’ve only been away for one round but I was watching the results from Jordan and the championship has become very close. I’m not sure how well the other drivers know the stages in Italy but I’ve got some good experience at this event – I know the roads well and think this could be an advantage. There’s some very talented drivers in the S-WRC this year, it’s not going to be easy but there’s still everything to drive for and I’m going to push from the beginning to ensure we have a good position going into day two.”
Bernardo Sousa said:
“The championship couldn’t have got off to a better start for me, to win in Jordan was fantastic and it’s great to be in joint second place after my first event. Now I must push that to the back of my mind and concentrate on next week – the category is going to be tough, there are so many experienced drivers who will be hard to beat. It’ll be really important to have a good recce on this rally, the majority of the stages on the first day are new but I have some knowledge of the stages that are going to be used on Saturday and Sunday so that should help. We’ll just have to really work on our pacenotes and hope that we can battle for another podium spot.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
“It’s been a really tough start to the season. We really hoped to win in Jordan, especially after what happened in Mexico, but we will never give up and hope that Sardinia will be kind to us. We need to win all of the rallies now if we are to have a chance for the championship. At the start of the year we talked about wanting to win the first four rounds, but now we need to win everything. We’re now going to be on maximum attack until the end of the year and our test on Monday should help us prepare ahead of the rally.”
Frigyes Turan said:
“I really enjoy driving the Fiesta S2000 in Jordan and can’t wait to get started again in Sardinia. It’ll be my first time there but I’m looking forward to the challenge and hope that we can finish with some points this time. I was disappointed when I had to retire with only 17 kms to go in Jordan, the points would have been great for the championship but everything before then was going very well. I just hope to have no problems in Italy, to learn as much as I can about the car and to finish with some points.”
Ott Tanak said:
“I’ve never rallied in Italy before but I’ve been looking at some footage online which should help prepare me for what some of the stages will be like. It looks like it’s going to be very difficult with a lot of technical sections but it’s difficult to know what it’s going to be like until we have done the recce. I’ve got a test on Monday so that should help me get a good feeling in the car. I just want to drive as fast as I can next week but also to drive as safely as I can too, I don’t want to make any silly mistakes – we need to get some more points. I’d like to finish in the top three but there’s some very talented drivers in this field so we’ll just have to see how it goes.”