Prokop edges close S-WRC fight The battle for honours in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship is tightly poised following the opening day of action on ADAC Rallye Deutschland. Martin Prokop, at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000, leads the ...
Prokop edges close S-WRC fight
The battle for honours in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship is tightly poised following the opening day of action on ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
Martin Prokop, at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000, leads the category but his advantage over P-G Andersson is a slender 5.7 seconds heading into day two of the all-asphalt contest.
Prokop has held the class lead throughout the day but after surviving three spins in the morning, Andersson was the man to watch in the afternoon by completing the final two stages as the fastest S-WRC runner as Prokop suffered a scare of his own.
"I'm going to need to find more speed tomorrow because P-G is coming very fast," said Prokop at final service on Friday. "There haven't been many problems, only stage five when some spectators threw some liquid on my windscreen and it made it difficult to see for a few seconds."
Andersson was pleased with his performance on Friday afternoon but admitted he was surprised at the pace of his compatriot Patrik Sandell in a similar Skoda Fabia. Sandell is not known as an asphalt expert but drove well throughout the day. He was the fastest S-WRC runner on stage two and, but for an overshoot on stage four when he lost 15 seconds, would have been in the thick of the lead battle.
"There's more speed to come from me tomorrow," said Sandell. "I'm feeling confident with my car and I'm really enjoying it."
Eyvind Brynildsen holds fourth in class after overcoming brake problems on stage one on his first outing for the JM Racing team following his switch from the Rene Georges Rally Sport squad. "Apart from the brakes it's been a good day and I have been able to find a good rhythm," said the Norwegian. "I am having fun with my new team and everything seems to be working well."
S-WRC title leader Xevi Pons is fifth overnight following his broken suspension woes on stage one with Bernardo Sousa sixth in another Fiesta. Sousa was hampered by broken powersteering on stage five, while Pons' co-driver Alex Haro said the Spanish pair had not been happy with their times in the afternoon, despite their mechanics fixing their damaged Fiesta at midday service. "It's important we don't have any more problems now and make sure we finish," said Haro.
Michal Kosciuszko is seventh in his Skoda despite an off into a field on stage four which left his Fabia minus a front-left driveshaft and considerable cosmetic damage to the front end. "It was a four-left corner, I got onto some dust and had a really scary moment when all I could see was a big bush," said the Pole. "We jumped through it into a field but fortunately there was nothing behind it. However, we had not front-left driveshaft although the engine and gearbox are okay."
Albert Llovera in his Abarth Grande Punto completes the S-WRC contingent.
Araujo dominates in Germany
Defending champion Armindo Araujo holds top spot in the Production Car World Rally Championship following Rallye Deutschland's opening six stages.
But his bid for victory wasn't entirely without incident after he caught the slowing Bernardo Sousa on Friday's final stage and was unable to add to his tally of four stage wins.
Sousa, contesting the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, was struggling with broken powersteering and was not aware his countryman was trying to pass.
"I followed him for a long time and we touched at one point," said Araujo. "Apart from that everything has been okay today. I have been very confident with my car after the testing we have done. The team worked very hard and I am very determined."
Pirelli Star Driver Hayden Paddon, starting a Tarmac rally for the first time, impressed by completing day one in second place, 32.7s behind Araujo's similar Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. However, the New Zealander is only 5.3s in front of Patrik Flodin, despite the Swede's Subaru Impreza's engine overheating on stage five.
Hermann Gassner, who has been nominated to score P-WRC points by the event organisers as a wildcard entrant, is fourth in his Lancer after dropping time on stage five with a slow puncture.
"Saturday is a very important day because it's the longest of the rally and we expect the temperatures to be very high so there was no point doing anything stupid today," said the 21-year-old Gassner. "To be fourth overnight means my tactic has worked. We had some small oversteer in the morning but changes to the dampers at service made the handling much better."
Alex Raschi is fifth with Finnish veteran Reijo Muhonen sixth, despite breaking his Lancer's front and rear-right wheel rims on stage six. Behind Nick Georgiou, ex-circuit racer Michel Jourdain is eighth on his first Tarmac rally.
There was disappointment for several fancied runners. Double Production champion Toshi Arai retired when he suffered a broken driveshaft on the road section heading to stage four, which also claimed Ott Tanak after the Estonian clouted a kerb and broke his front suspension. Like Arai, the P-WRC winner on Rally Finland will restart under SupeRally regulations on Saturday.
Florian Niegel, the second wildcard, went no further than stage two when his Lancer caught fire. Several drivers stopped to provide assistance, including Kenyan Peter Horsey. After completing the halted stage, Horsey realised he had left his crash helmet at the scene and was left with no alternative but to retire from the day's action.
Perfect day for Weijs Jr in J-WRC
Hans Weijs Jr reported a "perfect day" after completing the opening six stages of Rallye Deutschland with a 2m15s lead in the Junior World Rally Championship.
But many of his class rivals could only recount stories of woe after an incident-packed day on the challenging asphalt event.
After snatching the lead from Thierry Neuville on stage two, Weijs hadn't put a wheel wrong in his Citroen C2 Super 1600 until the final test when he was distracted by his car's instrument display and momentarily left the road on a right-hander.
"It wasn't such a big problem because we only lost a few seconds," said the Dutchman. "Apart from that mistake it has been a perfect day and now I can control the rally having pushed from the beginning."
It was a different story for countryman and championshipp leader Kevin Abbring, who crashed his Renault Clio R3 into retirement on the very first stage, fortunately without injury to neither he nor co-driver Erwin Mombaerts.
"The back jumped a few times and slightly hit a wall, which took the front into the wall and we came on the roof for 50 metres," said Abbring, who miraculously is set to restart under SupeRally regulations on Saturday following repairs to his damaged Clio.
Belgian Neuville, the J-WRC winner in Bulgaria, also failed to complete Friday's route. After struggling to find a workable set-up following a crash in pre-event shakedown on Thursday, Neuville was second in class when he noticed drops of water on his C2's windscreen on stage six.
"The cooling fan on the engine came off and broke the radiator," said Neuville's French co-driver Nicolas Klinger. "Because the engine temperatures started to rise we had no choice but to switch it off. These things can happen but we're not going to give up and will come back tomorrow."
Neuville's retirement should have promoted Mathieu Arzeno into second but the Frenchman's C2 suffered an engine problem on stage five and a puncture on stage six. He fell to fourth as a result behind Yeray Lemes and Aaron Burkart, who were both in the wars.
Lemes, from the Canary Islands, limped through Friday's final stage with his Clio S1600's rear suspension badly damaged following a moment on stage five, while local hero Aaron Burkart suffered a huge moment of his own on Friday's opening stage when he slid into an Armco barrier on a fast downhill section after picking up a right-rear puncture on his Suzuki Swift.
Estonian Karl Kruuda is fifth in another Suzuki, despite a puncture on stage four. German Christian Riedemann completes the top six in his Ford Fiesta R2.
Another driver in trouble on day one was Bulgarian Todor Slavov, who broke his Clio R3's right-rear wheel sliding into a wall on stage three.