S-WRC wrap: Sandell secures glory in France Patrik Sandell has maintained his outside chances of winning the inaugural Super 2000 World Rally Championship title by clinching a dominant victory in the class on Rallye de France today. The Swede,...
S-WRC wrap: Sandell secures glory in France
Patrik Sandell has maintained his outside chances of winning the inaugural Super 2000 World Rally Championship title by clinching a dominant victory in the class on Rallye de France today.
The Swede, at the wheel of a Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Skoda Fabia, started the final day with a margin of 14 seconds over Eyvind Brynildsen after the Norwegian suffered a puncture on Saturday's final test.
Vowing to fight back on the final day, Brynildsen had narrowed Sandell's margin by two-tenths of a second with a faster run than the Swede managed through the first Haguenau stage on Sunday morning. But things then went dramatically awry for Brynildsen on Bitche Campe when he carried too much speed into a sequence of corners, went off the road and rolled.
"I promise you it was a big push," said Brynildsen. "And when you push at that speed things like this can happen. I knew it was impossible to beat 14 seconds but I had to try. I am more satisfied to be trying than to be second having led for two days because second is always the first loser. I was just too fast and unfortunately the car is completely destroyed."
Despite the damage, Brynildsen limped through to finish in fifth overall.
Sandell's victory alongside co-driver Emil Axelsson was his second in the S-WRC category this season. He was naturally delighted after completing the final stage in Haguenau.
"We were able to relax after Eyvind's problem but we had to drive safe because the conditions were very difficult, so slippery still on the stages," said Sandell. "This is a very good result for us, absolutely perfect, and it is a big help for the championship. The team has helped me a lot to find a good set-up on the car and with my driving on asphalt so big thanks to them."
Jari Ketomaa finished a strong second on his first asphalt rally in his Shanghai FCACA Rally Team Ford Fiesta S2000. The result has put the Finn firmly in contention for the drivers' title on Wales Rally GB next month. "We did very good preparation with the team so I'm more than happy to be second on my first tarmac event."
Xevi Pons, who started the event as the joint leader of the S-WRC standings along with Martin Prokop, overtook Michal Kosciuszko when the Polish driver spun his Fabia on Bitche Camp and lost 10 seconds, despite suffering a rotation from his own.
However, after being delayed by Production world championship winner Armindo Araujo through the rally-closing Haguenau stage, when the Portuguese driver's Mitsubishi Lancer suffered a brake problem, Kosciuszko was able to reclaim the final podium spot. It means he takes a seven-point lead over Ketomaa into the Rally GB season finale. Sandell is two points further adrift and the title battle is between these three drivers.
Prokop, whose hopes of winning were dashed when he had to complete Friday's eight stages with no power steering, took a disconsolate sixth in his Fiesta. With Rallye de France his last scoring round of the season, the Czech is no longer in contention for the S-WRC title.
Bernardo Sousa finished seventh with French wildcard entrant Julien Maurin eighth and Albert Llovera ninth and the final classified S-WRC finisher after restarting on Sunday morning following his retirement on Saturday.
P-WRC wrap: Araujo takes another step towards the title
Mitsubishi driver Armindo Araujo collected his third Production Car World Rally Championship win on the Rallye de France which ended in Strasbourg this afternoon.
The Portuguese driver has led the event since the first morning, when his chief rival on the event Hayden Paddon suffered a puncture and slipped back from the lead.
Araujo's Ralliart Italy-prepared Lancer Evo X ran faultlessly through a shortened final day. Mindful of the two-minute lead he enjoyed from the start of this morning, the reigning Production Car champion was unwilling to take any risks and now goes to the final P-WRC round, next month's Rally of Wales, needing just eight points to seal back-to-back titles.
"It's been a very good rally," said Araujo. "The condition has been tough, really tough at times, but we are here and we have the win. I am happy for that and for the way the car has run. We were about safety today."
Estonian Ott Tanak remained in second place throughout the final day, having been elevated to the position after Anders Grondal retired after the final Saturday stage last night with two punctures on his Subaru.
Tanak's Mitsubishi didn't miss a beat, allowing him to cruise to his best position on an asphalt round of the series - although Tanak wasn't entirely convinced asphalt was the right description of the roads.
"I think we would have been better using a gravel tyre on some of the stages," said the Mitsubishi-driving Pirelli Star Driver. "But I have learned a lot. Today's stage was okay in the military area. It's nice to get to the end without any problems."
Subaru driver Toshi Arai ended his event on a high with fastest time through the day's longest test, the 23-kilometre Bitche Camp stage. The Japanese's third place goes some way to making up for his spectacular exit from his home round of the P-WRC in Sapporo last month.
San Marino's Alex Raschi was the second of the Pirelli Star Drivers home, collecting fourth place in his Mitsubishi. The cheerful Raschi said: "So many people in the stages today, like the other days - it's incredible. The road was not so bad, quite like Germany this long stage. I'm happy to be at the finish - it has not been easy!"
Grondal returned for the final day's three stages and completed the event in fifth place in his Subaru.
J-WRC wrap: Ancian takes victory on WRC debut
Jeremi Ancian has taken a shock victory in the Junior World Rally Championship section of Rallye de France, which finished in Strasbourg this afternoon.
Competing as the lone wildcard entry following his selection by France's motorsport federation, the FFSA, Ancian moved into first place when several of his key rivals suffered time-consuming punctures on Saturday's penultimate stage.
It meant Ancian, a former adversary of ex-Junior world champion Sebastien Ogier, started Sunday's final four stages 1m41.3s ahead of J-WRC title contender Hans Weijs Jr.
After a cautious run through the first 24.7-kilometre Bitche Camp stage, Ancian's advantage stood at 1m05.8s with two stages remaining. When the first of these, the repeat of the Bitche Camp stage, was cancelled due to concerns over spectator safety, Ancian just had to get through the final 4.20-kilometre stage through the streets of Haguenau without error in order to secure victory at the wheel of his Suzuki Swift Super 1600.
"I believed in myself that I could get this result but it really was not easy because we were not always happy with the set-up of the car or the choice of the type of Pirelli tyre," said Ancian. "
The competition was also very strong and the conditions were really difficult. I stayed alive on Saturday when the others had their problems. It was a case of not taking any risks today and getting to the finish and this is what I have done. I am very happy because this is my first race in the World Rally Championship."
Hans Weijs Jr got over the disappointment of his puncture on Saturday to take second in his Citroen C2 S1600. The result means he is seven points behind Aaron Burkart heading into the final round in Spain later this month.
"Today was better than the two days before," said Weijs Jr. "We had some bad tyre choices and lost time with a puncture on Saturday. But we are now in a good position to take the title in Spain."
Thierry Neuville spun on the Bitche Camp stage and stalled his C2's engine for approximately 20 seconds. However, he recovered to claim the final podium spot with Mathieu Arzeno fourth in his similar C2.
Burkart took fifth to keep his J-WRC title lead intact, despite a troubled event, which culminated in the German receiving a three-minute time penalty for completing part of a road section on three wheels, which is a breach of the championship rules.
"It's been a tough weekend and I'm not really very happy," said Burkart. "At least we still lead the championship, which is not so bad given the problems we've had here."
Todor Slavov started the final morning in fifth overall but an overly cautious run through Bitche Camp meant he fell to sixth where he remained until the finish.
Harry Hunt survived a couple of minor moments to complete the list of J-WRC finishers in seventh in his R2-specification Ford Fiesta.