S-WRC Saturday wrap: Sandell takes the lead Patrik Sandell emerged from the final stage of day two of Rallye de France with the lead of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category after Eyvind Brynildsen hit trouble late on. The Norwegian...
S-WRC Saturday wrap: Sandell takes the lead
Patrik Sandell emerged from the final stage of day two of Rallye de France with the lead of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category after Eyvind Brynildsen hit trouble late on.
The Norwegian started the last stage of the day 21 seconds clear of Sandell following a hugely impressive performance in his Skoda Fabia S2000. But a front-left puncture, which he picked up approximately halfway through the 13.09-kilometre test, cost him 35 seconds and the lead of S-WRC heading into Sunday's final four stages.
"It was a slow puncture but it's not a problem because I will beat him tomorrow," said Brynildsen. "I've worked too hard today to lose like this. I won't accept it."
Brynildsen had led thro3ughout the day despite suffering a spin on the first Pays d'Ormont stage, where he also survived a trip into a ditch and briefly ended up on two wheels. "I had a good pace in Germany and a good test here on Monday so I was confident that I could do well," said Brynildsen. "Everything has been working fine with the car so things are looking good."
Sandell, who suffered two spins on stage 11, added: "I lost 20 seconds to Eyvind by spinning. They were my mistakes and I was determined to fight back after that. We changed the dampers a bit in service to stop the car from rolling so much and I pushed hard in the afternoon and found a good rhythm. The gap is not very big so I will be trying very hard tomorrow."
Jari Ketomaa remains in contention for the S-WRC title by completing the second day of his first asphalt rally in third overall in his Shanghai FCACA Rally Team Fiesta, which was filling with water in the morning loop after the Finn damaged the floor of the car briefly going off the road on stage 11.
"I'm just training to gain the experience and avoid making any mistakes," said Ketomaa, a winner of three S-WRC rounds so far this season.
A spin on stage 10 cost Michal Kosciuszko a shot at the podium with the Polish ace dropping to fourth in his Skoda. He will start the final day 4.5s clear of joint S-WRC title leader Xevi Pons, who lost time with a power steering fault on Friday evening and when a handbrake fault developed on Saturday morning.
Martin Prokop is a despondent sixth overnight in his Fiesta, which he had to drive throughout Friday's stages with no power steering, a fault he said has cost him a crack at the S-WRC title on what is his last point-scoring opportunity of the season. "I lost everything yesterday and really hate this rally," said the Czech driver.
Bernardo Sousa restarted under SupeRally regulations following his off on Friday afternoon's eighth stage. He is seventh overall heading into day three. Wildcard entrant Julien Maurin also restarted under SupeRally rules and adopted a low-risk approach. However, a steering problem and puncture slowed his progress. He holds eighth overnight.
A gearbox fault forced Albert Llovera to retire his Abarth Grande Punto three quarters of the way through stage 10. He will rejoin the action on Sunday morning.
P-WRC Saturday wrap: Araujo continues to lead in France
Portuguese driver Armindo Araujo has enjoyed a near-perfect day aboard his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution as he tip-toes his way through Rallye de France.
Araujo, the defending Production Car World Rally Champion, started the day with a minute lead over second-placed driver Anders Grondal (Subaru Impreza WRX). With everything to lose, Araujo set about the exceptionally tricky roads to the south of the event's Strasbourg base at a brisk but sensible pace.
After spending last night solving the set-up issues he'd had through day one, Araujo's approach to day two was all about survival.
"That is the most important thing," he said. "It's vital that we get to the end of the event. Everything has gone well today. I am happy with the way the car is set up, it's running very well and not too soft like it had been yesterday. The roads have been incredible today, just incredible. On the second run through the long stage, it was astonishing."
Araujo had been fastest through the first running of the event's longest test - the 35-kilometre Pays d'Ormont stage - but he was forced to give best to Grondal second time through. Araujo was a minute and a half slower the second time through the stage, so bad were the conditions.
Despite dropping 28 seconds to Grondal in SS15, Araujo was still comfortably ahead at the end of the second day. "I feel quite confident," said Araujo. "Yes, the roads are slippery, but it's okay. We didn't make any mistakes, we kept our lines clean and everything is good. Now let's see tomorrow."
Grondal's grip on second was lost on the final stage, when he slipped off the road and into a ditch, puncturing two tyres. That problem for the Norwegian Impreza driver elevated Estonian Pirelli Star Driver Ott Tanak to second at the end of day two
Markko Martin's protege is still no fan of asphalt, but he did manage his first fastest time of the event on the day's opener. He said: "I can't say I don't like asphalt, because this isn't asphalt - I don't know what it is. I have never done Monte Carlo Rally, but I think it would be similar to this in terms of changing grip. It's been really tough, but the car has been good today."
Toshi Arai was a victim of the first running of the longest stage, suffering a puncture aboard his Subaru. The Japanese and his British co-driver Daniel Barritt stopped to change the puncture, dropping three minutes in the process. So big was his advantage over the fifth-placed Alex Raschi that he remained fourth behind Grondal.
Raschi was pleased with his day aboard the second quickest of the Pirelli Star Driver Lancers. "Today was a good day," said Raschi. "It's difficult. I didn't see so many roads like this, it's a little bit incredible at times. The car is nice, no problems for me."
J-WRC Saturday wrap: Ancian leads thrilling battle
The battle for Junior world championship glory on Rallye de France was turned on its head during a dramatic second day's action in the Alsace, which wildcard entrant Jeremi Ancian completed with a shock overall lead.
Runaway overnight leader Thierry Neuville was first to fall when he suffered a front-left puncture following contact with a large rock on stage 11. The Belgian had gone quickest on the day's first and second stages to build a lead of more than one minute in his Citroen C2 Super 1600.
But it wasn't to last after he hit trouble five kilometres into stage 11. "We touched something, a rock I think, after taking a big cut," said Neuville. "At first there was nothing but then I realised we had a slow puncture. We drove for two kilometres before we stopped and changed. We lost three minutes and maybe we should have stopped sooner."
Hans Weijs Jr made the most of Neuville's delay to move into the lead, which he gradually extended as the day progressed before suffering a puncture of his own on a rock, hidden in a deep cut, approximately nine kilometres from the end of the day's penultimate test. Ancian, Mathieu Arzeno and the recovering Neuville all had moments through the corner with only Ancian emerging from the stage with a full set of inflated tyres.
"We were lucky because we managed to get back on the road without any problem," said Ancian, a one-time adversary of former Junior world champion Sebastien Ogier. "It was an incredible sight to see so many cars off but we managed to stay alive."
As a result of all the drama, Ancian, who damaged the front-right corner of his Suzuki Swift Super 1600 when he went off the road after the flying finish of stage 12, takes a lead of 1m41.3s over Weijs Jr into Sunday's final four stages. Neuville is third with Arzeno fourth having led the rally on Friday morning.
Arzeno initially took advantage of Neuville's woe on Saturday morning only to suffer a front-right puncture six kilometres from the end of stage 11, which damaged his C2's brakes and resulted in him dropping behind the recovering Neuville on the next test. Prior to suffering his second puncture on stage 15, Arzeno also lost more than a minute going off the road and getting stuck on the same test.
Junior championship leader Aaron Burkart suffered a disastrous 11th stage. He stopped to change a damaged tyre after 18 kilometres and rejoined behind Todor Slavov. He was catching the Bulgarian when he failed to spot a rock turning into a fast right-hander, hit it and suffered another puncture.
The German was delayed again after going off into a ditch on the second Ungersberg stage on Saturday afternoon. He is fifth overnight almost 13 minutes adrift of leader Ancian.
Todor Slavov lost more than 30 seconds on Saturday's opening test when he slid into a ditch and got stuck momentarily. However, he fought back and is sixth overnight in his Renault Clio R3.
Having replaced his Ford Fiesta R2's gearbox and clutch at final service on Friday, Harry Hunt lost valuable seconds when he suffered a front-left puncture three kilometres from the end of stage 11.