Gassner Jr learns plenty in Portugal
Retirement normally leads to despair for aspiring rally champions. But for Red Bull-backed Hermann Gassner Jr there was every reason to remain positive at end of day two of Rally de Portugal.
The 21-year-old was fighting back from stopping on day one after an incorrect gear shift led to a clutch fault, causing his Mitsubishi Lancer E9 to grind to a halt on the fifth stage of the demanding gravel event.
After his Baumschlager Rallye & Racing mechanics worked into the night to replace the car's clutch and gearbox, the German restarted on Saturday morning eager to gain more experience of world championship rallying alongside co-driver Katherina Wustenhagen.
Everything had been going to plan for the rising star after he set a series of top five times in the class for conventional Group N cars.
Sadly for Gassner Jr, some dust four kilometres from the end of Saturday's final stage left him momentarily distracted and caused him to slide into a ditch where his car became stranded.
But as his team boss Raimund Baumschlager explained, Gassner Jr has been able to learn some valuable lessons on the most challenging round of the WRC so far this season.
"It's a shame because he was doing so well today even though he is still a very inexperienced driver and has not had the opportunity to do many rallies or much testing this season," said Baumschlager. "Mistakes happen and the only way you can improve as a driver is by making mistakes and that's what has happened to Hermann today. It's a tough lesson but rallying can be like this at times although I'm confident he'll be back to fight another day tomorrow."
Gassner Jr accepted the blame for the off, adding: "I wasn't concentrating enough and was caught out by some dust. I slid off the road and the car ended up on its side. I tried but I couldn't get back on the road. It's really disappointing but apart from a cracked windscreen I don't think there is a lot of damage."
BRR's second driver, Juho Hanninen, also had a day to forget. The Finn was the leading Super 2000 runner in 13th overall when he went off the road and removed the left-rear wheel from his Skoda Fabia on the second stage of the day. He was forced to retire but like Gassner Jr he is expected to restart on Sunday for the final five stages.
-source: red bull