S-WRC ace Ketomaa untroubled on day two
The chase for Super 2000 World Rally Championship honours on Rally Japan has been a two-horse race for much of Saturday after Bernardo Sousa stopped on the day's opening test
Sousa, from Madeira, was approximately 500 metres from the start of the 17.68-kilometre Nikara test [SS11] when his Ford Fiesta S2000 ground to a halt with an electrical failure.
But with Sousa more than one minute adrift of second-placed Martin Prokop at the start of the day, his exit has had little impact on the overall classification, which Jari Ketomaa continues to top by a comfortable margin in his Fiesta.
"It's just been a steady drive with no need to rush," said the Finn, who is on course for his third victory of the season in the new-for-2010 S-WRC.
Although Ketomaa conceded that the reduced field has made for a less exciting rally, he added that he has been able to gain plenty of satisfaction from taking part on the Sapporo-based event.
"It's good because we have not driven in these rough conditions in this type of car before," said Ketomaa. "Although it's not been raining there are some damp sections under the trees and this will be good practice when we get to Rally GB [in November]. Before now we have always been on rallies with good grip but that has not always been the case here."
Ketomaa said he was not entirely happy with the overall balance of his Autotek Motorsport-run Fiesta, adding: "We're still having trouble turning into the high-speed corners but we're working on it and trying to improve the car."
Second-placed Prokop said the biggest challenge he has faced today was negotiating the rough stage surface. "I can't say I've been cruising but there is nobody to fight with because Jari is quite far away and Bernardo had his problem," said the Czech Fiesta pilot, who stands to move into the joint lead of the S-WRC title standings if he maintains his second place at the finish on Sunday afternoon.
"It is not easy for our car on these damaged roads so we have to keep out of trouble to get to the finish and build the experience because this is my first time competing in Japan," he added.
Sousa, who is expected to continue on day three under SupeRally regulations, admitted the most frustrating aspect of stopping so early on day two was that he hadn't been able to try out a new set-up, which he'd developed with his engineers following Friday's opening stages.
"There was no warning we had a problem, the car just stopped and there was something wrong with the electrics," said Sousa. "It's so frustrating but not just because we have stopped early but because we did some changes on the car last night to try to reduce the gap to the others but we have not been able to try them out. Hopefully we can come back tomorrow for a better day."
Flodin using 'safe mode' in P-WRC
Patrik Flodin remains on course for a double triumph after successfully completing day two of Rally Japan.
Not only is the Swede leading the Production Car World Rally Championship section in his Subaru Impreza, but he is also poised to move to the top of the title standings if he stays in front throughout Sunday's stages.
With 25 points heading his way, Flodin will climb above current leader and defending champion Armindo Araujo, who hasn't nominated the Sapporo-based contest as one of his six scoring rounds.
"I've been in safe mode all day because I know I have to win this rally if I am to win the title," said the Uspenskiy Rally Team driver. "It's not fun driving like this and it is not easy because even though you want to be fast you have no reason to be. It's been a very great day with no mistakes but I must keep doing what I am doing and avoid having any dramas because it's going to be another difficult day tomorrow."
Hayden Paddon remains in second place in his Team Green-run Mitsubishi Lancer although the gap to Flodin was widened when the New Zealander's right-rear brake caliper broke eight kilometres from the finish of the first run through the 33.76-kilometre Kamuycep stage on Saturday morning.
"It was caused by hitting all the rocks," said Paddon's co-driver John Kennard. "Hayden's brake pedal went to the floor after that and we had no brakes at all for the rest of the stage. The car set-up was more to my liking today but it's still very slippery under the trees."
Running repairs prior to stage 13, Kina, enabled the pair to complete the morning loop largely unscathed although the 90 seconds dropped on Kamuycep means Paddon's gap to Flodin stands at more than three minutes heading into the final day.
Brazilian Paulo Nobre started day two in third place but slipped back to fifth when his Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Lancer suffered a damaged tyre on stage 12. However, he remains embroiled in a three-way scrap for the last podium spot with third-placed Michel Jourdain and Italian veteran Gianluca Linari, who currently occupies fourth spot 19.2s behind Jourdain but 18.1s ahead of Nobre.
Linari said it had been taking him time to adapt to the Impreza he is using for the first time.
It was ex-Champ Car single-seater racer Jourdain who benefited the most from Nobre's woes to move into a career-best third place, despite fearing that his showroom-specification Lancer wouldn't make it through the rough stages. "It was so rough today," said the Mexican. "I was just waiting for the next surprise on every corner to be honest because of the condition of the roads. Tomorrow is going to be tough again."
Local driver Kyosuke Kamata, who is using Anders Grondal's entry, is fifth in a Lancer with Chinese Rui Wang next up in his Shanghai FCACA Rally Team Impreza.