S-WRC wrap: Mikkelsen still leads Welsh S2000 fight Andreas Mikkelsen remains on course for his debut victory in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship after completing Saturday's nine stages with his lead of the class intact as the fight for...
S-WRC wrap: Mikkelsen still leads Welsh S2000 fight
Andreas Mikkelsen remains on course for his debut victory in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship after completing Saturday's nine stages with his lead of the class intact as the fight for the inaugural title continues unabated.
Mikkelsen, from Norway, began day two of the Welsh gravel event 32.8s in front of Jari Ketomaa, who along with Xevi Pons and Patrik Sandell, is one of three drivers in contention for the S-WRC crown.
Despite slippery conditions and the inclusion of asphalt sections on the route today, Mikkelsen had reported a trouble-free run at the wheel of his Skoda Fabia Super 2000 until a heavy landing forced the exhaust into the bumper and filled the cockpit with toxic fumes when it began to smoulder.
"My pace was very good for the first stage then after that I slowed down a bit to be cautious," said Mikkelsen, who leads by 25 seconds overnight. "The problem in the afternoon made my eyes water but I am okay. I've been confident with my car but the pace this afternoon has been stupid, so on the limit."
Behind Mikkelsen, the S-WRC title remains tantalisingly out of reach for Ketomaa but ever more achievable for his main rival and fellow Ford Fiesta driver Pons, despite the fact he trails the Finn in the overall classification. If the positions remain unchanged at the finish in Cardiff on Sunday afternoon, Pons will take the title by four points with Ketomaa having to make do with second place.
Ketomaa was fastest on four of Saturday's eight forest stages having improved the handling of his Fiesta at Friday's final service with a series of set-up changes. "We changed the dampers, the springs and the rollbar, which has given us a lot more grip coming out of the corners. At the moment we still won't win the title unless something happens to Pons. All I can do is drive but we are on the limit and can't go any faster."
Pons has yet to show the kind of pace that carried him to two early season S-WRC victories but, as the Spanish driver was quick to point out, neither has he had to. "This position is fantastic for taking the title and that is all I am thinking about," he said.
Irishman Craig Been, who like Mikkelsen is eligible to score S-WRC points for the first time, holds fourth in his Fiesta, with Sandell battling up to fifth place. However, the Swede remains crestfallen after powersteering failure on Friday afternoon all but dropped him out of championship contention in his Fabia.
"I'm not in the same rhythm like I was yesterday because the gap is now so big and it is hard," said Sandell. "But I still have to catch Breen to give Red Bull the Teams' Cup, which is my main focus now. For the drivers' title I really can't do anything about it - it's up to the others to make mistakes."
Pole Michal Kosciuszko completes the six surviving runners in another Fabia following a spin and a stall on Saturday morning.
Eyvind Brynildsen was third heading into day two but went off the road on a tightening left-hander approximately five kilometres into stage nine where he got stuck and retired.
P-WRC wrap: Tanak leads class into final day of the season
Estonian driver Ott Tanak has led the Production Car World Rally Championship category of Wales Rally GB throughout today's nine stages and takes a comfortable advantage into the final day.
Tanak drove sensibly throughout the day, allowing Patrik Flodin to set the pace for the majority of the stages, the Swede still hoping to win P-WRC in order to maintain pressure on the Production points leader Armindo Araujo.
After the second run through Monument Hill, Flodin had slashed the gap to leader Tanak to just 23 seconds. But still the Swede wasn't happy, saying: "The suspension feels quite stiff in places, not so good as yesterday. I didn't like the asphalt sections in the stages, I'm not so good on that surface. Also, there were a lot of rocks around which were quite daunting when you saw them. It's tough to make up the time, I wish it would rain - I usually go well in those kinds of wet and changeable conditions."
One stage later and Flodin's mood had darkened further. He got through SS14, but the absence of a front wheel meant he was going no further. The departure of the only man capable of denying him the title meant Araujo wound his Lancer back even more.
Flodin's retirement also left Tanak two minutes clear and looking good for a second P-WRC win of the season. Tanak said: "The first stage this morning was quite tricky. It was narrow and rough in places, which made it difficult, but we got through. [Patrik] Flodin has been here before, so he has notes from previous events, some times my notes are not perfect. With Patrik gone, there's nothing else I can do. I just need to keep the pace, there's no battle so there's no need for me to go any faster."
Former Pirelli Star Driver Martin Semerad was enjoying the drive of his life in his own Mitsubishi. Despite feeling ill, the Czech Republic driver guided his car to second in P-WRC overnight - and fastest through the second run at Halfway.
"I need more pills," he said. "I didn't feel well today at all. It's been quite a tough day, but it's a good result for me at the moment."
Araujo's Ralliart Italia team had made a precautionary change of turbo on the car last night, incurring a 20-second penalty while getting the job done. None of that mattered to Araujo now, though. All that mattered was getting through the stages which stood between himself and a successful P-WRC title defence. "I'm in control of the championship," he said. "But still we need to make sure there are no problems."
Hayden Paddon made up for a difficult opening day with some spirited times through Saturday. Tanak's PSD team-mate was fourth at the close of play, with British Subaru drivers Jason Pritchard and Dave Weston rounding out the top six. Weston's day was spoiled when a transmission fault left his Subaru in rear-wheel drive only.