It’s two-for-two for Tänak with an SWRC win at Rallye de France
It's a good result, but nothing will be decided for the Championship until Spain and I've never competed there before
After a series win at ADAC Rallye Deutschland in August, young Estonian driver Ott Tänak and his co-driver Kuldar Sikk (EST) comfortably steered their Michelin-shod Ford Fiesta S2000 to victory on the seventh and penultimate round of the 2011 FIA S2000 World Rally Championship at Rallye de France this weekend, claiming their third, and second in-a-row, SWRC win of the season.
Winning the second competitive stage of the rally promoted current Champioship leader Juho Hänninen (FIN) into the lead until he was set back two minutes by a puncture he picked on SS3, allowing Tänak to claim the top spot in the SWRC field and Norway’s Eyvind Brynildsen to second place. Tänak flew through the afternoon stages and by the end of Day One he was leading by one and a half a minutes over Brynildsen. With such a comfortable lead, the Estonian tackled Day Two with no pressure and, still managed to clock three stage wins, despite easing off as he focused on getting to the finish unperturbed.
Not having finished an event since Germany last year and unable to fight with Tänak, Brynildsen‘s aim was to get to the end of Rallye de France. With new co-driver Timo Alanne (FIN) by his side the young Norwegian focused on his own rally and was delighted to take home 18 Championship points for second place.
Martin Prokop’s (CZE) weekend didn’t start too well as he wasn’t confident with his driving and couldn’t find a good pace in order to fight for the victory. After an incorrect tyre choice on the opening loop of Day Two, the Czech pushed hard and tried to put some pressure on Brynildsen but it wasn’t enough and Prokop had to content himself with third place, which keeps him in the battle for the Championship. Prokop’s only other rival was Hänninen who refused to admit defeat after he his time loss on SS3 and stormed through the Day One stages, making up the two minutes his early puncture had cost him. However, disaster struck for the Finn when he lost a rear wheel on SS12 and had to retire for the day. Re-joining the SWRC on Day Three, Hänninen was able to make up some time and scooped fifth place, overtaking guest driver Julien Maurin (FRA) on the power stage.
After a small roll on SS2, young Portuguese driver Bernardo Sousa drove a consistent and steady event and walked away with 12 well-deserved points for fourth place.
German driver Hermann Gassner Jnr suffered an accident on SS9, the first stage of Day Two. Gassner was unhurt but his co-driver Kathi Wüstenhagen (GER) was admitted to the hospital in Colmar and diagnosed with a broken pelvis and rib. She will be discharged in the next few days and will make a full recovery.
1st – OTT TÄNAK (EST): “No problems today, just driving through the stages. It's a good result, but nothing will be decided for the Championship until Spain and I've never competed there before, so we need to wait and see what happens.”
2nd – EYVIND BRYNILDSEN (NOR): “It was a good day. I’m happy. My Fabia felt good, no problems at all – it ran like a clock. Hard tyres were a good choice and it’s getting better and better with my new co-driver. There’s always room to improve but it’s good. We followed the plan – no big mistakes, no big risks. It’s a big relief to arrive at the finish. Prokop was like a cat on my back all day. He never wanted to give up! So I’m happy, happy, happy to hold on to second and get my first podium this year.”
3rd – MARTIN PROKOP (CZE): “It was the same as before. Not as good as we hoped. I tried to catch Brynildsen, but it was impossible. We gained some seconds, but couldn't touch him. Third is a good result. I would preferred second of course and we only finished seven seconds off Brynildsen, but third is ok. The Championship is still alive for us. We'll see what happens in Spain.”