Candidate Rally of Russia leg one final summary

Zheludov leads at end of windy Saturday in Novorossiysk At the end of an exciting opening day of "Novorossiysk Rally of Russia 2008" Alexander Zheludov, driving Subaru Impreza N12, leads the event by 39.2 seconds from legendary Timofey Vorobjev...

Zheludov leads at end of windy Saturday in Novorossiysk

At the end of an exciting opening day of "Novorossiysk Rally of Russia 2008" Alexander Zheludov, driving Subaru Impreza N12, leads the event by 39.2 seconds from legendary Timofey Vorobjev in Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VII.

The second pass through special stages "Semigorje", "Neberdzhay" and "Markoth" promised to be as exciting as unpredictable. After the chaos on the morning loop it was difficult to foresee the results before the night service. The weather didn't become any better, as the wind got only stronger. So strong, that it was really dangerous to walk in the service park, situated at the seafront. Even firm metallic constructions were moving as if made of soft materials, and the staff, mechanics and journalists had to be really careful not to get blown away. Situation on stages was quite similar, especially high up in the mountains, though in law areas there was no wind at all. And this made drivers' task even more difficult as they had to adapt to a great variety of conditions from windless forests to high-altitude tracks. Considering the tricky nature of roads themselves, where loose sections alternated with rough and rocky parts, the task to successfully complete a single section became even more complicated.

Both leaders of the rally experienced first troubles already on the re-run of "Semigorje"! Evgeniy Novikov, who had been holding second place before the service, finished the stage only eleventh that was the price for a broken rear reduction gear on his Lancer. If you remember, the 18-years old talent was in a similar situation on the latest PWRC round in New Zealand. He was fighting against the world's best drivers, and a mechanical problem deprived him of any chances of a podium finish. In Novorossiysk all his major rivals had already hit problems, but unfortunately for Evgeniy he couldn't benefit from this as he also fell the victim of misfortune. Though he still keeps hopes of a high finish result: his team has applied for SupeRally, and considering the roughness of roads and that most of competitors in front are driving weaker front-wheel drive cars, it all becomes possible for Evgeniy. All he has to do is to drive very fast... And make it to the finish. Two conditions, which proved to be very difficult to accomplish today...

Andrey Zhigunov, who had been leading the rally, also failed to complete the stage a wheel ball broke down on the car of 5-times Russian champion. Combined with Novikov's retirement it meant that the rally started from scratch! The rally saw another change at the top of the general standings, as Timofey Vorobjev took the top spot. But it was too early for the legendary Russian driver to celebrate his triumph, because he had Alexander Zheludov fresh at his heels. The two drivers were separated by just 35 seconds by the end of the stage. The penultimate stage and another attack from the championship's leader. The story repeated on the day's final speed test, which saw Alexander increasing his lead overall. Vorobjev could do nothing against such a strong rival, especially as his car was no match to Zheludov's weapon, prepared by Tommi Makinen Racing.

All the action in weaker categories was at mess after crew #20 of Igor Dautov and Nadezhda Filaretova had gone off the road and hit a tree. The crew was unhurt, but their car blocked the road, and this led to a real traffic jam. And now only can the stewards' meeting define the eventual results of the first day for the half of crews, especially in A6 category. Once again powerful FWD crews delighted fans with some hot action. Sergey Naryshkin, the newly crowned N3 champions, and the leader of the category in this rally, showed 3rd best result on three stages in a row, and this have moved him into 3rd position overall the highest position a driver in Group N3 car has ever reached in the Russian Championship! Other talents also managed to spring some pleasant surprises: Dmitriy Bragin, driving a works LADA, once finished 6th (!), while Alexander Mikhailov, Andrey Yushin (both driving Honda Civic TypeR cars) and Mikhail Milov, all posted some top-10 times.

N3 leader: Sergey Naryshkin
A8 leader: Dmitriy Nemirovskiy
A6 leader: Arkadiy Bogomolov

-credit: rally-russia.com

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Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen