The C2 Super 1600 Juniors target the podium... The first leg of the Rally d'Italia-Sardinia got underway today in warm temperatures, making the stages extremely dusty. The C2 Junior Experience crews were nonetheless able to make the most of the...
The C2 Super 1600 Juniors target the podium...
The first leg of the Rally d'Italia-Sardinia got underway today in warm temperatures, making the stages extremely dusty. The C2 Junior Experience crews were nonetheless able to make the most of the conditions, especially Martin Prokop and Jan Tomanek who ended the opening leg on the podium in a provisional third place.
The day started with an opening loop of three stages totalling 72.70 competitive kilometres. The rain that had been forecast the night before never came, and the Juniors faced a clean but tricky run on roads that had been swept clear of loose gravel by the four-wheel drive cars that passed through earlier.
As was expected the C2 Super 1600 cars, led by Martin Prokop, set the pace. After his setback on the Rally of Portugal, the Czech driver found himself once more amongst the frontrunners to end the morning's loop of stages in third. Conrad Rautenbach, who was immediately ahead of him on the road, was slowed down by brake problems and dropped down to 10th. The third C2 Super 1600 driver Aaron Burkart took a sensible approach to end the morning's loop in seventh.
There was a fierce battle in the C2-R2 category. Shaun Gallagher came to Sardinia with a considerable class lead, but he found a worthy rival in Bryan Bouffier PH Sport's latest recruit. Bryan was able to adapt himself quickly to the car and the conditions on his first World Championship Rally. He used the gravel experience he has built up on various French national events to good effect during the first leg. At the end of the opening loop of stages Shaun was leading the class, holding 12th place overall in the Junior classification, followed immediately by Bryan Bouffier. Raphael Auquier, Stefano Benoni and Gilles Schammel were immediately behind the leading duo occupying 14th to 16th places, despite suffering in the dry and rocky conditions.
At the beginning of the afternoon, the young Citroen drivers set off eagerly for the second run over the same loop of stages. When it was over, the order was largely unchanged amongst the C2 Super 1600 drivers. Martin Prokop led the Citroen contingent with third place overall in the Juniors, while the second-placed Citroen Super 1600 driver was Aaron Burkart, in fifth place overall. Conrad Rautenbach climbed back to seventh having set a particularly good third-fastest time overall on SS6, behind the two overall Junior Championship leaders.
There was no great change in the order of the Citroen C2-R2 drivers either. Gallagher retained the lead, classified eighth overall in the Juniors, just a few seconds ahead of his direct rival Bryan Bouffier. The Kronos team C2-R2s were the final Citroens, owing to suspension trouble for Raphael Auquier in 14th and gearbox mounting and clutch problems for Gilles Schammel in 18th. Finally, the unlucky Stefano Benoni will have to re- start tomorrow under the SupeRally regulations following an off-road excursion....
Raphael Auquier (BE) Cedric Pirotte (BE) (Citroen C2-R2)
" This morning was good for me. We made the right tyre choice and did not have any punctures or suffer too much with the heat. By contrast, I had a puncture on the first stage of the afternoon and developed some suspension problems on the final stage today. Nonetheless I'm third tonight in the C2-R2 classification, which makes me very pleased... "
Bryan Bouffier (FR) Matthieu Baumel (FR) (Citroen C2-R2)
" I really had a good time today. I got the most out of the stages while trying not to push too hard, as I did not want to break anything on the car. I originally thought that this rally would be very rough and slow, but that was not the case at all. My C2-R2 feels excellent to drive and is extremely solid despite the sometimes difficult conditions. There's a great atmosphere in this championship and I hope I will be able to take part in some more of these rallies, looking at my results this evening... "
Aaron Burkart (DE) Michael Kolbach (DE) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
" This morning I had a few gearbox problems, but apart from that everything was perfect. On the second run through the stages I hit the back of the car, which cost me a few seconds, but on the whole everything went well today and I hope this will continue tomorrow so that we can carry on making progress. "
Shaun Gallagher (EI) Clive Jenkins (GB) (Citroen C2-R2)
" This is a really tricky rally where you have to pay a lot of attention to what you are doing. I had no real problems during the two runs through the stages, but the driving is very difficult and precise here. It's not at all easy."
Martin Prokop (CZ) Jan Tomanek (CZ) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"This morning I was inadvertently held back by Conrad [Rautenbach] who was running in front of me on the road, and so I was not able to push as I should. The gaps between everyone were very small. This afternoon we were able to pull back some of those gaps and I'm very pleased to be the leading Citroen driver tonight. "
Conrad Rautenbach (ZW) David Senior (GB) (Citroen C2 Super 1600) Born 12/11/84 Single Lives London (Great Britain)
" I was very disappointed to have some brake problems on the first stage this morning. The second run through the stages was a bit better, even though I had slightly the same sort of problem on SS6. Tomorrow, I hope I can be as quick as I was on the final stages of today.'
Gilles Schammel (LU) Renaud Jamoul (BE) (Citroen C2-R2)
"I had clutch problems all day. This afternoon I tried to drive a bit more cleanly than I did this morning, and so here I am at the finish of leg one. I'm very pleased to make it this far, and we are going to fix everything tonight so that we can start again on top form tomorrow ! "