Podium for the C2 Super 1600 It was a bitter-sweet result for Citroen in the Junior World Championship section of the Rally d'Italia-Sardegna, round three of the series. The Citroen C2 S1600 of Aaron Burkart finished third, and claimed the top...
Podium for the C2 Super 1600
It was a bitter-sweet result for Citroen in the Junior World Championship section of the Rally d'Italia-Sardegna, round three of the series. The Citroen C2 S1600 of Aaron Burkart finished third, and claimed the top position in the C2 Junior Experience. But it could very easily have been first for Martin Prokop, who was in a fight for victory from the very first day of the rally.
Martin Prokop, the Czech driver battled for the top spot with Suzuki driver Michal Kosciuszko from the very beginning, with their times separated by just a handful of seconds throughout the event. However, Prokop lost 29 minutes with a technical problem on his engine on the final day, meaning that he finished 10th in the overall Junior classification with little to show for his efforts.
"Naturally, it's a big disappointment," said Prokop. "We needed to win in order to make up for our mistake in Mexico, and right up until the end it was looking possible. We had a really fantastic battle for the lead throughout the rally, and I would have accepted to come second after a such a strong fight, but I really wanted to win and it's frustrating for my rally to end up this way."
Instead, it was Burkart who finished on the podium after a consistent rally in his Citroen C2 S1600, despite losing some time with a steering problem on the final stage of day two. The German made solid progress throughout the final day, taking advantage of a puncture for his fellow C2 S1600 driver Shaun Gallagher in order to seal the final podium place.
Burkart said: "Third is an excellent result for me: in fact a podium finish was the objective that I set myself at the start of the rally, so naturally I'm delighted to actually achieve it. This was an extremely tough event and I struggled to find the right set-up for much of the time. But finally we ended up with a very nice feeling with our Citroen C2 Super 1600, and the result is this podium."
Gallagher grew in confidence as the rally went on, after changing the set-up on his C2 S1600 to cope with the tricky terrain. Despite a puncture on the final day he ended up in fourth, backing up his points finish on the previous Junior round in Jordan.
In fifth place was the Citroen C2 Super 1600 of Sebastien Ogier, who came into Sardinia leading the Junior World Rally Championship (although he is not taking part in the C2 Junior Experience). By scoring four points, he retains the Junior lead by eight points after an excellent recovery drive. Ogier was forced to retire from leg one after picking up a puncture and going off the road, due to having to get past a World Rally Car that was partially blocking the stage.
But from then on he fought back to set some quick times and most importantly of all, score some points. In fact, Ogier has lost only one point of the nine-point lead that he held going into the rally.
"It's a good recovery, that's sure," said the Frenchman, who is backed by the Equipe de France FFSA (France's Motorsport Federation). "But it's not the same when you are just fighting to score a few points rather than the win. At the start of the rally that was my aim, but we soon had to re-adjust our expectations which was a valuable lesson too."
Hans Weijs Jr finished eighth and took the final Junior point in his Citroen C2-R2 MAX, which proved itself capable of fighting with much more powerful machinery. The similar car of Italian Francesco Fanari failed to finish, with the Italian breaking his rear axle on day one and ripping off a wheel on day two.
The next round of the Junior World Rally Championship is the legendary Rally Finland, which takes place at the beginning of August.