S-WRC set for final-day thriller Just 5.8 seconds separate the top three drivers in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship ahead of the third and final day of Rallye Deutschland - with P-G Andersson leading the charge. Andersson moved to the...
S-WRC set for final-day thriller
Just 5.8 seconds separate the top three drivers in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship ahead of the third and final day of Rallye Deutschland - with P-G Andersson leading the charge.
Andersson moved to the front of the S-WRC field in the day's third stage, elbowing his way past Martin Prokop's Ford Fiesta. As the event moved into the Baumholder military training area - and the infamous Panzerplatte stage - a Fabia was clearly the car to have, and preferably a Swedish Skoda; the Czech machines were fastest on all-but one stage through the second day.
By the close of play, Prokop had dropped to third place as Patrik Sandell also passed him. The reigning Junior World Rally Champion wasn't too dejected. "I couldn't let the gap be any bigger than 10 seconds," he said. "If that happened, it would have been really tough. But it's half of that, which is good. Tomorrow we are back to the vineyards, which is good for me - I am generally able to go a bit faster there. It's going to be a big fight."
Both the drivers ahead have been on top form through today, although Andersson did admit to a near miss on the final test. "We had a big slide in a corner in Panzerplatte," he said. "I knew it was slippery from the first time through, but I kept thinking the grip would come, but it didn't. I just kept my foot down, it was full sideways and a really big slide. We were right on the edge of going off, but we stayed on the road. The back of the car caught a tree and took the spoiler off. It certainly cost us some seconds, but it kept it interesting for tomorrow!"
Sandell will start the final day 4.6 seconds down on his countryman, with the Red Bull driver predicting a nail-biting finish. "I think I can take time," he said. "If I have the perfect stage, I think I can take around 1.7 seconds per stage. I think we're going to get to the start of the final stage level on time - and then it's going to be crazy town! It's been a fantastic race already. I feel quite confident tonight and P-G has been lucky with the moment in the last stage."
Eyvind Brynlidsen has remained fourth all day, his Saturday highlight being second quickest in the first run through St Wendeler Land. A brake problem on the first run at Panzerplatte foiled his attempt to close on the podium scrap and the frustration was clear to see for the Norwegian. "I want to beat them," said the Skoda driver. "But always, it's two or three seconds. I have never driven this car so fast."
Behind him, S-WRC championship leader Xevi Pons was a further minute down, with the Spanish Fiesta driver equally mystified by his inability to challenge for the lead.
Araujo maintains his edge in P-WRC
Armindo Araujo's bid to defend his Production Car World Rally Championship title remains on track following the completion of day two of Rallye Deutschland.
The Portuguese was fastest on four of today's eight stages and starts Sunday's final leg with a 23.8s lead over New Zealander Hayden Paddon.
However, it wasn't an entirely trouble-free day for Araujo. He lost 10 seconds overshooting a junction on Saturday's opener before spinning on a long left corner on stage 10.
Although he was fastest through stage 11, he noticed a front-right puncture on the road section heading to stage 12 and had to stop to change it. With only one spare on board his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, Araujo had to adopt a cautious approach through stages 12 and 13, which enabled Paddon to slash his advantage to 15 seconds.
But Araujo regained his composure on the second Panzerplatte stage and was 8.8s quicker than Paddon. "Okay we are in the lead but that can easily change if we have a small problem so I have to stay concentrated and not make any mistakes," said Araujo.
"Today has been good, the car has been perfect with no problems so I am happy but tomorrow is another long day and it's never easy."
Apart from a bout of understeer in his Lancer on Saturday morning, little troubled Paddon for the remainder of the day, which he said had exceeded his expectations.
"It's gone better than expected, that's for sure," said the Pirelli Star Driver.
"Unfortunately Armindo has just been that bit faster than me. But I've got to be pleased because he's got a lot of experience on Tarmac whereas I've got hardly any at all."
Patrik Flodin, who is almost 1m30s off Araujo, complained that his Subaru Impreza's engine had been overheating on Saturday afternoon. In contrast, German wildcard Hermann Gassner Jr said his Mitsubishi had performed without fault although a spin on stage eight cost him 20 seconds.
Intent on reaching the finish, Gassner Jr adopted a risk-free strategy for the remainder of the day, which he completed in fourth overall.
Alex Raschi is fifth with Pirelli Star Driver Ott Tanak sixth following his return to action under SupeRally regulations on Saturday morning after he broke his car's suspension striking a kerb on Friday.
Reijo Muhonen is seventh with Toshi Arai the only other PWRC competitor to go the distance in eighth.
Suspected transmission problems halted Nick Georgiou, while a lost fire extinguisher pin forced Peter Horsey to retire on the road section heading to stage 13. Michel Jourdain also retired when his Lancer, which he was using in competition for the first time, was destroyed by fire on the first Panzeplatte stage.
Weijs coasting to J-WRC glory
Hans Weijs Jr insists he can't afford to reduce his pace on the final day of Rallye Deutschland, even though he heads the J-WRC category by more than five minutes following another impressive display at the wheel of his Citroen C2 Super 1600.
Weijs Jr began day two 2m15s in front of Yeray Lemes only for the Canary Islander to hit trouble on stage eight when he slid off into a ditch 20 metres from the finish of stage eight. It took nine minutes for Lemes and co-driver Rogelio Penate to regain the road and handed Weijs a seemingly unassailable advantage.
"It's a big gap but in rallying anything can happen," said Weijs. "We were a bit too slow on the first stage today so we had to pick up our speed on the next stages in order to keep a good rhythm. This will be our strategy for tomorrow although we don't need to push too hard, just keep a safe speed and not make any mistakes."
It got worse for Lemes when he picked up two punctures on the first Panzeplatte stage. With only one spare on board his Renault Clio he was left with no option but to retire, which handed second place to Aaron Burkart.
The German Suzuki Swift driver admitted to lacking pace on Saturday morning before he lost 20 seconds when he managed to wedge his car on top of a large boulder after a moment on a right-hander two kilometres before the finish of stage 12.
"The sumpguard got caught and we could not move and there were about 80 spectators just watching and not helping," said Burkart. "But second is good because it will mean we are leading the championship and that is very important."
After losing time stuck in a ditch on day one, Karl Kruuda drove largely without incident to hold third heading into the final day in his Swift. "I made some mistakes but they were only small mistakes so it has been okay," he said.
Mathieu Arzeno plans to restart on Sunday after retiring on Saturday morning when his C2 ran out of petrol. Thierry Neuville, at the wheel of a similar car, had hoped to restart on day two but damage to his car's engine on Friday's final stage - caused by a broken radiator - proved too great and he was forced to retire for the third time in four events.