S-WRC Friday wrap: Brynildsen leads in France Eyvind Brynildsen will take a narrow lead of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category into day two of Rallye de France after completing Friday's eight stages 4.6 seconds in front of fellow ...
S-WRC Friday wrap: Brynildsen leads in France
Eyvind Brynildsen will take a narrow lead of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category into day two of Rallye de France after completing Friday's eight stages 4.6 seconds in front of fellow Skoda Fabia driver Patrik Sandell.
The young Norwegian reckoned he lost 25 seconds when he went wide on a right-hander on stage two and swiped the rear left corner of his car on a retaining barrier. He also spun on stage three and had to reverse to get pointed in the right direction. However, there were no such problems in the afternoon, although he was unable to prevent the flying Sandell from eroding his advantage.
"I was a bit too slow at the start but it has been a good afternoon for me and now I am really close to Eyvind," said Sandell, who lost time on stage four when his brakes faltered five kilometres from the end of run. "There is definitely more left to come from us tomorrow."
Michal Kosciuszko completes a Skoda podium lockout after surviving a spin at a hairpin on stage three. The Polish driver is 5.2s clear of Finn Jari Ketomaa, who can clinch the inaugural S-WRC title by winning in France and again on Rally GB in mid-November.
Apart from two short tests before the start, Friday's stages provided the Finn with his first opportunity to drive a rally car on Tarmac. "It's difficult because you know exactly where to put the car on gravel, where to brake, things like that, but not so on Tarmac," said Ketomaa. "I know I have got a very good car but I have not got the experience to really attack. I am on the safe side."
It has been a frustrating day for the joint title leaders Xevi Pons and Martin Prokop. Spaniard Pons reported being too cautious in the morning and, as a result, completed day one in fifth overall in his Ford Fiesta.
But at least he fared better than Prokop, whose similar Fiesta suffered power steering failure on the opening stage. Without the required spare parts to fix the fault in the remote service in Mulhouse, Prokop had to complete the entire day with no assisted steering and lost more than five minutes as a result.
"I'm strong but not that strong so it's been really hard," said Prokop, who is a distant sixth in class overnight. "The car kept wanting to go straight on in the corners. I think I have lost the championship today. It has been very bad." To add insult to injury Prokop and co-driver Jan Tomanek are both sporting fully grown beards for losing a bet with their mechanics that they would win a rally in their native Czech Republic last month, which they actually ended up not contesting.
Andorran Albert Llovera, who is seventh in his Abarth Grande Punto, is the only other S-WRC driver still running after Bernardo Sousa and French wildcard entrants Jean-Sebastien Vigion and Julien Maurin all hit trouble.
P-WRC wrap: Araujo leads after Paddon hits trouble
Defending Production Car World Rally Champion Armindo Araujo leads the class at the end of the opening day - the Mitsubishi driver enjoying a near-minute gap which belies the close competition which marked the opening day of Rallye de France.
Araujo's closest competitor on the previous asphalt round of the P-WRC, Hayden Paddon was fastest away from the start this morning. Once again, the rapid Kiwi driver put aside his absence of asphalt experience to turn in an inspired drive on ever-changing conditions.
The New Zealander's Pirelli Star Driver Mitsubishi was fastest on the first three stages, building a handy 11.4-second lead over Araujo. That advantage went south on the Grand Ballon test, where he suffered a front-right puncture five kilometres before the end of the stage. "There were loads of rocks and mud in the road, the puncture could have come from anything," said Paddon. "I'd never driven on anything like that before."
Worse was to come for Paddon who posted further fastest times in the afternoon before retiring from day one with alternator failure at the end of SS7.
Araujo's hopes of catching Paddon in the early part of the loop were hit by the drier-than-expected weather which meant his softly-suspended Lancer wasn't offering as much grip as it might through the first four stages.
Araujo's hopes of rectifying the set-up were hit by the fact that the lunchtime halt was only a remote service in Mulhouse, meaning the mechanics could only work on the car using the parts Araujo was carrying in the car. Going into the final stage of the day, the Portuguese was a little more relieved; Paddon was gone and his nearest rival was now Anders Grondal, who was close to a minute down in his Subaru.
Leader Araujo said: "I'm still not happy with the set-up. That last stage has been really difficult. The last part of that [last] stage was about surviving. I'm happy to be here."
Grondal repeated those sentiments about the second run through Grand Ballon. His day hadn't been trouble-free: like fellow Subaru runner Toshi Arai, he lost the brakes for the final seven kilometres of the first run at the 24-kilometre Grand Ballon test.
Ott Tanak was a subdued third in P-WRC, the Pirelli Star Driver still coming to terms with the requirements of driving on asphalt. Despite the tricky conditions, the 22-year-old Estonian emerged unscathed and a wiser man for his efforts.
Arai's morning had been an interesting one; not only did he lose the brakes on his Impreza, but he was also struggling to hear co-driver Daniel Barritt courtesy of an intercom problem.
Scotsman Dave Weston was fifth at the end of the day, despite some late-in-the-day gearbox trouble in his Subaru. Alex Raschi's Lancer rounded out Friday's top six.
J-WRC Friday wrap: Neuville on target for success
Thierry Neuville's bid to end his maiden season in the Junior World Rally Championship with victory is on track following the opening day of Rallye de France.
Neuville, from Belgium, leads Dutch driver Hans Weijs Jr by a commanding margin of 48.1 seconds although he suffered a scare on the final stage when his Citroen C2's power steering failed. In order to make it through the run he got co-driver Nicolas Klinger to apply the handbrake at hairpin turns so he could use all his strength to turn the steering wheel.
"It's been good but that last stage was very difficult," said Neuville, who is chasing his second win in the young driver class this year. "This morning was not so easy with all the mud on the road but I am pleased with my day."
Weijs Jr had difficulties of his own to contend with after a brake problem held him back in the afternoon. "We had the wrong set-up and then a problem with the brakes," said Weijs Jr.
Kevin Abbring was third heading into the final stage but crashed heavily on the test. His Renault Clio R3 went off the road and dropped 20 metres before rolling into a tree. Early reports suggest both Abbring and co-driver Erwin Mombaerts were uninjured although their Clio suffered extensive damage for the second event in succession.
Rising French talent Mathieu Arzeno took advantage of Abbring's exit to move into third place although it could have been a different story for the Frenchman after he had built an early lead, only to spin on stage four and stall his Citroen's engine. Unable to restart the motor, Arzeno lost more than one minute while spectators frantically tried to get his car pointing in the right direction before giving him a push start.
Jeremi Ancian, who fought WRC star Sebastien Ogier for the French Peugeot Cup title in 2007, is fourth in a Suzuki Swift S1600, which he is using as his prize for winning the one-make Suzuki title in France last season. He is also the sole wildcard entry in the J-WRC after Pierre Campana was forced to scrap his entry due to a lack of funds.
Championship leader Aaron Burkart is fifth after opting to run slick tyres during the damp morning stages. "We lost a lot of time this morning because the back of car was really sliding too much," said the German Suzuki driver.
Bulgarian Todor Slavov is sixth overall in his Clio R3, which he spent the build-up to the rally preparing himself. "We did not have the money to buy the spare parts until just before the rally and we had to finish working on the car here. I am a little tired because of this and we also got a penalty because we were late for the first stage."
Harry Hunt rounds out the list of classified runners in his Ford Fiesta R2 having been delayed a broken gear linkage.