Ketomaa flies to third S-WRC triumph Jari Ketomaa has maintained his commanding advantage in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship section of Rally Japan throughout the final day to secure a dominant victory over Martin Prokop. Ketomaa, from...
Ketomaa flies to third S-WRC triumph
Jari Ketomaa has maintained his commanding advantage in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship section of Rally Japan throughout the final day to secure a dominant victory over Martin Prokop.
Ketomaa, from Finland, was fastest on the opening superspecial stage in the Sapporo Dome on Thursday evening to build a lead he would never relinquish at the wheel of his Autotek Motorsport-run Ford Fiesta S2000.
Co-driven by fellow Finn Mika Stenberg, Ketomaa was fastest on 13 of the 26 stages to land his third win in the class this season, more than half a minute clear of Czech Prokop, who was also in a Fiesta.
"The rally was all about not making any mistakes and trying to keep my consistency because I had a big lead from the first proper stage on Friday," said Ketomaa. "Winning for the third time this season is a very good feeling and it is very good for my chances of the championship."
Second place for Prokop, the reigning Junior world champion, means he joins Xevi Pons at the top of the title standings on 96 points. However, because Prokop took over Nasser Al-Attiyah's Barwa Rally Team registration for Japan having originally not intended to compete in the Far East, he must surrender one of this two remaining events, meaning he has only Rallye de France left on which to score in his efforts to win the inaugural S-WRC title.
"I got some good points for the championship and that is very important on this rally," said Prokop. "After the problems on Friday I knew it would not be possible to catch Jari so it was important not to make any mistakes because really there was no reason to. I am sure without the problems we could have been closer to Jari and fought for the victory."
Ketomaa, however, remains firmly in contention for the S-WRC crown and can take the title by beating Pons on the final two rounds in France and Great Britain, although he fears his lack of Tarmac experience might hold him back on the Alsace-based French round.
Bernardo Sousa restarted under SupeRally regulations following his retirement on Saturday's opening test. The Portuguese driver's M-Sport Fiesta had suffered alternator failure close to the start of the stage but was restored to full working order to enable him to tackle Sunday's eight stages.
With only three starters in the S-WRC category in Japan, Sousa was heading to the final podium spot and his first top-three finish of the season when another alternator fault grounded his Fiesta on stage 22.
"The car was fixed with no problem and with no fight I just had to drive carefully to arrive at the finish so it is a real shame this has happened," said Sousa.
Despite the disappointment of not finishing, Sousa could take some satisfaction from the fact he was the fastest S-WRC runner through Sunday's second stage.
Flodin cruises to P-WRC glory
With Patrik Flodin and Hayden Paddon out clear in first and second places respectively in the Production Car World Rally Championship on Rally Japan, the battle for the last podium spot took centre stage on the final day of the Sapporo-based event.
Michel Jourdain started Sunday's first stage in third place with Gianluca Linari and Paulo Nobre firmly in contention. Linari, from Italy, was 23.5s down on the Mexican, while Brazilian Nobre was a further 21.2s behind Linari leaving first service.
Although the gap between Jourdain and Linari for the final podium spot continued to fluctuate, rally rookie Jourdain appeared to be fending off the veteran Italian only to crash out after the flying finish of stage 22. The impact tore a wheel off Jourdain's Mitsubishi Lancer and resulted in his instant retirement.
With Nobre stopping on Sunday morning when his Lancer developed an overheating problem, Linari was unchallenged on his run to third behind Paddon and the dominant Flodin, who now takes the lead of the P-WRC standings from Armindo Araujo, who was not competing in Japan.
"It's always great to get a victory but to come away from here with 25 points is also very important for the championship and I'm really pleased to be leading again," said Flodin, who, along with navigator Goran Bergsten, was fastest in class on 13 stages. "Unfortunately I won't be doing the next rally in France because I have already done five rallies so I only have Rally GB left. But after not finishing in Finland I really had to get a good result here, which is what I have done."
Second for Paddon on his debut in Japan keeps his title hopes alive although the New Zealander was frustrated to have dropped time on Friday's opening stage when he was delayed after narrowly avoiding a rescue vehicle attending to Khalid Al Qassimi's accident. He also lost ground with a broken steering arm on Friday afternoon and a brake problem on Saturday morning.
"I did a lot better as the event went on," said Paddon, who was co-driven by John Kennard. "The car improved a lot too. I need to pick up the pace though and try and win in France or GB. I won't be holding anything back - you can't afford to with guys as fast as Flodin and Araujo around."
Despite finishing 15 minutes behind Flodin, Linari was delighted with his capture of the final podium place after spending much of the event adapting to his Impreza, which he'd never driven before the start of the event. The result also made up for the disappointment of retiring on the final stage of Rally Japan in 2008 when his car broke down after going through a watersplash.
"I'm very happy," said Linari, who was partnered by fellow Italian Massimo Salvucci. "I am not as fast as some of the others and it's a very hard rally, but I knew it because I was here two years ago. I am very, very happy."
Local driver Kyosuke Kamata finished fourth with Rui Wang impressing with his pace in fifth as he completed his recovery following a disastrous start to the event after he ran out of fuel following the opening pair of superspecial stages in Sapporo.
Finn Reijo Muhonen relied on SupeRally to complete the list of finishers in sixth place.