PONS AND FORD FIESTA S2000 TRIUMPHS IN S-WRC SHOWDOWN FORD Fiesta S2000 driver Xevi Pons has been crowned winner of this year's Super 2000 World Rally Championship (S-WRC) after a final round battle on the rain-soaked Wales Rally ...
PONS AND FORD FIESTA S2000 TRIUMPHS IN S-WRC SHOWDOWN
FORD Fiesta S2000 driver Xevi Pons has been crowned winner of this year's Super 2000 World Rally Championship (S-WRC) after a final round battle on the rain-soaked Wales Rally GB.
Fellow Fiesta S2000 driver Jari Ketomaa's hopes of taking the title were dashed when the Finn rolled his car on Sunday's opening stage.
Pons' third place finish and his 15-point haul meant the Spaniard clinched the title over Patrik Sandell by 12 points. Fiesta S2000 driver Martin Prokop completes this year's S-WRC podium line-up, a further seven points behind Sandell.
Fellow Ford Fiesta S2000 driver Craig Breen finished his debut in the S-WRC in a remarkable second place. Dennis Kuipers was not registered to score S-WRC points but finished a credible 16th overall.
M-Sport's award-winning car has enjoyed a fantastic season claiming an impressive nine podium finishes in the S-WRC and two podium spots in the overall championship standings.
With only nine points separating Pons, Ketomaa and Sandell prior to the Welsh event, competition was always going to be fierce on the final S-WRC counter. However, Sandell's challenge for the three-way title scrap faltered with power steering failure on Stage 5 and with no opportunity to repair the fault, the Swede was forced to drive two more stages before service, effectively dropping out of title contention.
A two-way title fight ensued between Pons and Ketomaa and by the end of the first day, Ketomaa was second in S-WRC with Pons fourth.
Day 2 did not bode well for Ketomaa as Pons moved up into third after Eyvind Brynildsen retired on Stage 11. With Pons only one spot behind Ketomaa and the Finn in desperate need of the extra nine points for championship victory, his hopes for the title looked increasingly unlikely.
Eventually Ketomaa's bid for championship glory was ended when he crashed his Ford Fiesta S2000 on Sunday's opening stage. That error consolidated Pons' thirdplace finish and secured him the S-WRC title.
S-WRC position: 3
Final overall position: 13
Wales marked the first time in four months that Xevi Pons had driven the Ford Fiesta S2000 competitively on gravel and the Spaniard struggled to find the right rhythm on Friday's opening stages. By Friday afternoon Pons had improved his times and held fourth in S-WRC overnight.
Pons took advantage of Eyvind Brynildsen's retirement on Stage 10 to move into third position, just one spot behind Ketomaa. The Spaniard remained third for the rest of Day 2 and felt confident that he could clinch the championship title providing he held onto his podium spot by the end of Day 3.
After Ketomaa's retirement on Sunday's opening stage, Pons moved into second place and was ideally placed to steal the championship title. The Spanish driver lost second place to Breen after Stage 19 but pulled into the final service third and delighted to have won the series title by 15 points.
Xevi Pons said:
"I'm delighted to win the championship! It was all I cared about this weekend. I hadn't competed on gravel at a WRC event on gravel for four months before Wales so it took me a while to find a good rhythm but I really wasn't too bothered about my final position, all I wanted was to win the title. I was driving as fast as I could for most of the weekend and I know I didn't match my pace from Mexico and Jordan but I really didn't care as my end position was enough to win the championship. It's been a great year and I'm so happy to have taken the title this weekend."
S-WRC position: 2
Final overall position: 12
Craig Breen made his debut as a registered S-WRC points-scorer in Wales this weekend. The rising Irish star was 16th at the end of Stage 3 but a puncture 6 km into Stage 4 cost Breen nearly two minutes and dropped him back into 25th. The puncture was fixed at the remote service at Builth Wells but the damage to the rear made for difficult driving as water poured into Breen's Ford Fiesta S2000. The young driver battled on to finish the day 20th overall and held fifth in S-WRC overnight.
After Brynildsen's retirement on Stage 11, Breen moved up to fourth in S-WRC. The Irish driver encountered no major problems for the remainder of the day and held onto fourth going into the final day.
Breen moved up into third position after Ketomaa's retirement on Sunday's opening stage then after setting three storming stage times, the young Irish driver snatched second from Pons. The young Irish driver finished the day runner-up in S-WRC and a remarkable 12th overall.
Craig Breen said:
"I'm over the moon with this result! We had an unfortunate start on Friday with the puncture but I can't believe how much things have changed. We'd actually driven some of the weekend's stages as part of the Bulldog Rally back in March -- some of the tests were run in opposite directions but it definitely helped knowing what to expect although the roads were a lot muddier and slippery this time round. It just feels fantastic to finish on the podium and hopefully it'll set the precedent for when I compete in the WRC Academy next year."
S-WRC position: N/A
Final overall position: 16
M-Sport entry Dennis Kuipers was looking to beat his 16th place finish from last year's event. He had no problems on the first day and reported how much he enjoyed the challenging road conditions. The 24-year-old finished the first day 19th overall.
On Day 2 Kuipers struggled with the amount of mud that had been dragged onto the roads by the WRC front-runners but he had no major problems. A trouble-free afternoon followed for the Dutch driver and he pulled into Day 2 18th overall, just two spots off his 16th place finish on last year's event.
Kuipers lost his rear window on Stage 18 but the final day of Wales Rally GB posed no other problems.. The young Dutchman pulled into the end of the final WRC event of 2010 16th overall, just 54.7 seconds off claiming his best ever finish on British soil.
Dennis Kuipers said:
"The conditions on the roads this weekend have been very challenging but I've really enjoyed myself and have made no mistakes. The stages on Friday were very slippery but I wasn't complaining - it's helped give me fantastic experience for contesting more rallies like this in the future. I've had a brilliant time in the Ford Fiesta S2000 car this season -- my best result in the WRC this year was ninth in Rally Turkey but my main aim has been to gain as much experience as possible and I've had a lot of fun at the same time."
S-WRC position: DNF
Final position: DNF
Jari Ketomaa was fighting for the championship title this weekend and got off to a good start on Friday setting a fastest time on Stage 3. The Finn was placed second in S-WRC by the end of the first day, 32.8 seconds adrift of Andreas Mikkelsen.
Pons's promotion to third place on Saturday morning concerned the Finn and the driver upped his pace to try and catch Mikkelsen who was leading S-WRC. Ketomaa was fastest on four of Saturday's eight forest stages having improved the handling of his Fiesta S2000 at Friday's final service with a series of set-up changes. At the end of the day, the Finn had closed the gap on Mikkelsen to 25 seconds eager to catch the Norwegian in a bid to win the championship.
Ketomaa was desperate to catch Mikkelsen, setting a stunning pace for the first 10km of the first stage on the final day but the Finn rolled his Ford Fiesta S2000 after braking too late for a right hand corner on Stage 17. The incident forced Ketomaa to retire and his hopes of the championship title were dashed. After an impressive three victories in the S-WRC this year, Ketomaa finishes the year fourth in the overall standings - just three points shy of Martin Prokop in third position.
Jari Ketomaa said:
""What can I say? I'm so disappointed to lose the championship - I came here to win. I beat Mikkelsen on four stages on Saturday but we lost too much time on the Friday. We changed the dampers, the springs and the rollbar, which has given us a lot more grip coming out of the corners yesterday. I knew that we couldn't win the title unless something happened to Pons or we could take the lead from Mikkelsen so we decided to push to the limit today [Sunday]. Unfortunately we pushed too hard and rolled on the first stage on a left hand bend. We've had three victories in the S-WRC this year and I'm so disappointed not to have won the title."