Tour de Corse : Suzuki Motorsport
Suzuki Ignis driver Kosti Katajamaki is second after leg two of the Rally de France-Tour de Corse, round seven of the Junior World Rally Championship. Martin Prokop is seventh in his Ignis run by Jipocar, just ahead of Estonian Urmo Aava,
driving an Ignis run by Suzuki Sport Europe. The all-new Suzuki Swifts were not competing in Corsica, as championship regulations require every crew to nominate one round on which they will not score points.
Leg two of the all-asphalt event once again consisted of four stages, split into two loops of two. The mountain roads were narrow, twisty and bumpy while temperatures were unseasonably warm, peaking at 26 degrees centigrade.
Kosti started the opening leg in fourth place, but benefited from problems for the two leading Citroens of Daniel Sordo and Kris Meeke. The Finn does not have so much experience of driving on asphalt, and is aiming to get to the finish and avoid problems. This strategy is proving extremely effective, as many of his rivals have come to grief in the difficult and specialised conditions. His Ignis was entirely reliable throughout the day.
Kosti, who is currently sixth in the championship with Suzuki Sport Europe, said: "It's been another very difficult day. The biggest problem is trying to guess the amount of grip available on each corner. This is certainly one of the most challenging events I have ever driven on! I made up a couple of places when the Citroens had problems, but Sordo is certainly going to come back tomorrow and I am not going to fight him. I just want to drive my own rally, keep Betti behind me, and get a safe podium finish. That would be a big achievement in itself!"
Czech youngster Martin Prokop, driving in Corsica for the first time, ends the second leg in seventh place, which he is very happy about. His highest-ever finish has been sixth place, so he will use this as his target on the final day tomorrow. He had a trouble-free but cautious run, and is learning more with every kilometre.
Martin said: "We've had another good day today, but it has required maximum concentration. The car has been very good and given us no problems at all, and as the event goes on I feel more and more confident with it."
Urmo Aava, in a Suzuki Sport Europe-run Ignis, has had a much more adventurous outing. He started the day determined to make up time lost with a puncture on the opening day, but unbelievably, he punctured again on the first stage of leg two. He was forced to stop and change the tyre, but his luck got no better on the second stage, when he broke a front driveshaft. He altered some settings for the first stage in the afternoon, but he felt that these changes were counter-productive and so switched them back for the final stage.
The Estonian commented: "We've hardly had a clean stage all day: our luck has been almost unbelievably bad! We have just suffered from stupid, little things but they have cost us a lot of time. At least we are still in the rally – and just six seconds behind Martin Prokop – but our position should be much higher."
Pavel Valousek, driving an Ignis run by JM Engineering, was forced to retire on SS5 after ripping a wheel off on one of the many tricky corners. Nonetheless, he will re-start the final leg tomorrow in order to gain more experience.
Pavel reported: "It was very frustrating: just a stupid mistake and then the wheel was off and we could not continue. Looking on the positive side of things, we have learnt a lot about asphalt driving, and I can concentrate on improving my technique with no extra pressure tomorrow."
Suzuki Sport president Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima said: "Problems for the two leading Citroëns today show just how difficult this event is. You can have the fastest car in the world, but it will not do you any good if you cannot finish. This is why I admire the mature attitude of our drivers, who have concentrated on getting to the end of the event and scoring as many points possible, while learning as much as they can."
Tomorrow's final leg of the Rally de France-Tour de Corse follows exactly the same format as the first two legs, with two stages in the morning repeated in the afternoon. The first car leaves Parc Ferme in Ajaccio at 07:00 (CET) and the winner is expected to spray the champagne at 13:50.
Press release Suzuki Motorsport