Cyprus - Junior World Rally Championship - Finish
Czech driver Martin Prokop and co-driver Jan Tomanek scored the seventh J-WRC win of their career in their Citroen C2 S1600 at the Cyprus Rally, second round of the 2009 FIA Junior World Rally Championship. Michal Kosciuszko
(POL, Suzuki) brought his Suzuki Swift S1600 home in second followed by Aaron Burkart (D, Suzuki) in a similar car.
Prokop now leads the J-WRC standings by two points ahead of Burkart, who won the opening round in Ireland. The Czech driver's result also sees him clock his third podium in as many rallies as he is contesting both the P-WRC and J-WRC this season.
As this event has historically been renowned for being a car breaker, it is one of the more costly rounds of the J-WRC and as a result only three of this year's competitors opted to nominate it as one of their points-scoring rounds. And with only three of them in competition, they all only had to finish the event to scoop a decent tally of points.
But as Cyprus is the WRC's first mixed surface rally since 1996, it was a huge challenge for the junior cars and a great event on which to gain experience now that mixed surface rallies have been permitted back into the Championship.
In recent years we've seen the C2 shine on tarmac and as a result it was no surprise that Prokop flew through the first day's stages trouble-free, pulling out an enormous lead of 3mins 34secs over Kosciuszko by the end of the day.
But all crews were forced to drive to avoid an enormous amount of gravel which had been brought on the roads by the more powerful cars ahead, as the tracks were littered with puncture-threatening stones.
As expected, the Polish driver powered back on Day Two once he was set free on the gravel tracks, using his Suzuki Swift to reduce that deficit to just over two minutes. The Pole took time out of Prokop on all but the last of the day's stages when Prokop's set-up seemed to work more in his favour.
Kosciuszko made a final push on Day Three, winning two of the day's three stages, but he lost too much time with a broken power steering on SS12 so the effort was too little, too late.
Burkart had a really unfortunate start to the event as a front right puncture just 15km into SS1 cost the German driver three and a half minutes while he struggled with the wheel nuts. Heavily worn tyres on SS3 also cost over two minutes and then on the last stage of the day (SS6) he hit a stone after about 10km and badly damaged a wheel which cost 8min 45secs.
With so much time lost, by the start of Day Two he was driving his own rally, although he didn't seem too perturbed as even a finish would guarantee him six points. He struggled a bit with no brakes for the final group of stages (SS10-11) on Day Two and by the last day he slowed his speed enough to simply avoid mistakes and guarantee a finish.
Martin Prokop, Citroen C2 S1600:
"Yesterday I lost a lot of time so today I had to push because I knew Michal was going to try to catch me - 10 points is very important for the Championship, I know that if I want to win it I have to finish in the top three on all of the events because there are three or four drivers that will fight for it as well. I can't make mistakes this year also because I feel it will be my last year in J-WRC and I really want to win it."
Michal Kosciuszko, Suzuki Swift S1600:
"Yesterday and today I really tried my best to catch Martin but the gap was too big. It's a pity that we had problems on Friday otherwise it was going to be a good battle with him. Second place is a good start for the season and I'm really looking forward to Portugal. Martin and Aaron (Burkart) will not compete there so I have to win there to take some advantage on the Championship."
Aaron Burkart, Suzuki Swift S1600:
"The only good thing to say about this rally is that we scored six points and with the 10 points we scored in Ireland we are still in second position in the Championship. After the bad day I had on Friday I had to prevent damage so I slowed down, drove safely and brought the car to the finish. Now I will focus on my next event (Argentina) and try to do better there!"