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GP Week : Issue 26
Why Mikko H A man o Tortoise tactics win out Martin Prokop took a cautious approach to Rally NZ, and it paid off big time ... MITSUBISHI Production Car WRC driver Martin Prokop had never traveled this far away from his home in the Czech Republic, and hoped for a rally in which he would learn the tricks of high speed driving on heavily cambered and very slippery roads. And halfway through the event he discovered his careful approach (he was only fastest on one stage in the category) had put him in the lead of the PCWRC. It had looked like the San Marino driver Mirco Baldacci was on his way to his greatest success of his career, but then, with six stages to go, he slid off the road at a place where there was nobody to push him back. Prokop, meanwhile, had risen up to second when Fumio Nutahara crashed and went ahead. The big talking point, however, was the performance of the 17-year-old Russian Evgeniy Novikov. When Baldacci went off the road, Novikov rose to second in PCWRC behind Prokop, only to retire with gearbox failure. Mitsubishi drivers took the top five positions, each coming from different nations. 42 Second was the Swedish driver Patrik Sandell, then the Estonian Martin Rauam in front of New Zealander Hayden Paddon and Finn Juho Hanninen. Championship challenger Hanninen had fought back after going off the road and damaging his car on the first day, while the championship leader Andreas Aigner crashed and retired. Their misfortunes has bunched up the chase for the title – Aigner now has a four point lead over Hanninen, while eight points separate the top four drivers in the standings. Hanninen, alone of the top five championship drivers, will compete on the penultimate rally in Japan, while all of them are entered on the final event, the Wales Rally GB in December. Young drivers at the wheel of Group N cars made their mark on the NZ event. 21-year-old Paddon clinched the national New Zealand title on his way to finishing fourth in the PCWRC category, while the second highest non-priority driver of the event was 16-year- old Sloan Cox, who finished 21st out of 35 drivers.