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GP Week : Issue 52
>>WRCAOLAND WRC:abbring on top after thrilling duel Seven of the regular championship competitors were competing in the Junior WRC category, plus two Polish drivers nominated as Guest competitors by the organisers, but in reality it was a two car race. Driving a Renault Clio R3 two litre car was the 20 year-old Dutch driver Kevin Abbring, while at the wheel of a Suzuki Swift S1600 was the Pole Michal Kosciuszko. Abbring’s car had the advantage of top speed in the fast stages; Kosciuszko however had the personal knowledge of many of the stages which had been used on previous non championship Polish Rallies in this region. Prokop brought his Citroen S1600 to second place in the category, with the advantage of having a spare rally in hand over the Pole, but needed to keep ahead of Kosciuszko if his championship chances were to have any value. The battle between the Pole and the Dutchman was amazing. Abbring had pulled out a lead of nearly a half minute before the Polish driver arrived at stages he knew well. Within three stages Kosciuszko had taken the lead. On the second run through these stages Abbring caught up and going in to the final day was 0.8 second ahead. The tension was intense and it was Kosciuszko who cracked, going off the road and being unable to continue. Abbring went on to become the youngest winner of a round in the eight year history of the Junior WRC. The late retirement of Kosciuszko led to a tie for the lead in the series between himself and Martin Prokop. Prokop, Aaron Burkart (lying third) and Abbring (lying fourth) have two more points scoring appearances in the series, in Finland and Spain, while Kosciuszko has just one, Finland. CitroenCrying Wolf Olivier Quesnel took over responsibility for the Citroen World Rally Team in 2008 and was horrified how much tactics played a part in the sport. But he could see the reality. Play tactics or suffer defeat. The tactic of manipulating results is a cagey business; it is important to conceal your true intentions, maybe even throw in some decoys. When Rautenbach withdrew at the final service in Norway, we all believed it was to prevent him finishing and to allow him to change an engine before the next rally without penalty. His engine was apparently damaged. When Rautenbach withdrew at final service in Sardinia, we were told there was a mysterious electrical fault at service. When Novikov was stopped for eight minutes on the final stage in Greece, we heard there was another electrical fault. Was that true, or a tactic? In both Sardinia and Greece, there was the same beneficiary points wise – Dani Sordo. In Poland things went further. Three stages from the finish, Ogier stopped with a stated “loss of engine power”. He retired from the rally. On the same stage Novikov admitted he was told to stop on the stage for two minutes before continuing. And on the next stage Rautenbach was told to stop for about 13 minutes before continuing. As a result of these machinations, Loeb ended up with two Drivers’ championship points instead of none, and Citroen Total gained four extra Makes’ championship points instead of one. All this is traditional motorsport stuff, but what is worrying is that Rautenbach and Novikov were drivers from another team (Citroen Junior Team) who were ordered to sacrifice their chances to help the Citroen Total team. A senior adviser at the rally said that the problem facing the FIA is difficult. Maybe these tactics are morally or even sportingly wrong, but nothing can be done unless there is evidence of wrong doing from the crew in person, and that won’t happen. 7 Prgentina