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GP Week : Issue 105
Aaron Burkart, Junior World Champion 28 year-old German driver Aaron Burkart won the FIA's Junior World Championship title at his fifth attempt, in his second season with the Suzuki Rally Team. His competition career started in 2002 with Citroen cars, following a tradition started by his father who competed in British championship rallies in a Nissan. Curiously the driver to whom he sold his Citroens when he turned to Suzuki was Hans Weijs, whom he finally beat to the title this year! The championship title came on the same rally in which he had his saddest rally memory, when his co-driver lost his life in a freak accident to which no blame could ever be attached to the driver. The title came after a frenzied week which started with an accident in pre-rally testing. The hurried delivery of a replacement car from the other side of Europe was required, followed by another accident on the second day of the Catalunya Rally but which, happily, was repaired by his team. WRC SPAIN >> The bold dual-surface experiment in Spain was not such a great idea if the high numbers of abstaining drivers was any guide. The decision to make the Rallye de France an event for all four WRC support series, leaving Spain with only the Junior series to play for, did not help boost the number of drivers who entered this event, which was only three weeks later. But the main indicator was that the private drivers of World Rally Cars stayed away in force. Only the Hungarian driver Frigyes Turan was present, and he had to change from the Peugeot which he had entered on previous asphalt WRC events to a more adaptable Focus. A return to dual and mixed surface rallies is one of the concepts of the new FIA President, who personally deplores the current day clinical formats of world championship rallies and wants them to revert to the formats of 20 years ago. His is a brave idea, if it works, and somebody (in this instance Spain) had to volunteer their event as an experiment to find out if this brave idea works in reality or not. Sadly, Spain's bravery cost them dear, in terms of entries. Having to adjust to dual surface rallying was generally unpopular because of the increased cost and efforts of bringing a much wider variety of parts for servicing, not to mention the increased number of wheels (both 15 and 18 inch). In fact the total number of tyres to be provided by Pirelli was about the same as if this was the single-surface event it was originally planned to be, but the extra complications remained. When Pirelli began their three-year contract they were told their first event (2008 Monte Carlo) was to be the only event in which they would have to prepare the different types of tyre. It has now happened again. At least the problems of running Cyprus in 2009 as a dual surface event were handled amicably – teams would use gravel tyres and gravel suspension on asphalt stages. This was different. The option was to run asphalt tyres and suspension on the gravel stage, and that would not and could never be acceptable when the gravel stages came first and the asphalt distance was in the majority. For the contracted teams and the contracted tyre suppliers there was nothing to do but accept the change of format. For the privateers, there was something else to do, stay at home. The problem that Spain suffered is a warning. There is a major difference between something nice in theory and nice in practice. The two cannot automatically be joined together. Whatever the FIA President's aspirations for the future, wait a moment. They may not work in the climate of the 2010s. Dual-surface experiment – good call or bad call? 45