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GP Week : Issue 125
Furious Finnish testing BOTH Citroen and Mini have been testing their cars to the limit in Finland in preparation for the forthcoming Neste Oil Rally Finland world championship event (29-31 July). Sebastien Ogier crashed, when his DS3 WRC ended up upside down, off the road, leaning on a tree. The next day Kris Meeke slid wide into a rock, which wrecked the Mini’s suspension, both accidents occurring on very fast right hand bends. Delays in effecting repairs to Meeke’s car disrupted the team’s testing plans, preventing scheduled tests on slower roads, which they could now only do if their planned subequent venture to nearby Estonia did not go ahead. Prodrive therefore abandoned its plan to give the Mini John Cooper Works test team on-event experience on Rally Estonia at the weekend. Ford are due to start their pre-NORF testing this week. Vladimir Antonov , Chairman of the CSI group of companies which has acquired control of WRC global promoter North One Sport, cancelled his entry on the Historic Midnight Sun in Sweden, due to have been one of the rare occasions in which the Russian is seen in public. A personally enthusiastic follower of rallying, he was to repeat the appearance he made in last year’s Midnight Sun Rally at the wheel of a Saab 99 (above), again with international co-driver Denis Giraudet. Victor Muller, the CEO of Spyker, Chairman of Saab Automotive and Antonov’s business partner, was also due to appear on the event, at the wheel of a rare competition version Saab 95 Estate Car but withdrew as well. The event was won by 1999 Indianapolis 500 race winner and now rock band member Kenny Brack at the wheel of a Mark II Escort. n 33 year-old 2009 and 2010 FIA Production Car world rally champion Armindo Araujo from Portugal has been honoured by his Government. He and his co-driver Miguel Ramalho were issued with a Medal of Good Service to Sport, following recommendations by the Portuguese Olympic Committee. n Ford Fiesta WRC driver Mads Ostberg has won the very fast Estonia Rally finishing 24 seconds ahead of former works Estonian driver Markko Martin in the old generation Focus World Rally Car. The event was run in Martin’s home region, but 23 year-old Norwegian Ostberg beat semi-retired Martin on all the second day stages. This was the first time the new and old type World Rally Car had been representatively compared in competition. Hopes to compare the pace of the new Mitsubishi Lancer R4 car of Jari Ketomaa with the current 2-litre normally aspirated S2000s, led by Martin Prokop’s Fiesta, were dashed when Ketomaa crashed on the first stage. n Finnish driver Juho Hanninen has scored a record eighth IRC win and launched himself into the lead of the 2011 championship, complementing his lead in the FIA SWRC series, nine days before his 30th birthday. Skoda cars scored the top three places on the Azores Rally, taking advantage of errors made by their Peugeot rivals whose drivers Bryan Bouffier (misleading running-order calculation) and Patrick Sandell (a time control mistake) finished fourth and fifth. Second placed Mikkelsen was Hanninen’s only serious challenger, leading on Stage 1 and then momentarily retrieving the lead on the final morning. n Chris Atkinson held off a long challenge from non-championship driver Hayden Paddon to win the fourth round of the APRC in New Zealand, scoring the most convincing victory yet for the Proton S2000 team. Paddon damaged his suspension on Stage 2, but found his Subaru Group N car was too closely matched to Proton S2000 on the fast Northlands roads of Rally Whangarei to overcome his earlier time loss. Gear selection troubles delayed Atkinson’s team-mate Alister McRae who fell fom third to fifth in the later stages. Reigning APRC champion Katsuhiko Taguchi firstly had a long delay changing a flat tyre on a stage, then retired off the road on the second day. Image: Harri Kivimaki Vladimir misses the Sun 18