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GP Week : Issue 172
WRC >>> SARDINIA An extraordinary coincidence of impacts against a trackside tree- stump, coupled with a remarkably consistent performance by other PCWRC drivers, has most unexpectedly thrown open the race for the Production Car championship. Series leaders Benito Guerra and Michal Kosciuszko were both forced to stop on Stage 2, restarting the next morning under Rally 2 (SupeRally) rules, expecting to make substantially good their mandatory 10 minute penalties. But it did not happen. Of the 11 starters, only Lorenzo Bertelli failed to finish so the two protagonists finished only sixth and eighth overall in the category, allowing rivals Nicolas Fuchs, Marcos Legato and Valeriy Gorban to move up very close in the championship. Guerra still heads the series but Kosciuszko is now equal with Gorban. Six different drivers from six different countries are still able to win the title at the final round in Spain. Fuchs (above) led the category on the rally most of the way, except for delays in the first full day with brake trouble, ahead of Legato who lost a lot of time with a broken brake caliper. There were only two other class winners: Davide Catania (DS3 R3T) in Class 5 and Louise Cook (in her PCWRC Fiesta ST) in Class 8. Production Car WRC Series wide open Latvala (twice on Stage 4) and then Solberg (on Stage 7), exacerbating the agonies of the Ford personnel who had only recently been told their official team would not continue next year. Both Latvala and Solberg restarted the event, after incurring penalties for missed stages, Solberg eventually ending up ninth overall while Latvala finished 12th. Ostberg had a tough time especially after his differential failure on the Friday afternoon but his comeback really made the rally come alive. Before he had his problem he was third, one minute behind Hirvonen despite the earlier subframe problem; now he was nearer five minutes behind. His new expectation, by the end of the rally, was now to get back to fourth, by passing Mini driver Chris Atkinson and the two VW Skodas on the way. This was Ostberg's first real challenge in his career. In the end he rose to fourth still with four stages to go. He had proved he could deliver when under pressure, something he has not had to do before. Ostberg's only remaining challenge was to prove his speed on the final Power Stage but this went wrong when he punctured and Solberg, Latvala and Neuville took the supplemental drivers, points. Second place went to the Russian Evgeniy Novikov (above), rising up the charts as others had problems and putting in three best stage times in mid-event. After a long period of disappointments earlier in the season, Ott Tanak finally produced the results that justified M-Sport's faith in him. No fastest times, nothing dramatic but more importantly, no mistakes. He finished third. This left Chris Atkinson struggling in his Mini to hold off Ostberg and match the speed of Ogier's VW S2000 Skoda, who was using the rally for high speed comparative back-to-back testing of tyres and transmissions with his team- mate Andreas Mikkelsen. Atkinson gave up taking risks and settled for sixth overall in front of Mikkelsen. In eighth place was Martin Prokop, after a series of problems, but the highest placed DMack tyre user. The top championships may have already been decided but the battle for third place in the Drivers' series is very much alive between three Ford drivers – privateer Ostberg leading the official drivers, Latvala by four points and Solberg by 13. For honours among the one-car registered teams, Citroen Junior Team lead by one point from Adapta (not registered on this rally) and Qatar, which are equal on points. 33 GPWEEK.com // 33 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: