Aaron Burkart scored his debut J-WRC win in his Suzuki Swift S1600 on Rally Ireland last weekend, the opening round in the 2009 Junior World Rally Championship.

Burkart, who finished runner-up in the Junior series last year, clearly wants to go all the way this season and he kicked off proceedings in style by setting the pace amongst his rivals.

Atrocious wet conditions however, made progress tricky and Burkart was one of the first to be caught out as his new-for-2009 Suzuki aquaplaned just after the start of SS3, losing 30 seconds after sliding off the road. But damage-free, he managed to hold onto his slim lead until he was overhauled in the final test on day one by Hans Weijs Jr.

On Saturday though, Burkart soon stepped up and was able to reclaim the lead by SS10. While he came under pressure on the repeat loop and saw his cushion cut to just 1.5 seconds in SS12, Weijs Jr crashed out in SS14 causing irreparable damage to his newly acquired Citroen C2 S1600.

Burkart thus ended leg 2 with a 1.5 minute cushion and after that was able to pace himself to the finish, eventually triumphing by 47.3 seconds.

"It's an amazing result!" said Burkart. "We have a new car, a new team and a new rally and we won it! I don't know what to say - it's been the toughest rally I've ever done as it was so easy to make a mistake. But I'm really happy!"

Martin Prokop meanwhile secured the runners-up spot in his Citroen C2 S1600, despite electrical problems in SS3 and a brush with a tree in SS11.

"I think we can be happy with second as it's a good start to the season for us after last year when nothing went our way," said the Czech.

"Now we can try and push to win some races this year and eight points is a good way to start."

Simone Bertolotti was next up and took the last place on the podium. The Italian drove a steady rally and didn't let the conditions affect him much, despite not enjoying them.

Like others, he suffered on SS3 with water affecting the electrics and broken power steering, but by day two he had settled into fourth, despite finishing SS11 with two punctures.

With Weijs Jr out, he defended his adopted third position through the final day to clock his best J-WRC result to date.

"This is my first time on the podium so I'm very, very happy," said Bertolotti. "Unfortunately we're not so close to first but this is fantastic for me and Suzuki. It's starting the season in a good way and it's the just the beginning of the Championship as we have lots of work to do with Suzuki."

Further down the order Yoann Bonato was fourth, having lost time on day 1 when he slid off the road in SS6, while Kevin Abbring was fifth.

Abbring flew on days two and three in his Renault Clio R3, winning no less than nine stages in total. However the electrical problems he experienced post-SS2 and which forced him out on day 1, meant he was always on the back-foot.

Luca Griotti was the only other finisher in the J-WRC, although like others, his cars electrics were affected by the sheer amount of water on Friday and as a result he arrived at the time control after SS6 later than permitted, incurring huge penalties.

In terms of retirements, in addition to Weijs Jr, who had that big crash on day two, the only other casualty was wild-card runner Ross Forde.

Forde managed to stay out of trouble for most of the event until disaster struck on SS17 on Sunday when a damaged gearbox and broken differential forced his retirement.

The Junior World Rally Championship now resumes in March when competitors head to Cyprus.

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