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.