Martin Prokop secured the 2009 Junior World Rally Championship drivers' title in style this weekend, when he took the victory on the Neste Oil Rally Finland, the seventh round in this year's J-WRC series.
Prokop dominated and led the event from the off in his Citroen C2 S1600, winning seven of the ten stages on day one, to end the first leg 12.4 seconds up on Kalle Pinomaki. The Czech driver then stretched his advantage on Saturday - posting an additional four fastest stage times - to head into the short final day with a 28.7 second lead.
He eventually won the event by 55.5 seconds and that was enough for him to sow up the championship with one round in hand.
"What a relief - 2009 J-WRC champion! We are very happy and a result like this is just the best feeling," Prokop reflected at the finish. "We have been fighting for this for five years and the last two years we have almost won it, so this year we expected it to be a hard fight but Michal (Kosciuszko – my main rival) made a mistake in Poland.
"I had previously thought that it would be impossible for me to win after trying for so long, so we will see tomorrow if it has sunk in! It has been a great experience here for me and we were not ready to be champions so early in the middle of the summer.
"This year we did a very good job on every rally. In Sardinia we had a couple of problems, but we were helped by everybody to keep on fighting, the same in Cyprus. We have had so much experience and we have worked so hard. Now I am at the top of the list - fantastic! And thank you to my excellent team."
Pinomaki meanwhile was second and whilst brake problems hindered his challenge somewhat on Saturday, he was still very content to take silver. Indeed he was right on it in his Renault Clio R3 and certainly kept Prokop honest, posting seven stages wins en-route
to the runners-up spot.
"We had a really good weekend with no mistakes. I am really satisfied to be second in class," Pinomaki noted.
Suzuki's Michal Kosciuszko was third and took the final spot on the podium, albeit more than 2 minutes further back. Kosciuszko overhauled Aaron Burkart in the penultimate stage on Saturday, but after crashing out of his home event in Poland at the end of June, when he was battling for the win, his hopes of taking the title were effectively already over.
Kosciuszko ends the season with 42 points on the board, 4 less than Prokop and 7 more than Burkart, who is third and who could yet take the vice champions spot, as he has one event left to compete on.
"Third in Juniors is not bad here," said the Pole, who has now taken in all six of his nominated J-WRC events. "Martin (Prokop) has done a great job all season. He has made no mistakes all year which is why he is the champion, so congratulations to him."