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JWRC: Kosciuszko and Suzuki miss out

5 August 2009

Suzuki's Michal Kosciuszko had to concede defeat in the battle for the 2009 Junior World Rally Championship title on the Neste Oil Rally Finland last weekend.

Kosciuszko, who was taking in his sixth and final nominated J-WRC event of the season in Jyväskylä, went into the round knowing he needed a minor miracle to beat Martin Prokop following his late off in Poland. Indeed the Pole not only needed to win, but he also needed a zero points finish for his Czech rival.

From the off though he was on the back-foot, trailing Prokop and wild-card runner, Kalle Pinomaki and when he suffered two punctures on the repeat loop on Friday afternoon, it was effectively game over.

In the end he battled back to take the final place on the podium, overhauling team-mate, Aaron Burkart in the penultimate stage on day two, but it was all too little, too late.

"We had no problem with our Suzuki Swift S1600. Sure, I wanted to fight for the overall win but unfortunately, we had troubles with punctures on Friday so the only thing I could do was try to catch Aaron," said Kosciuszko.

"Looking back at this year though, it was a good year for me because I had five podiums, but we were unfortunate to have the one mistake in Poland where we really lost the chance for the championship title."

Aaron Burkart followed Kosciuszko home in fourth, 30 seconds back, and like his team-mate his title hopes are also now over - although as he will compete in Spain at the end of September, he does have an outside chance of still taking the vice-champions spot.

He tried to put in a charge to take second from Pinomaki on day two, but a puncture and broken damper ended his challenge.

"Compared with last year, it was a good rally for us and we were able to set some competitive times. At the end, Martin won the championship title but my Suzuki Swift S1600 was very nice to drive and I have gained more confidence with it now," Burkart noted.

"It was bad luck to have the puncture and disappointing to finish in fourth place but now we have to concentrate on the next tarmac event."

Meanwhile Yasuhiro Ishii, Suzuki Sport Europe's team manager, was philosophical about the failure to win the 2009 J-WRC title to add to the two notched up by Per-Gunnar Andersson in 2004 and 2007.

"It is really shame that we were not able to secure a third J-WRC title for Suzuki this weekend," Ishii concluded. "But we have tried very hard and our young drivers have improved immensely throughout this event.

"Looking forward now, we began the year strongly on the tarmac in Rally Ireland finishing in first place and our target will be to finish the season off with a strong finish on the tarmac of Spain [the eighth and final round in the 2009 Junior World Rally Championship]."


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