Jarkko Nikara is to compete in a MINI John Cooper Works WRC car run by the Prodrive WRC Team on Rally de Portgual in April, it has been announced.
It will be his third outing with the Banbury-based squad and he will be hoping for better after a rather disappointing time in Sweden. Indeed after shining in Spain at the end of last season, and finishing fifth overall on his first competitive outing in a World Rally Car, much was expected last weekend. However it all went wrong very quickly when he missed qualifying on Thursday after a high speed accident in free practice. He then lost over 40 minutes in SS3 on Friday, when he ran wide and beached his car in a snowbank.
Despite that though, Nikara insisted it wasn't all bad, and in the end he did get to the finish in his John Deere-supported car.
He was also happy with some of his stage times, and despite running first on the road pretty much throughout, he set one third fastest time on Saturday in SS12 - Hagors Sprint 1 - and he also managed two seventh quickest times and two eighths.
“We had a good feeling in the car on Friday, but on stage three I felt a bit of understeer and ran wide hitting the snow bank,” Nikara recounted.
“I have definitely improved as the event has gone on though and I am pleased with my speed and I have learnt the car more and more as I only had 70km of testing before the event. The other guys here have had a lot more time in their cars and they know these stages much better than me, so I am pleased with my performance overall.
“I am now looking forward to Portugal. I drove there in 2009 in group N and it is an event I like.”
Prodrive WRC team principal, Dave Wilcock meanwhile was adamant that Nikara's 25th place finish in Sweden wasn't a fair reflection of the Finn's weekend.
“You have to say that Jarkko has driven his first full snow event in a WRC very well. Despite driving on loose snow at the front of the field, he has still been able to demonstrate his raw pace with some excellent splits, while showing maturity to complete all 22 stages," Wilcock added. "Only the excursion into a snow bank on stage three has cost him a top ten finish, which in a field of this strength, with so many full works drivers with so much testing under their belts would have been quite an achievement.
"I look forward to seeing him back in the car for Portugal now and hopefully some further events. All he needs is time behind the wheel to really show his true potential.”