ERC: Robert Kubica holds top spot in Austria

Robert Kubica: We lost quite a lot of time this morning with the puncture but we are here for testing. I need to finish and it's not easy.
Robert Kubica leads the way on the 31 Int. Jannerrallye, Oberösterreich, the opening round in the 2014 FIA European Rally Championship, following Saturday's ten action-packed stages.

Kajetan Kajetanowicz had led after the first three ice-coated tests but the Polish champion's challenge came unstuck when a throttle pedal fault caused him to crash his Ford Fiesta R5 two kilometres from the start of stage six, which took place in largely dry conditions.

His misfortune propelled Raimund Baumschlager into first place but the multiple Austrian title-winner's set-up issues on stage eight aboard his Skoda Fabia S2000 meant he was no match to Vaclav Pech who moved in front in his MINI John Cooper Works S2000. However, the Czech champion was unable to contain the flying Kubica, who completed his recovery from an earlier puncture to snatch the lead on the day's final night stage in the Ford Fiesta RRC he's sharing with new co-driver Maciej Szczepaniak for the first time. The Poles' lead starting Sunday's closing eight stages is 6.4 seconds.

“When it's tricky and you don't know the stages or the car and you are with the co-driver for the first time it's not easy, especially in the slippery conditions,” said the F1 race winner. “We lost quite a lot of time this morning with the puncture but we are here for testing. I need to finish and it's not easy.”

Kubica's fellow LOTOS-backed M-Sport driver and compatriot Kajetanowicz was less fortunate when a jammed throttle pedal put him out. “In this sport it sometimes happens that a small failure eliminates us from competition,” he said. “I am already thinking about the next round when I will again give my best.”

Behind third-placed Baumschlager, Jaromir Tarabus is fourth in a similar Fabia S2000 with local hero and FIA ERC Production Car Cup leader Beppo Harrach fifth and Andreas Aigner sixth. Aigner is making his competition debut in a Peugeot 207 S2000 having won the ERC Production Car Cup title in 2013. “It's not been easy but we are learning all the time,” said Aigner. “It's about experience and we don't have much experience of this kind of car.”

Young Latvian Vasily Gryazin is seventh overnight after another promising display in his Fiesta S2000. Roman Odlozilík, making his debut in a Fiesta R5, is eighth with Hermann Neubauer and Robert Consani completing the top 10. Consani is stepping up to a 207 S2000 for the first time in Austria and has spent much of the day adapting to his new car and the tricky stage conditions.

Sunday's final leg now features a further eight stages over a competitive distance of 107.20 kilometres. The action begins with the 8.27-kilometre Gutau stage at 07:43hrs local time. The finish in Freistadt is scheduled for 17:33hrs local time.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Václav Pech / Petr Uhel. MINI John Cooper Works S2000. Jännerrallye, Oberösterreich (Austria) [Pic credit: ERC]
Raimund Baumschlager / Klaus Wicha. Skoda Fabia S2000. Jännerrallye, Oberösterreich (Austria) [Pic credit: ERC]
Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak. Ford Fiesta RRC. 31 Int. Jännerrallye, Oberösterreich (Austria) [Pic credit: ERC]

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January 05, 2014 1:10 PM

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