Thirteen of the original 16 JWRC contenders left Lloret de Mar this morning, bound for the final six stages of the Rally Catalunya, north of Vic. Just three have retired during the first two legs, an extraordinarily low attrition rate for the 2WD championship.

There is much at stake in the Spanish mountains on this penultimate round of the JWRC, as the championship leaders vie for the top position. Included in the group are the two Ford Puma teams, supported by Ford Rallye Sport, Briton Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh and Lebanese duo Abdo Feghali and Joseph Matar.

Wilks, who was sitting third in the championship prior to the event, spun and rolled at the end of the first day and was relegated to the end of the leaderboard after using 20 valuable minutes to make the necessary repairs to keep his Puma on the road. Feghali, like Wilks competing in Spain for the first time, has had a steady run throughout the event but suffered from gearbox problems at the end of Leg Two, slowing him through the final two stages and reclaiming all the time he had made up through the day. Asphalt is Feghali's preferred surface and although he struggled to get used to the cutting required to maximise stage times, the young man has made steady progress throughout the first two legs.

After two days of clear but cold conditions, steady rain greeted the JWRC teams this morning, making already slippy, dirty roads even more treacherous. The day's six stages ran in two loops of three, with all stages previously used but run in reverse order for the final day including two runs through the longest stage of the rally, SS 19/22 Viladrau.

For Feghali, lying eighth overnight, it was a frustrating morning. "Now we have rain, the roads have gone from bad to worse - it's mud, mud and more mud! All the cuts are now puddles and there's a layer of water on the road, so the risk of aquaplaning is high. We went out on too hard suspension this morning, so will change to a softer set-up for the final three stages to try and stop the car sliding around so much. Our tyre pressure was also too high and we had no grip at all this morning. It has been difficult to judge the corners and as a result we have slid many times with some big moments but thankfully we managed to stay on the road," he said.

Despite worsening weather, Feghali continued his good run through the day's final stages to claim seventh overall. "The rain was incredibly heavy this afternoon and the conditions atrocious - I've never experienced anything like this before and we drove to get to the end. It's been a tough and long rally and we've set some good times so I'm happy with seventh, especially as the stages and conditions are totally new to me," he said. Feghali praised the efforts of his team who worked hard through the weekend to keep his Ford Puma on the road, twice having to change the gearbox.

A philosophical Wilks, at the bottom of the leaderboard following a string of bad luck during the first two legs, continued to use the remaining stages as an opportunity to test.

"We set a good time through the first stage this morning, but our tyres never really got warm which made the going tough. On SS19, Viladrau, we spun about a kilometre before the famous viaduct corner and ended up facing the wrong way. We were caught in a cut and while the rear tyre jumped out, the front caught and spun us, and we ended up facing the wrong direction. It took a frustrating 20 seconds to turn the car around which was a shame as we were doing well and would have made a good time without the spin," he said, adding that the heavy rain in the stage resulted in the road being awash with water, making it difficult to judge the surface.

The conditions through the second loop got worse, making driving almost impossible, particularly on the final stage. "We spun after about 3km in and ended up facing the wrong direction, losing about 20 seconds while turning the car around. Then about 7km from the end the windscreen misted over and we couldn't see a thing. At one stage I loosened my belts to lean forward to wipe it. It wasn't any better but we made to the end mostly by Phil's excellent pace notes and some good luck." he said.

While he admits he has had better results, Wilks remains stoic about his weekend and was pleased to be able to use the rally to further his asphalt experience. "It's not been the best weekend, but we made some progress and set some good times. I'm now concentrating on the final round, Wales Rally of GB. With a good result there, there is still the potential to finish the championship on a high," he said.

 

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