Suzuki driver Daniel Carlsson has won the Wales Rally GB, the final round of the Junior World Rally Championship [JWRC].

Ville-Pertti Teuronen and Salvador Canellas have finished third and fourth respectively, but Urmo Aava was unfortunately forced to retire this morning with driveshaft failure.

The result means that Canellas finishes the season second overall in the 2003 JWRC, while Carlsson finishes third. Aava finishes the year fourth and Teuronen has ended up sixth.

Britain is usually characterised by rain, mud and bad weather. But unusually for south Wales, conditions have remained dry throughout all three days of the event. The dry weather meant that there were several loose stones on the road surfaces, which made conditions even more slippery than usual. The JWRC runners rely on only two-wheel drive, which made their cars even more difficult to control than usual.

Today's final leg consisted of only three stages, totalling 89 competitive kilometres with only one service halt.

Carlsson had a fault-free final day to take the 'Junior' victory - his second win of the season. He started the day in the lead, so was able to control his advantage over the final three stages. The Swede's Suzuki Ignis was utterly reliable all day, and he enjoyed his final run in Suzuki's Super 1600 team. Next year he has been recruited to drive a factory World Rally Car for another champion manufacturer [Peugeot] - the source of a lot of pride for Suzuki.

"This is the perfect way to end what has been an absolutely fantastic season for both myself and Suzuki," noted Carlsson, "The car has given us no problems throughout the rally - in fact it's been fantastically reliable all year, and the experience has set me up well for the future. I came into this event with a lot of confidence as I knew the car would be very good in these tricky conditions. That absolutely turned out to be the case and I've really enjoyed myself. I just want to thank everyone who made this amazing season possible."

Teuronen started today locked in a fierce battle for fourth with his team-mate Aava. But this came to a swift end after Aava retired in the morning. Teuronen drove carefully towards the finish in order to maintain his podium place: his debut podium in the JWRC.

"It's been a good rally but today was a tricky day for us as we really had to concentrate," he said, "We've come so far and done so well on this rally, so I really didn't want to throw everything away now. Today's stages were quite demanding, and I would say that this rally is a fantastic challenge for any driver. The conditions were so slippery that it was a constant battle to stay on the road. I'm absolutely delighted to finish on the podium."

Canellas meanwhile had a good run through leg three to notch up yet another solid result. His Ignis had no mechanical problems and he drove carefully to be sure of reaching the finish. Canellas came into the rally with an outside chance of winning the JWRC, but he just missed out at the finish.

"I'm very happy with the way that this rally has gone," commented Canellas, "It's not been entirely straightforward, as we had some gearbox problems on the first day that cost us time. Also, when we changed the gearbox, we picked up some additional time in road penalties. It wasn't an easy rally for me to get to grips with, as these are not conditions I'm really used to."

Aava started today fifth, just behind his team-mate Teuronen. He had a good clean run through the first stage of the day and was confident that he would be able to attack. But a driveshaft failure before SS17 meant that his promising run was cruelly halted so close to the finish.

"I'm really disappointed as we were doing very well and I was quite confident of finishing in a strong position," said Teuronen, "To come so close yet so far to the end is very difficult to accept. But looking on the positive side we've learnt an awful lot from this rally that will be vital for the future. The Suzuki has proved to be a truly front-running car and I'd like to thank everybody who has helped me so much all year."

Monster Sport Europe team manager Risto Laine commented: "We're very happy to score our second win of the season, after what's been a very successful year. We've had seven rallies, eight podium finishes and two wins, so we can't complain at all! Of course it would have been nice to have won the championship as well, but it speaks a lot about our car and our drivers that we came so close. It's a real shame that Urmo had to retire; other than that it's been a really good rally. Well done to everyone, and we're all looking forward to next year!"

The JWRC starts up again next year from January 23-25 on the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally.

 

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