Martin Prokop took the victory in the J-WRC category on the Rally RACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada last weekend, after the surprise retirement of championship leader Sebastien Ogier.

Prokop finished the opening day 47 seconds behind Ogier, after he lost time on the very first stage with a technical problem. After that it looked to be all over as the Frenchman built his lead to over a minute. Disaster struck though on the last stage on day two, when Ogier hit a bank and broke his C2's radiator, causing too much damage to continue.

Perfectly placed to adopt the lead, Prokop took up the reins and sat tight despite a few engine concerns and he eventually took the win - his second of the season in the J-WRC - by 24.6 seconds.

"It was a very lucky weekend for us and we're lucky to be here," said Prokop. "After S?bastien retired yesterday it was quite easy for me to win as I had a comfortable lead. Also I know how to drive on tarmac so it was not difficult to stay focused and drive the car to the finish.

"It's a shame that I have been so unlucky during the first half of the season, otherwise now I could be fighting for the title."

Alessandro Bettega meanwhile took the runners-up spot in his Renault Clio R3, despite coming under pressure late on from Aaron Burkart. Second place in the J-WRC equal's Bettega's previous best in the Junior class.

"I'm really happy as I didn't expect to finish in this position," said the Italian. "I'm happy for the team - they did a really good job. And we had a good rally - we made no mistakes, had a good rhythm, especially today with Burkart on our tail. Now I'm really looking forward to Corsica."

Burkart thus had to settle for the final place on the rostrum, but importantly that means he now lies just four points behind Ogier going into last round in Corsica, where it will be a two-way fight for the J-WRC crown.

"We made no mistakes and we just tried to push. Today was good for us - I liked the stages as we did a few best times, I just don't know why we couldn't do that on the first day," stated the German. "I will put as much pressure as I can on Ogier in Corsica and I'll be ready to jump if he makes a mistake!"

Further down the order Shaun Gallagher was fourth, despite a cautious start. His confidence grew though as the event went on and the result currently leaves him equal on points with Burkart - although as he didn't nominate Corsica as one of his points' scoring rallies he won't be able to challenge for the title or defend his place in the standings.

"I'm reasonably pleased with our result here as it is a fair reflection of our season as a whole," he reflected. "We had no major problems with the C2 Super 1600 throughout the year and we were consistent.

"Coming out of this event we're a provisional third place in the championship, and that fulfils my top-three objective that I set at the start of the year. Of course we'll have to keep an eye on what everyone else does in Corsica to know for sure how it will all pan out."

Patrik Sandell was next up, fifth in his Renault, having lost time with brake and exhaust issues, while Jaan Molder rounded out the top six and was the lead Suzuki Swift runner at the end.

Molder's main issue was a puncture in SS7 on Saturday, something that cost him over 2 minutes: "I really needed to get in some more kilometres on asphalt, so this rally - my first one on asphalt all year - was extremely useful," said the Estonian. "The stages here in Spain were actually even more difficult than I expected them to be, so I'm very pleased to reach the finish with some points.

"It was a pity that we picked up a puncture on the longest stage of the rally yesterday but this is always a risk when you are running behind the World Rally Cars on an asphalt event.

"When they cut the corners they pull out lots of rocks, which can damage tyres. This rally has been a very good experience though and I am much clearer now on some ideas about set-up heading into Corsica."

Of the rest Stefano Albertini and Simone Bertolotti took the final points' positions in seventh and eighth respectively, followed by Michal Kosciuszko, Florian Niegel and Kevin Abbring, who were the only other classified finishers in the J-WRC.

Five J-WRC runners failed to finish - and in addition to Ogier, 'wild card' Sergio Perez went out early on day 1 with mechanical problems, while the final day took the scalps of Kris Meeke, Hans Weijs Jr and Gilles Schammel.

Francesco Fanari, the recently crowned J-WRC Rookie of the year, did not start due to ill health, while Andrea Cortinovis was also forced to sit out the round following a minor operation. Cortinovis will also miss the event in Corsica, the final round in the J-WRC this coming weekend.



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