Martin Prokop took his second J-WRC win in succession and his third of the season on the Rally de France-Tour de Corse on Sunday, the final round in this year's Junior World Rally Championship.

Prokop, who won in Spain last weekend, set the initial pace, although with the Championship title at stake, both Sebastien Ogier and Aaron Burkart were not overly pushing, conscious only of staying safe and avoiding mistakes, so the Czech driver settled into the lead comfortably.

By the end of the first day however, he was being challenged by Corsican hot shot and 'wild card' runner Pierre Campana, who stole the lead after Prokop lost time on SS6 with a puncture.

But Prokop soon upped his pace again on day two to regain P1 and he confidently defended his lead to finish his J-WRC season on a high - and secure third in the J-WRC standings.

"Three wins, but it isn't enough for the Championship! It's a nice way to end the season but I still feel quite disappointed as my aim was to be champion this year," said Prokop. "S?bastien did a good job though and we were prepared to fight, we have a lot of experience, the car has good speed but we just had too many problems through the year."

Ogier meanwhile took the runners-up spot, moving ahead of Campana in the final stage, when the Renault driver lost 30 seconds with a puncture. Second was more than sufficient to ensure Ogier took the 2008 J-WRC title in his debut season and he ends the year with 42 points, 8 more than his closest rival - having taken four podiums, including wins in Mexico, Jordan and Germany.

"This is a perfect moment in a perfect place as I have all my family and friends here. After Spain [and crashing out of the lead] the week off was difficult," he conceded. "But we had always led the Championship and we came here with four points more than Burkart so we knew we just had to stay ahead of him and finish."

Despite slipping to third in SS16, Campana was happy to get on the rostrum: "For sure before the rally we didn't expect this result as I have only done about 15 rallies as a driver, the others I was a co-driver. So I'm really happy and of course it's important here as I am the first Corsican driver."

Further down the order fellow 'wild card' runner Pierre March? was fourth in his Suzuki Swift, even though he lost time with two punctures on day 1. He fought his way back to sixth by the end of Saturday's second leg and then powered his way through the final day to steal P4 from Aaron Burkart.

"I've really enjoyed this event, and I'm very happy to have scored points on my Junior World Rally Championship debut," he noted. "With two long stages repeated today it was important to look after the tyres and luckily we managed to do that.

"I started the day with the idea of trying to catch the person in front of me and it all went according to plan. Apart from going straight on at a junction on SS14 we had no problems at all today. Now I'm very impatient to drive this car again: it's been a fantastic experience on some truly challenging roads."

Burkart had a relatively trouble-free rally and with the championship title at stake, like Ogier, he drove carefully and safely, avoiding problems and waiting to pick up the pieces if his fellow title contender made a mistake.

While he had no problems on the final day, he was unable to fend off March?. His points total however sees him finish second in the J-WRC and, under the rules of Citro?n's C2 Junior Experience, he wins himself a drive in a C4 World Rally Car on one event next year.

"I am very happy with this result," said the German. "We were quick and very consistent throughout the season, we made no mistakes, and this allowed us to score points on every round. The performance from our C2 Super 1600 has resulted in an excellent result in the Junior Championship standings. This has been a long three days, so now we are going to enjoy the achievement!"

Of the rest Patrik Sandell was sixth in his Renault, while Florian Niegel and Kevin Abbring rounded out the points' scorers.

"It's been a really good rally and a great way for us to end the year, which has been all about learning for us," noted Niegel. "We've had no real problems throughout the event: we just concentrated on not making mistakes and using some of the experience we gained on the last two asphalt rallies in Germany and Spain.

"The car has been completely reliable all year and it is very easy to drive, which makes our learning process easier. In the end we found a very good set-up for this rally and gained plenty of useful knowledge for the future."

In total 12 J-WRC runners were classified at the finish, with Renault's Stefano Albertini and Gilles Schammel ninth and tenth, followed by Jaan Molder and Hans Weijs Jr.

Of the retirees Alessandro Bettega was probably the most unfortunate, and he went out in the penultimate stage when a ball joint in the suspension arm broke. He had been running fourth, just 3.8 seconds off a place on the podium.

The Tour de Corse also claimed the scalps of Michal Kosciuszko, Arnaud Augoyard and Simone Bertolotti. Augoyard and Bertolotti both crashed out on day 2, while Kosciuszko had a terrible start and hit a wall just two kilometres into the opening stage.

"It was a pity for me to end my final rally in this year's Junior Championship with an accident, but these things can happen if you are pushing hard! In any case, this is not what I will remember most about this year," said the Pole. "Instead, I've enjoyed a season with some fantastic battles fighting against some very talented people. It's been a pleasure to drive the Swift Super 1600, which has shown speed and reliability throughout the season."



Loading Comments...