Martin Prokop secured the 2009 Junior World Rally Championship drivers' title in style this weekend, when he took the victory on the Neste Oil Rally Finland, the seventh round in this year's J-WRC series.

Prokop dominated and led the event from the off in his Citroen C2 S1600, winning seven of the ten stages on day one, to end the first leg 12.4 seconds up on Kalle Pinomaki. The Czech driver then stretched his advantage on Saturday - posting an additional four fastest stage times - to head into the short final day with a 28.7 second lead.

He eventually won the event by 55.5 seconds and that was enough for him to sow up the championship with one round in hand.

"What a relief - 2009 J-WRC champion! We are very happy and a result like this is just the best feeling," Prokop reflected at the finish. "We have been fighting for this for five years and the last two years we have almost won it, so this year we expected it to be a hard fight but Michal (Kosciuszko - my main rival) made a mistake in Poland.

"I had previously thought that it would be impossible for me to win after trying for so long, so we will see tomorrow if it has sunk in! It has been a great experience here for me and we were not ready to be champions so early in the middle of the summer.

"This year we did a very good job on every rally. In Sardinia we had a couple of problems, but we were helped by everybody to keep on fighting, the same in Cyprus. We have had so much experience and we have worked so hard. Now I am at the top of the list - fantastic! And thank you to my excellent team."

Pinomaki meanwhile was second and whilst brake problems hindered his challenge somewhat on Saturday, he was still very content to take silver. Indeed he was right on it in his Renault Clio R3 and certainly kept Prokop honest, posting seven stages wins en-route to the runners-up spot.

"We had a really good weekend with no mistakes. I am really satisfied to be second in class," Pinomaki noted.

Suzuki's Michal Kosciuszko was third and took the final spot on the podium, albeit more than 2 minutes further back. Kosciuszko overhauled Aaron Burkart in the penultimate stage on Saturday, but after crashing out of his home event in Poland at the end of June, when he was battling for the win, his hopes of taking the title were effectively already over.

Kosciuszko ends the season with 42 points on the board, 4 less than Prokop and 7 more than Burkart, who is third and who could yet take the vice champions spot, as he has one event left to compete on.

"Third in Juniors is not bad here," said the Pole, who has now taken in all six of his nominated J-WRC events. "Martin (Prokop) has done a great job all season. He has made no mistakes all year which is why he is the champion, so congratulations to him."

Further down the order, Burkart finished in P4, 29.5 seconds off third. He needed to score at least two more points to remain in with a chance of the title and was disappointed to not to be able to do that.

"We have enjoyed this event from start-to-finish despite having that puncture and damper fail on us," said the German. "I am sad that my Championship is now over, but we go on to the next event and will do our best there."

Of the rest, Mark Wallenwein rounded out the top five, 10 minutes further back, with Simone Bertolotti and Han Weijs Jr sixth and seventh respectively, the latter the last of the J-WRC runners to be classified.

"Since Rally Poland, I have tried many things; different set ups and changes to my driving style. In the beginning it was difficult for me but I am happy with my car and happy that I could finish this event making solid improvement over each day," Bertolotti said. "I have one more rally remaining, it is tarmac and I like tarmac more than gravel so I will do my best in Catalunya."

In total there were three Junior retirements, with Yoann Bonato, Kevin Abbring and Luca Griotti all crashing out on day two. Bonato was the first to go in SS11, Abbring followed in SS14 and Griotti one test later.

The 2009 J-WRC season now concludes with the Rally de Espana, which runs from September 30 to October 4.



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