Two out of Two for Ogier in Jordan
After a tight battle with 2006 J-WRC Champion Patrik Sandell (S, Renault), Frenchman Sébastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia put in a spectacular performance to take their second win of the season in their Citroën C2, recording 16 stage wins en route, on Jordan Rally, the second round of the 2008 FIA Junior World Rally Championship. Shaun Gallagher (IRL, Citro ën) finished second scoring a career-best result, albeit 5min 0.1secs adrift of Ogier and GillesSchammel (LUX, Citroën) came home in third, also recording his best result to date. Ogier now leads the J-WRC standings by nine points to Gallagher, who is three points ahead of third-placed Mölder.

If Jordan Rally is anything to go by, the J-WRC this year is a two-man race with some close competition from Molder. Sandell made his mark quickly but Ogier responded immediately by winning SS2 and pulling ahead of his Swedish rival by seven seconds. The Swede soon answered with a win on the next stage which pulled him back into the lead and even though the duo traded stage wins throughout the day, Sandell stayed ahead. But Ogier’s performance on day two was quite remarkable. Penalties after leaving the midday service late due to an extended fuel pump change saw the Frenchman drop to seventh by SS5 and a puncture change in SS6 saw him drop further to ninth, over five minutes away from Sandell’s lead. But a faultless drive by the FFSA-backed driver saw him power his way back throughout day two, winning all but one of the stages, to reclaim second by the end of the day, stylishly eating up a deficit of over three minutes. Sadly for the former J-WRC champion, a crash on S17, the first stage of the final day resulted in a broken front right suspension preventing him from defending his lead to Ogier, handing the Frenchman a win on a plate.

The challenges posed by the Jordanian stages saw a lot of movement in the podium positions. Jaan Mölder (EE, Suzuki) took hold of third at the start behind Ogier but once the Frenchman experienced problems, Molder took hold of second by SS5, despite driving the whole morning with only one wheel-drive as a result of a broken differential. Unfortunately for the Estonian youngster, once Ogier began his charge on day two, Molder was pushed down to third by the last stage of the day, which was exacerbated by Molder’s Suzuki stalling every time he went through a water splash, costing him a minute and a half over the course of the day. Sandell’s bad luck early on the Sunday saw Mölder take advantage to reclaim his second spot, only to swiftly lose it after going off the road on SS20, handing second to Gallagher.

The Irish driver, who only just made it to the rally after the van containing his rally car that he was driving through Europe to the ferry broke down en route, started cautiously to avoid problems and rocks. But the Citroën C2 driver’s problems began late on day one when he started experiencing gearshift problems. He was unable to change it as he didn’t have a spare so he started the second day with an ailing gearbox which was missing gears and rattling loudly, and even he admitted he didn’t know how he was getting away with it. But through sheer determination Gallagher drove confidently on the final day, collecting a stage win en route, to his first J-WRC second-place finish.

Gilles Schammel (LUX, Renault) had brake problems on SS3 and by the next stage his engine temperature had risen considerably but he took fifth place by stage six. His engine started overheating again on the first stage of Saturday, which saw him lose power, and he was eventually overtaken on the leaderboard by Ogier and Gallagher, who both set fast times. But after a brake pad change to rectify brake issues, Schammel battled on and regained fifth by the end of the day. Like others, he maximised on Sandell’s bad luck on the final day and he drove carefully through the longest day of the rally to also score a career best result, his first J-WRC podium.

Florian Niegel (D, Suzuki) had a tricky rally to start with as he lost the use of his brakes on stages two and three and his engine stalled in SS4. Sadly he went off the road on SS7 which pulled a wheel off and saw him sidelined for the day. A rear left puncture a few kilometres before the end of SS9 cost 50 seconds as he chose to continue with it and from SS9 he had to drive with a broken exhaust. Day three went even better than hoped as he eventually overhauled Albertini on the final stage to clinch fourth, despite having to fix a broken steering arm which gave in just as he reached final service.

On his first WRC rally, former go-kart driver Stefano Albertini (I, Renault) spent time finding the right set-up as it was his first time in this rally car, but his main problem on the first day was being unable to change his wheels front-to-rear as the wheel nut gun wasn’t working. The stage surface in Jordan is so hard and abrasive that high tyre wear on the front tyres of front wheel-drive J-WRC cars requires drivers to switch the wheels around to even out the wear. His confidence improved throughout day two and with the exception of coming face to face with a donkey in the middle of SS12, his performance improved. The final day went well until brake problems on the final long stage saw him drop time while lying in fourth, seeing him finish 40 seconds behind Niegel.

Simone Bertolotti (I, Renault) had a mixed start as he tried to attack on some stages, was slowed by rocks on others and found his tyres were heavily damaged by the end of the first group of stages. Things improved in the afternoon as he tried to find a rhythm and luckily he was able to change a puncture from SS7 on the road section afterwards. He hit a rock on SS14 which resulted in a puncture and an impact with a rock resulted in a broken oil sump on SS15. Pushing hard to catch to catch fellow Italian Albertini ended up costing time as he spun twice but he held position to finish sixth.

Andrea Cortinovis (I, Renault) had a crash on SS3, breaking the front right suspension of his Clio, and an accident on SS5. He completed that stage but stopped in SS6 with resulting radiator problems which saw him take on penalties for the rest of the day’s stages not completed. Day two was much more successful as he increased his speed although he still drove with caution. He stayed out of trouble on the final day which paid dividends as he scored two points for his seventh place.

Sandell’s Interspeed team-mate Milos Komljenovic (SCG, Renault) struggled with set-up early on day one and he had an accident on SS5. He cleared the stage but had to stop on the next test with radiator problems caused by the accident. Unfortunately day two didn’t go well either as he pulled a wheel off his Clio R3 on the first stage of the day, incurring seven stages worth of penalties. He restarted for the final day which was not trouble-free; a broken engine mount in the afternoon resulted in an oil sump leak and he spun three times in the final stage, but the Serbian still recorded his best JWRC result to date, claiming the last available point for eighth.

After a good start to the season in Mexico, Francesco Fanari’s (I) Citroën C2-R2 had a broken gearbox on SS2 and he dropped time on the rest of the group and he opted to take penalties for the rest of the day so his team could change an ailing gearbox. After only two promising stages, an overheating engine on S11 saw him sidelined again, incurring more penalties, but he battled his way through the challenging final day to finish ninth on his third WRC event, despite going off the road on the last stage. He also scored maximum points as the only finishing Rookie.

Making his J-WRC debut, Hans Weijs Jr. (NL, Citroën) had no problems during the first loop of stages on day one but he reached sixth at best, despite struggling with the soft tyre compound in the afternoon. Day two was more difficult as he had fuel pump problems on SS9; a stalled engine on the next stage took a minute to restart as a result of electrical woes and a front right puncture on SS13 took three minutes to change. Day three didn’t start well as he dropped three minutes changing two consecutive punctures in SS17 but a faulty alternator which broke on the last stage of the rally was the final blow, preventing the Dutchman from finishing and denying him any points for the Rookie or ASN classifications.

On only his second WRC event, 19-year-old Kevin Abbring (NL, Renault) had no problems with his car on day one but he suffered from dehydration and collapsed when he reached the end of day service. Already recovering from two broken feet from a few months ago after a student drove over his feet by accident, the circuit driving instructor started the second day feeling better and the J-WRC’s youngest competitor, who is part of the KNAF Talent First Team from the Netherlands, gained some much needed experience. His only real loss was 30 seconds when his engine stalled in a water splash on SS13. Sadly his rally was stopped short when his engine blew on the tough 41.45km Jordan River1 stage and he was forced to retire after a promising start to his J-WRC season and on his first ever gravel rally.

Alessandro Bettega (I, Renault) dominated third place and like Molder, was dislodged by Ogier on day two as he ploughed his way through the field, which coincided with a heavy landing after a jump on SS12 causing radiator damage to Bettega’s Clio, seeing him drop to fourth. But after a great performance, an overheating engine sadly saw the Italian sidelined from the rally on SS15.

Michal Kosciuszko (POL, Suzuki) had set-up and traction problems during the morning loop on day one but his real woes began when his engine started overheating in SS6, which truncated his rallying for the day, although him stopping prevented any lasting damage. With a lot of time to make up he pushed hard taking one stage win and four second fastest stage times pulling from 12th back up to ninth. But unfortunately, more engine problems saw the Pole sidelined on SS15 and he was unable to restart for the final day.

Vilius Rozukas (LT, Citroën) did not start the rally due to a problem with sponsors and, as a result, has been excluded from the 2008 FIA J-WRC by the Stewards of the rally, in accordance with the regulations.

1st – Sébastien Ogier, Citroën C2 S1600:
“In the end it has been a perfect weekend. I had a scary moment with the differential in the last stage but luckily nothing happened. After the problems I had on Friday I couldn't imagine winning - I was hoping to get a podium finish but in the end I won, so it's amazing! For the Championship it's a great result as I scored 10 and my nearest rival in the points [Molder]) scored 0”.

2nd – Shaun Gallagher, Citroën C2 S1600:
“That last stage was amazing – the windows wouldn’t go up at the start of the stage so we just had to go. Now we’re covered in dust and it was really hard to see the road – for 40 kilometres! It was such a tough event and testing in so many ways, I can’t believe it after the gearbox problems we’ve had all weekend. It’s unreal! This morning I said to Paul [co-driver] to forget about the gearbox and just drive, and it worked! I hope to have a smooth run in Sardinia and get some more good points.”

3rd – Gilles Schammel, Renault Clio R3:
“This is in incredible for us. The last stage was the longest of my career - it felt like it was never going to end. We had a few problems during the rally but in the end it was good – it’s our first J-WRC event of the season so to ge six points here is a great start to the season. The car [R3] is very good even though on gravel the difference with the s1600 is
very big.”

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