Aigner gobbles up P-WRC hat-trick in Turkey
Austrian driver Andreas Aigner and co-driver Klaus Wicha (Mitsubishi) scored their third consecutive victory of the season on the fourth round of the 2008 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, Rally of Turkey, equalling a record set by Toshi Arai in 2003 for a hat-trick of P-WRC wins. After a closely-fought battle with Aigner, Patrik Sandell (S) drove his Peugeot 207 S2000 to second, 48.7 seconds adrift, and the final podium spot was eventually scooped up by Mirco Baldacci (RSM, Mitsubishi). Aigner’s victory sees him extend his lead to 30 points on the P-WRC standings, a healthy 16 points ahead of both Jari Ketomaa (FIN, Subaru) and Sandell.

Baldacci set the early pace but the San Marino driver hit bad luck once again as a broken front suspension arm through SS6 and SS7 saw him drop over a minute, and a stage win for Sandell helped pull him into the lead. The Swede held position for two stages but a charging Aigner soon challenged his position and by SS8 the Austrian had fought his way to the top spot, with only 0.9secs separating the pair by the end of day one. The duo continued to fight at the top of the leaderboard but a broken front left driveshaft for the Swede left him with only three wheel-drive on SS15, losing over a minute to his rival in the last group of stages on day two, and both opted to hold position to the finish on the final day.

The battle for third was more fluid as it changed hands frequently on day one but settled into the hands of Martin Prokop (CZ, Mitsubishi) by the penultimate stage of the day. An overheating engine for the Czech driver forced him to use the heater in his Mitsubishi in an attempt to divert some of the heat which, accompanied by the oppressive ambient temperatures, became too much to bear and the duo found a river to jump into to cool down at one point. He stopped to make electrical repairs for a fuel pump problem after SS11 and exceeded the permitted amount of lateness upon arriving back into service. He continued for SS12 but was advised to stop before SS13 and was unfortunately excluded as a result of an infringement of service regulations.

Uwe Nittel (D, Mitsubishi) took Prokop’s third place but a bad landing on SS14 broke the German’s intercooler pipe and damaged the suspension and a lack of boost through the remaining stages saw Nittel drop over four minutes. After three stage wins, Baldacci soon adopted third.

With no previous experience in Turkey, Martin Rauam (EE, Mitsubishi) struggled with his pace notes a little on day one then on SS7 the rear suspension broke and the crew lost their place in their notes 5km before the end of the stage. Shock absorber, differential and steering problems all plagued the Estonian throughout the first and second days and a broken driveshaft for the Estonian’s ailing Mitsubishi saw him unknowingly hold up Araujo on SS13. But he enjoyed the final day more to eventually take his best points haul of the season for fourth.

Armindo Araujo (P, Mitsubishi) had a difficult first day claiming that his suspension set-up was so bad it felt like a boat and while day two proved a little better, he was furious to be caught behind Rauam, costing him valuable time. He simply survived the last day again and although he eventually finished fifth, he was frustrated that he wasn’t able to set more competitive stage times throughout the rally.

Evgeniy Vertunov (RUS, Subaru) struggled with fading brakes and engine problems on day one and a front right damper broke at the start of the 27.36km Silyon stage (SS11). He lost almost three minutes changing a puncture on SS13 but, having worked his way to fourth position, he rolled on the last corner of the final stage which cost him dearly, the Russian finally taking three points for sixth.

Simone Campedelli (I, Mitsubishi) had a trouble-free start until a power steering problem on SS7 made turning difficult and by SS9 he was complaining of a high water temperature. Day two didn’t start as well as a broken turbo pipe on the first group of stages meant he could only use second and third gear and by SS14 transmission problems saw him lose eight minutes and drop from fourth place to overnight in eighth. But he finished seventh, having won all stages on the final day.

Giorgio Bacco (I, Subaru) had a broken ball joint on SS7 but he kept his nose out of trouble, driving steadily, to reach the finish in a well-deserved eighth and scoring his first P-WRC point of the season.

Gianluca Linari (I, Subaru) had a good first day and the Italian remained problem-free throughout the rest of the rally to steadily work his way from 16th on day one, recording his best P-WRC finish in ninth.

Bad luck continued for Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT, Subaru) as a broken fuse in the ECU on SS3 caused the fuel pump to stop working and saw the Qatari driver sidelined for the first day, adopting 35 minutes of penalties. Day two proved more successful as he clocked two fastest stage times, despite his engine running at extraordinarily high temperatures and diminishing power, and by the final day he drove carefully to gain experience and to reach the finish in 10th.

Bernardo Sousa (P, Mitsubishi) had a few issues with his gearbox on day one so drove with caution with an aim to finish his fourth WRC event, although a rock damaged his suspension and brakes on SS7. Unfortunately an accident on SS10 stopped him in his tracks for day two but, needing experience, the 21-year-old restarted for the final day to finish in 11th. Riccardo Errani (I, Mitsubishi) had a problem-free first day but he broke a suspension arm and brake pipe on SS15, sidelining him for the remainder of the day’s stages. He continued carefully to finish in 12th.

After dropping down the order from third on SS15 with a damaged intercooler pipe, Nittel eventually retired on SS17 with engine woes.

Toshi Arai (J, Subaru) held fourth at best in day one until a broken front differential on SS4 saw him lose over a minute and on SS7 he went off the road. His all-new Subaru N14 experienced no damage but with no way to rejoin the road, he was sidelined for the day. Broken power steering on SS13 cost him about 20 seconds and his exhaust caused a small fire on SS15 which cost a further two minutes, sidelining him again. Unfortunately his engine wouldn’t restart for day three, the team eventually discovering the problem was a fuse in the ECU - the same problem as Al-Attiyah.

Eyvind Brynildsen (N, Mitsubishi) struggled with the handling of his Mitsubishi on day one on his first outing in Turkey but a broken rear suspension arm on SS10 and a broken steering arm on the following stage saw his retirement from the event.

Francesco Trevisin (I, Subaru) stopped without fuel after the last stage of day one after the exhaust burnt the Kevlar protection between the exhaust and the fuel tank, making a hole in the tank. His team dismounted a fuel tank from a road car and set to work fitting it; they had almost finished when Indian competitor Naren Kumar (Subaru) returned to service with exactly the same problem. With no back-up tank available to Team Sidvin India and with a true gentlemanly gesture, Trevisin opted to give the tank to Kumar who is competing in the whole Championship and for whom a finish, he believed, was more important. While the six-time Indian National Champion continued into day two, running at 12th at best, electrical problems after SS10 sadly saw him sidelined from his second P-WRC rally.

Evgeny Novikov’s (RUS, Subaru) third P-WRC rally was cut short as he rolled on SS2 into retirement. Unfortunately, fellow Russian Evgeny Aksakov (Mitsubishi) rolled on the same corner, also ending his rally as both cars were badly damaged. Amjad Farrah (HKJ, Mitsubishi) went off the road on the same stage as the Russians and despite minimal damage, the Jordanian retired.

The FIA accepted the request of Subaru Rally Team USA – the team behind drivers Travis Pastrana (USA) and Ken Block (USA) - to change its nominated events. Instead of starting Turkey, the team will contest the P-WRC’s next event in Finland.

Gabor Mayer (H, Subaru) did not start the rally for medical reasons. Following the meeting of the Stewards of the Rally, the decision was taken to suspend him from future participation until he can submit all medical documentation to the FIA Medical Delegate.

Driver Quotes
1st – Andreas Aigner, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX:
“It’s been a fantastic weekend but so hard, so difficult – and three wins in a row is great! I’m really happy to be here as we’ve had some engine temperature problems but everyone has had some problems – we’ve just had less I think. We’re leading the Championship quite nicely now but Juho [Hänninen] has done two rallies less than me so I need the lead and we’ll see what happens in Finland when I’m not there. And I’m a bit cautious of New Zealand and GB as they are hard events.”

2nd – Patrik Sandell, Peugeot 207 S2000:
“This is a really good result. We’ve had lots of trouble in the Production and Juniors this year so far and here we’ve just had small problems. We’re developing the car all the time and I think it can go really fast now. Of course I really wanted victory here but after our few problems I’m happy to be second.”

3rd – Mirco Baldacci, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX:
“I’m happy but sorry for yesterday as we had lots of problems with the suspension, although it was good that we were still fast enough to win some stages, but a podium finish is good. And we still have three rallies left so we’ll see.”

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