German victory takes Ogier a notch closer to J–WRC title
French driver Sébastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia scored their third win of the season and J-WRC career in their Citroën C2, on ADAC Rallye Deutschland, the fifth round of the 2008 FIA Junior World Rally Championship, after a tough day one battle with Martin Prokop (CZ, Citroën). Aaron Burkart (D, Citroën) scored his best J-WRC result to date, bringing his Citroën C2 home in second, albeit a distant 3m 34.2secs from the Frenchman. Italian Alessandro Bettega (I, Renault) finished third, the second podium of his J-WRC career. The results sees Ogier extend his lead in the J-WRC driver standings to 34, nine points ahead of Shaun Gallagher (IRL, Citroën). Burkart lies one further point adrift in third and he, Gallagher and Kosciuszko are now the only drivers able to stop Ogier winning the Championship. In the 2008 J-WRC’s Rookie Classification, Francesco Fanari (I, Citroën) took an unassailable lead.

Day one saw a tight battle between Ogier and Prokop. Ogier won the opening stage but Prokop soon stepped up his pace, winning the next two stages and holding the lead until SS7. Unfortunately an alternator problem for Prokop on SS9, the third stage of the opening group on day two, saw the Czech driver stop, lose his lead, and drop down the order as he adopted multiple penalties. Burkart soon stepped into second but as Ogier had a cushion of over two minutes, the Frenchman eased off a little, knowing that he had to simply protect his lead by staying out of trouble. He still managed to win 11 of the event’s stages.

Alessandro Bettega (I, Renault) hit a wall in a fifth-gear corner on SS2 which damaged the rear axle so he took things cautiously for a while. He stepped up his pace on day two and started his own battle with Gilles Schammel (LUX, Renault) who was one place ahead in fourth. A good stage time on SS10 saw the Italian jump up two places to third and an off road excursion for Schammel on SS11 saw the Luxembourg driver retire with a broken engine mount. Bettega confidently defended his position on the final day to finish on the podium.

Shaun Gallagher (IRL, Citroën) had a dreadful start to the rally as he spun no less than three times on the opening group of stages on day one, costing almost a minute in total, as well as a rear puncture two kilometres into SS3 which cost a further minute. Another couple of spins on the first run through the long 30.38km Panzerplatte stage cost him 20 seconds more but by stage 11 he had moved up to fourth which he kept hold of, despite his best efforts to catch Bettega ahead.

Simone Bertolotti (I, Renault) found the rally very difficult and improved his times stage by stage. On SS14 he had gear shift problems and he lost the rubber from his front left wheel. But in general, he enjoyed his debut outing in the Clio S1600, rather than his usual R3, and was happy to score four points for fifth.

Kevin Abbring (NL, Renault) had a spin on the first stage, experienced overheating brakes on the next few stages and his power cut out mid-stage on SS4. Then an off-road excursion 14km into SS10 cost him 16 minutes as spectators helped get his car back on the road, seeing him drop to 10th. But a few good stage times soon corrected that and the 19-year-old Netherlander found himself in sixth by the end of day two. A trouble-free run on the final day saw him hold position, clocking his first J-WRC stage win en route for the final superspecial stage. He also scored eight points as the second finishing ASN driver for the Dutch KNAF team which now trails the French FFSA by six points.

Andrea Cortinovis (I, Renault) set out with the aim to make no mistakes on a rally he found incredibly difficult. He had a small off-road moment half way through SS7 which took five minutes or so to rejoin the road, bending the steering in the process. He reached sixth at best by SS12 but he went off the road five kilometres into the last stage of day two which pulled a wheel off and damaged a suspension arm. He continued to finish seventh.

Florian Niegel (D, Suzuki) struggled at the start of his first competitive tarmac rally as the intercom stopped working during the opening stage and he wasn’t able to fix it until service three stages later. The German youngster went off the road half way through SS7, hitting a tree and it took him six minutes to change a tyre and check the car over before getting going again. Following the accident, Niegel had to cope with two flat tyres and a flattened exhaust pipe which cost him another two and a half minutes on SS8. He managed to rectify the problems before starting SS9 but by then had dropped to 12th, a long way out of the points positions. Yet the German 24-year-old managed an impressive fight back to work his way up the leader board to take the final point for eighth on his home event.

Francesco Fanari (I) had a difficult start to his rally as he lost use of his handbrake on the opening group of stages – a huge challenge on a rally littered with hairpins. He had a problem with the throttle butterfly switch on SS7 so he struggled with torque but he kept his head together and reached seventh by the end of day two. But a broken gearbox on SS14 accompanied by niggling engine woes made life difficult and he eventually had to slow to simply reach the end of the last stage proper. He finished in ninth and this result saw Fanari become the 2008 J-WRC rookie of the year – the classification for the best newcomer in the WRC’s small car division.

Stefano Albertini (I, Renault) got off to a bad start on his fourth event in the J-WRC as he struggled with no brakes for the latter half of SS1. Then a lack of fuel pump pressure sidelined him for the day seeing him adopt multiple penalties. He restarted for day two but a small off-road excursion in SS7 cost 20 seconds or so, a heavy landing in SS10 set the front of the car off balance and a junction overshoot on SS14 cost a few more seconds. But the final day was trouble-free, the Italian eventually finishing 10th.

Hans Weijs Jr. (NL, Citroën) had a difficult rally. He lost use of his brakes a few kilometres into SS1 and ended up hitting a wall resulting in a puncture and a damaged rear left suspension. A broken differential in SS4 also made progress tricky. In the early morning service on day two the team ran out of time to fix an oil leak from the gearbox. The crew tried to fix it on the road section but having exceeded the permitted amount of lateness in doing so, they were sidelined for the day. Weijs restarted for the final day but a broken driveshaft a few kilometres before the end of SS16 finally sealed his fate, forcing him to retire.

Having incurred 30 minutes of time penalties on day two for not completing all of the stages and dropping to 11th, Prokop opted not to restart for the final day.

Driver Quotes
1st – Sébastien Ogier, Citroën C2 S1600:
“This is a very important victory as we have now increased again our lead. It's like we run two different rallies - first fighting with Prokop each stage and then, after he retired, we run with a different rhythm as we had quite a comfortable lead and we had just to stay on the road and bring the car to the finish. I look forward to Catalunya, it's a new event for me but I'll have to fight and stay in front of my rivals to win the Championship.”

2nd – Aaron Burkart, Citroën C2 S1600:
“My best result in the JWRC, not bad at all! It was a difficult rally though because the expectations were very high as it's my home event. I have scored eight good points for the Championship and now that I still have a chance to win I will for sure fight for it.”

3rd – Alessandro Bettega, Renault Clio Sport R3:
“It was a good race. I made two mistakes but luckily without any consequence. We couldn't expect for more - third position overall and the first R3 after an unlucky event in Finland is really good. The team and Renault Sport have done a very good job as the car now is perfect, much more competitive than in the first half of the season."

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