Double Dutch delight: Weijs wins in Spain and KNAF Team Holland lands ASN title

Hans Weijs Jr. (NL, Citroën) scored the first FIA Junior World Rally Championship (J-WRC) victory of his career, when the 22-year old from Elst in The Netherlands won the category on the final round of the series, RallyRACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada – Rally de España, in his Citroën C2 S1600. In doing so, he secured the ASN title for KNAF Talent First Team Holland.

Weijs started brilliantly with fastest time on SS1 and 2, as he and Martin Prokop (CZ, Citroën) launched themselves into a titanic two-way battle for victory. Such was their incredible speed that the pace-setting pair were almost two minutes ahead of the rest of the field at the end of Day 1. Weijs lost 17 seconds on the opening stage of Day 2 when he suffered double trouble in the form of low brake pressure and the more unusual situation when his Belgian co-driver, Bjorn Degandt, broke a tooth and, in considerable pain, lost concentration whilst reading the pace notes. Weijs suddenly found himself in a massive 2min 43.5sec lead when Prokop crashed on SS10, and he showed enormous maturity by instantly switching his driving style from flat-out to fast and safe, maintaining a good rhythm and completing the second half of the event without making a single mistake.

Despite not driving flat-out for the second half of the event, Weijs was the first non-World Rally Car finisher in 12th position overall, underlining the competitiveness of the J-WRC cars.

Having already sown up the 2009 J-WRC title*, Prokop was out to impress team managers with sights firmly set on a WRC programme for 2010. Having survived a big moment in the unexpectedly damp and slippery conditions on SS1, and replaced a cracked clutch cylinder on his Czech National Team Citroën C2 S1600 in first service, Prokop was stunningly impressive – setting seven consecutive fastest stage times and establishing a 32.2 second lead after SS9. With Weijs pushing him hard, Prokop had to maintain a fast pace – and 1km from the end of SS10 he suffered a fifth gear accident. He and co-driver Jan Tománek were uninjured, but the car was too badly damaged for Prokop to continue, ruining his 27th birthday celebrations scheduled for today (Sunday 4th October).

The fast and sweeping dry asphalt roads of the Tarragona region near Salou suited Simone Bertolotti (I, Suzuki). He set 3rd fastest time on SS1 and maintained a fast pace throughout, overcoming minor tyre and set-up issues and making sure he was in the right place to benefit from the problems that befell others. Having started the season with 3rd in Ireland, Bertolotti scored his best J-WRC result of his career with 2nd place in Spain, ending a great season in style.

Guest entry Jordi Martí (E, Renault) arrived in the J-WRC with impressive credentials. The 29-year old local driver from Reus had won every championship he’d contested in the last three years, and was the first rookie to win the Spanish Peugeot Challenge in 2007. The RACC-supported driver hadn’t tested his Clio R3 before the start of Rally de España, so he experiemented with set-up as the event progressed and Martí was soon on the pace; setting his first J-WRC fastest stage time on SS11. By then, Weijs was too far ahead for Martí to exert any pressure on the leader, and it looked like the wildcard entry would finish 2nd when he crashed on the penultimate stage – badly damaging the back of the car on a rock and losing the rear door and a spare wheel in the impact. He lost over a minute in the stage, incurred road penalties for booking into the final stage six minutes late and lost more time limping through SS18 – eventually securing the final podium position in dramatic circumstances.

Kevin Abbring (NL, Renault) set nine fastest stage times on the J-WRC’s last asphalt rally in Ireland, and in preparation for his return to sealed surface competition after an eight month gap, the 20-year old Dutchman had entered the Ulster International Rally (but crashed on SS1), contested Hellendoorn Rally (in a bio-methanol engined Nissan 350Z) and tested a Prodrive-built Gp N Subaru. He was hoping to be match-fit, but instead of a strong start Kevin struggled to find a rhythm once the Rally de España begun, spinning on SS1 and feeling his heavier Clio R3 was losing out to the Citroën and Suzuki S1600 cars, especially in the late-braking department. Two slow punctures and heavy front tyre wear were a concern on SS4 and 5, and when he stopped on the following road section to swap tyres front-to-rear, Kevin noticed oil leaking from the engine – and with a repeat of the longest stage of Day 1 between him and his mechanics, he decided not to risk starting SS6. Having incurred a five minute penalty, Kevin restarted on Day 2 and completed the event for experience, scoring points for finishing 4th and securing 4th place in the J-WRC standings.

Aaron Burkart (D, Suzuki) needed to finish 2nd in Spain to score the eight points required to steal the runners-up spot in the J-WRC standings from Michal Kosciuszko (POL, Suzuki), who had already completed his six nominated events. The rally could barely have started worse for the 27-year old from Singen in southern Germany, when Burkart deranged the telemetry and snapped the exhaust when he spun off the road at high speed on SS1. Exhaust fumes filled his Swift on SS2 and 3, and by the time he’d reached the mid-day service Burkart had a splitting headache, very sore red eyes and was 1min 20secs off the lead. The Suzuki Swift Europe team repaired the car for the afternoon, but understeer cost more time and Burkart completed Day 1 in 4th, some 2 minutes adrift of his target. He launched a big attack on Day 2, but just two stages in the suspension and steering felt loose and he was forced to stop. On closer inspection he discovered the king pin had broken, and as he sat by the side of SS8 he resigned himself to 3rd place in the series. Burkart restarted on Day 3, setting fastest time on three stages and finishing 5th and final J-WRC runner.

Continuing to gain more international rally experience in preparation for a full J-WRC programme in 2010, Mark Wallenwein (D, Renault) arrived in Spain on the back of a fabulous 5th place in Finland. All hopes of a good result ended when the power steering on his TRT team entered Clio R3 failed half way through SS2. Stage 3 stood between him and service, and by the time he’d manhandled his way through 35 tortuous kilometres, the 22-year old from Stuttgart had lost over two minutes. Mark got his car into service after SS3, but he lost the brakes on the next test and crashed out of the event.

Yoann Bonato (F, Suzuki) was forced to miss Rally de España after breaking his ankle, while Luca Griotti (I, Renault) also sustained an injury that prevented him from contesting the event.

* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA.

1st – Hans Weijs Jr., Citroën C2 S1600:
“This win is amazing! I’m really pleased to finish the season with J-WRC victory in Spain. It was a shame that Martin Prokop went off, because we were enjoying a good fight, and from then on it was a case of maintaining my concentration and not making any mistakes. Our Citroën has been perfect all event and I’m very happy that this result has secured the ASN title for KNAF Talent First Team Holland.”

2nd – Simone Bertolotti, Suzuki Swift S1600:
“This has been a very hard rally, and our best rally of the season. We have made some little mistakes, but others have had bigger mistakes and we have been able to benefit from this. We started well and pushed hard during all three days, and I am very pleased with our pace. This is a very important result for me and the Suzuki team and a wonderful way to end a good season.”

3rd – Jordi Martí, Renault Clio R3:
“We were unable to test the Renault before the event, and my confidence grew with every stage we did. We made setup changes to the car as the rally progressed, and I was delighted to set a fastest stage time on Day 2. We didn’t look at other people’s stage times and just concentrated on doing our own rally, and despite our problems near the end, I am happy with our result.”

Back To News
Ypres 2008 Finland 2008 Finland 2008 Finland 2008