Relentless Burkhart wins season opener for 2010 J-WRC
In the final year of his J-WRC eligibility, German Suzuki driver Aaron Burkhart’s back to win it. He began his campaign this weekend at the Rally of Turkey and overcame treacherous conditions, exposed rocks and torrential rain in his Swift Super 1600 to win the opening round of the 2010 FIA Junior World Rally Championship.

After taking the lead from Kevin Abbring (NLD) in SS4, Burkhart, navigated by André Kachel, refused to give it up. Without risking damaging his Swift, Burkhart drove confidently and consolidated his lead with nine stage wins across the event. Tensions mounted when he lost his power steering on the final two stages of the rally, but still he refused to give in and held his position, finishing over three minutes clear of his nearest J-WRC rival.

Two Renault Clio R3s took the remaining spots on the podium with San Marino driver Alex Broccoli in second and Dutchman Kevin Abbring in third. Broccoli held second place from SS13, following both brake and suspension problems on Day One. His difficulties did not however rival Abbring’s. After an early lead, Abbring lost his front brakes early on Day One. This problem resolved at midday service, he claimed three more stage wins in the afternoon, but on Day Two a faulty connector in his fuel pump meant his engine cut out on both SS12 and SS15. Following this and two punctures, Abbring was left too far behind to catch Burkhart or Broccoli, despite a strong Day Three.

Broccoli and Abbring didn’t get their places on the podium without a fight. They spent the first ten stages of the Rally of Turkey in a three-way battle with Belgian driver Thierry Neuville in his Citroën C2 S1600. Neuville embarked upon the event unfamiliar with the stages, but drove faultlessly, putting in consistently strong times. However, disaster struck on SS10 when his C2’s transmission broke. He had to retire and was unable to rejoin the rally. Neuville left Turkey without any points, but proved he’s ready to challenge anyone who hopes to finish as 2010 J-WRC Champion.

Todor Slavov (BGR), Harry Hunt (GBR) and Estonian Karl Kruuda, the youngest ever J-WRC driver, all finished the rally, gaining experience in difficult conditions and picking up 12, 10 and 8 J-WRC points respectively.

1st – AARON BURKHART (DEU): “I’m happy. I’ve started off the year exactly as I wanted to, but it was hard, especially through the last two stages when I lost my power steering.”

2nd – ALEX BROCCOLI (SMR): “I’m very, very happy and this is a great start to the Championship for me.”

3rd – KEVIN ABBRING (NLD): “I was in the lead after three stages, but my troubles started at that point. I really liked it on Day Three though and at the end I found my pace so I can be happy.”

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