Abbring takes Portugal win on rally of endurance
It was consistency and endurance that led the Renault Clio of Dutch driver Abbring and his co-driver Erwin Mombaerts (BEL) to Abbring’s second J-WRC career victory on the second round of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship this weekend at Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

When early leader Thierry Neuville hit a pylon on SS7, the final stage of Day One, it was the Suzuki of J-WRC leader Aaron Burkart (DEU) which took advantage and moved to the front of the field. However, after a strong morning on Day Two, the German driver hit a rock on SS11 and broke his radiator, lost all the coolant from it and was forced to join Neuville in retirement.

This promoted Abbring into the lead and despite three punctures over the rally, the Dutchman drove steadily and confidently and staying ahead of the Junior field throughout the final day, earning himself 25 Championship points. While Burkart still leads the J-WRC standings, Abbring at least equals the German driver’s points tally. With Burkart absent in the third J-WRC round in Bulgaria, it is now up to Abbring to try and extend this lead as much as possible.

Second on the podium – and the youngest ever driver to finish on the rostrum - was 17 year old Estonian Karl Kruuda. After finishing Day One in fifth place, Kruuda never lost sight of his goal of completing his second ever world rally and kept driving, despite becoming increasingly unwell and leaving the road on three stages on Day Two(SS8, SS9 and SS12), on the first occasion even hitting a tree. On the final day he held his nerve and set confident times to maintain his position and finish the rally with his first 18 J-WRC points.

Burkart took the final place on the podium when he retook to the road for the final day. After a steady drive, he finished a clear third, over 10 minutes behind Kruuda, but nearly 15 minutes ahead of fourth-placed Lemes. Disappointed with his Day Two retirement, Burkart couldn’t complain at picking up 15 J-WRC points, holding onto his lead in the J-WRC standings, albeit on equal points with Abbring.

Spanish driver Yeray Lemes won his first ever world rally stage in his Renault. He was cautious during the morning of Day One proper as he familiarised himself with his Clio, but by the afternoon his confidence increased and he was setting competitive times. Unfortunately, on the second day (SS8) he had problems with his crankshaft sensor and had to retire. However, after restarting on Day Three he took three more stage wins, showing his potential for the rest of the season.

The last two finishers in the J-WRC were Egoi Valdes (ESP) and Harry Hunt (GBR) scoring points for fifth and sixth places respectively.

On Day One, Neuville replicated the promise he had shown in Jordan. He took the lead on SS3, won five stages on the first day and topped the J-WRC sprinter standings for the weekend. However, his retirement on SS7 means that he is yet to score any J-WRC points. Hans Weijs Jnr (NLD), Mathieu Arzeno (FRA) and Alessandro Broccoli (SMR) also retired from the event. Experienced J-WRC driver Weijs’ and Arzeno, on his first world rally, both had to stop due to engine troubles, on Day One and Day Three respectively. Broccoli was plagued by driveshaft woes throughout Day Two and Day Three and finally retired on SS16, failing to score any points and forced into fourth on the J-WRC leaderboard following the success of Abbring and Kruuda.

1st – KEVIN ABBRING (NLD): “I'm really happy with this result! After the puncture we had on Friday we did what we had to do. We drove at 70%, but tried to stay focused and avoid making mistakes. Now Aaron and I have the same points in the Championship. He won’t be competing in Bulgaria though so I really have to score the maximum points possible there. It will be not easy because on tarmac the S1600 cars are much faster than the R3s, but if it rains maybe we have a chance!”

2nd – KARL KRUUDA (EST): “I don't feel anything at the moment, I'm so tired! I made a lot of mistakes during the weekend but I'm quite happy with my performance here. I think I showed that my speed is quite good even if I'm the youngest driver in the J-WRC. The next round is Bulgaria and I am looking forward to it, because it will be my first rally on tarmac ever. Let's see what I can do there!”

3rd – AARON BURKART (DEU): “Third place after a 15 minutes penalty is pretty good! Of course it's a shame, because I was leading by four minutes yesterday, but I am quite happy with what I did during the weekend. I have the same number of Championship points as Abbring now, but I am skipping Bulgaria so I'll be watching to see how Kevin does from home!”

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