Prokop leads the way for Ford Fiesta S2000 crews in Finland
An action packed Neste Oil Rally Finland saw six of the eight Ford Fiesta S2000 crews make it safely to the end of the fastest event on the Super World Rally Championship (S-WRC) calendar.

Eight Ford Fiesta crews were present in Finland, with four fighting for S-WRC honours. Martin Prokop led the way in the S-WRC class and close on his tail for the majority of the rally was Finnish driver, Janne Tuohino, who finished sixth in the S-WRC.

Jari Ketomaa was retired on Saturday morning, putting an end to the Finn’s hopes for a hat-trick in the support championship in Finland. Ketomaa’s retirement also means that he drops into fourth position in the S-WRC overall standings table behind Martin Prokop who is now third. Xevi Pons maintains his lead in the S-WRC field after the championship’s opening six rounds.

Until this event, the Ford Fiesta S2000 had achieved podium finishes at every S-WRC round but it is hoped that the Fiesta S2000 will return to its winning ways when it joins the FIA World Rally Championship for Rally Deutschland next month.

Martin Prokop S-WRC final position: 4th Overall: 13
Martin Prokop maintained a steady pace throughout Rally Finland and at the end of SS2 was just 10.4 seconds behind the S-WRC leader, Jari Ketomaa. The Czech driver was seventh in the S-WRC class after Friday’s opening loop and only 5.2 seconds behind fellow Ford Fiesta S2000 driver, Janne Tuohino. By SS8, Prokop had taken a 2.6 second lead over Prokop but during SS10, the Czech driver hit a stone causing a puncture. This cost Prokop valuable time and meant that Tuohino snatched fifth place. Prokop produced a quick time on Friday’s closing stage and at the end of Day One, just 0.1 seconds separated Tuohino and Prokop.

A close battle for fourth position in the S-WRC class ensued on Saturday morning and after a quick time on SS12, Prokop moved up into fourth position. As the two drivers pulled into the morning service, Prokop remained in fourth and the gap between the Czech driver and Tuohino had stretched to 19.3 seconds. In the final stages, Prokop managed to hold onto his lead over Tuohini and finished the sixth round of the S-WRC in fourth position.

“It’s my sixth time at Rally Finland and I know the rally much better now but it’s not good enough to keep up with the locals. You could tell that Jari [Ketomaa] was at home on Friday morning – he was so fast on the first stages on Friday that I just couldn’t keep up! “This 60thedition of the event seems more difficult to me than the previous ones. It’s not easy to reach the level of the Finns in their own country. My car worked well throughout the weekend and it’s great to have finished in this position with so much tough local competition.”

Janne Tuohino S-WRC position: 6th Overall: 17
Janne Tuohino had a troubled start to Rally Finland as he reported electrical problems with his Ford Fiesta S2000 which caused a delay at the start of SS2. During SS3, the Finn had problems with his steering and half through SS4, Tuohino lost a rear window due to a heavy landing on a jump. Despite problems with dust in the car, Tuohino lay sixth in the S-WRC class as he pulled into Friday’s midday service.

Tuohino reported further electrical problems and drive shaft issues on Friday afternoon but snatched fifth place in the S-WRC class after Martin Prokop lost time due to a puncture. Only 0.1 seconds separated Prokop and Tuohino by the end of the first day.

On Saturday, Tuohino struggled to keep a good pace and the gap between the Finn and Prokop had extended. He also lost the same rear window on his S2000 that he had on the first day. During SS15, Tuohino dropped a significant amount of time but the Finn managed to make it to the end of Rally Finland and finished the S-WRC sixth overall.

“It’s not been a perfect day – we’ve had electrical problems, steering problems, rear window problems and a broken driveshaft. At the end of Friday, I think we had more driveshaft problems but I am very happy we are still here and made it to the end of a difficult rally. Even though we had various problems with the car, I still really enjoyed myself this weekend, it’s a very fun rally. Pace notes are extremely important at this rally though as the smallest mistake can put you off the road.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah S-WRC final position: 7 Overall: 29
Nasser Al-Attiyah encountered no major problems on the opening stages of Rally Finland and after SS5, the Qatari driver was eighth in the S-WRC class. In the afternoon, Al Attiyah took advantage of Ketomaa’s misfortune and moved up to seventh position in the S-WRC class going into Friday’s afternoon loop. However, he broke a wheel rim in SS9 and damaged his suspension which meant Al-Attiyah dropped into back into eighth position. The Qatari driver was then forced to retire for the day.

Al Attiyah returned to the S-WRC class on Saturday under SupeRally regulations and had no problems on Saturday. He produced steady stage results and maintained a seventh overall finish in the S-WRC at the end of final day.

“It’s my first time here in Finland and we have tried to learn it as best we can. It’s a really difficult rally because the distances are shorter than anywhere else. The plan is obviously to learn for next year. My Main aim is to improve and to do well next year – I just want to learn the roads.

Jari Ketomaa S-WRC final position: DNF Overall: DNF
Jari Ketomaa won the last two S-WRC rounds which left him on the verge of a hat-trick on home soil this weekend. Rally Finland started well for the Finn and after Friday’s morning loop, Ketomaa led the S-WRC class and was placed eleventh overall. Ketomaa was just 5.7 seconds off snatching tenth position off four-time World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen.

Friday afternoon, on the other hand, did not fair well for Ketomaa and the Finn was given a penalty for a late departure as his service team tried to sort an electrical issue. Ketomaa took a further knock three stages into the afternoon when he ripped a wheel off his S2000.

Ketomaa hit a pylon leaving parc fermé on the morning of Day Two, damaging the front of his S2000. The car was fixed in time to start SS12, but the repairs failed to withstand a heavy landing over a jump on SS13 and the disappointed Finn was forced to retire from his home rally.

“I’m really disappointed that I had to retire this morning – I was really enjoying myself and I was hoping to close the gap on Pons and to take the lead in the S-WRC class. It is an unbelievably fun rally and there were so many spectators on Friday. The S2000 was fantastic over the jumps on the stages at this event; the team has done a tremendous job but it just wasn’t meant to be. I will learn from this experience in Finland and hope to do improve my results for when I next compete at Rally Japan.”

Toni Gardemeister S-WRC position: N/A Overall: 12
Toni Gardemeister had little experience driving the Ford Fiesta S2000 car before starting this year’s Rally Finland but still managed to finish first out of the eight Fiesta S2000 crews. During SS2, Gardemeister reported overuse of his brakes and that it took a while to get used to the car’s set up. However, after the rally’s opening five stages, Gardemeister was second fastest out of the eight Ford Fiesta S2000 cars and just 51.8 seconds behind Jari Ketomaa who was leading the S-WRC class.

On Friday afternoon, Gardemeister’s engine stopped on a straight during SS7 when the Ford Fiesta S2000’s electronics failed temporarily. Gardemeister had a front right puncture on SS8.At the end of Day One, Gardemeister was 14th overall and leading the way for the Ford Fiesta S2000 cars at Neste Oil Rally Finland after Ketomaa was forced to retire towards the end of the day.

Saturday started well for Gardemeister and the Finn managed to creep up into 12th position overall. He continued to lead the way for the Ford Fiesta S2000 crews but is not registered in the S-WRC class to score any points.

“I have been flat out everywhere in this rally and there hasn’t been many chances for me to improve the times. It was not a good rally for us and I must admit we are a bit disappointed. Before the rally we thought we could produce a better result. Today we were lacking power and I kept on having to shift down from sixth gear. It was going OK on the slower stages but not on the faster ones. I just hoped for a better end result.”

Marko Kakko S-WRC position: N/A Overall: 15
This was Marko Kakko’s second outing in the S2000 car, after his debut at the Mad-Croc Rally in Estonia last weekend where he finished ninth overall in a very competitive field using it as preparation or Rally Finland.

Kakko was last out of the eight Ford Fiesta S2000 crews at the end of the Super Special on Thursday evening. However, on Day One Marko Kakko slowly crept up the leader board and encountered no major problems on the opening loop. At the end of SS5, Marko Kakko had moved from 35th overall up to 28th. At the end of SS9 Kakko had moved up to a credible 19th overall. Kakko kept his steady pace throughout SS10 and SS11 and finished the day in the same position.

On Saturday, Kakko kept a good pace and pulled into service E 17th overall. He upped his pace during the afternoon and had moved into 15th overall by the end of SS17. The gearbox was leaking oil in SS18 but Kakko made it safely to the end of Rally Finland.

Craig Breen S-WRC position: N/A Overall: 19
Following his recent accident at Donegal Rally, Craig Breen adopted a cautious approach for the initial stages of Rally Finland to help build his confidence. Breen’s services on Friday were routine and the young Irish driver was happy with the car’s set up. During SS7, Breen went too fast over a blind crest half way through the stage. This knocked Breen’s confidence and Breen drove cautiously for the remainder of the stage. Breen had no other problems on Friday and gradually picked up his pace throughout the day, steadily improve his times. He finished the day in 21st position overall and fifth out of the eighth Ford Fiesta S2000 cars competing at the event.

Breen’s confidence improved greatly on Saturday morning and this was reflected in his stage times as the young Irishman moved up the rankings and pulled into service E in 19th position overall. Breen remained fifth out of the eight competing Fiesta S2000 cars for the remainder of the day and pulled into the final service in 19th overall.

“I’ve learned more in Finland than in any other event as it is a very specialised rally. It has been hard work but I think I´m stronger now and I can take my experiences here to the British championship.We lost some time on the narrower roads today, which are quite slow. We came here with high gear ratios thinking that they would be best for this event but my times have noticeably improved throughout the weekend so that’s good. Mixing with these boys in the S2000 field is great and considering there are so many local competitors who know the stages, I’m really happy with how everything has gone. I’ve enjoyed every minute and I’m aiming to return next year and do even better than I did this year.”

Dennis Kuipers S-WRC position: N/A Overall: DNF
Dennis Kuipers is an M-Sport entry who made the transition to the Ford Fiesta S2000 this year. The 24-year-old Dutch driver is not registered to score points in the S-WRC class, but was keen to build on his experience and pace in the S2000 car at one of the toughest events on the calendar.

Kuipers had no major problems on the opening day reporting that he had found a good set up on the car and was learning a lot from the stage. By the end of the first day, Kuipers was placed 24th overall and happy with how everything was going. On SS12, however, the young Dutch driver braked too late going over a crest and rolled his Ford Fiesta S2000. The damage was rendered too bad for Kuipers to continue and the young driver was forced to retire from the rally.

“I was really enjoying this rally before this morning. We had been going steady throughout and we had managed to pick up a good pace where I felt comfortable. It really was not a bad rally for us – we learned a lot about faster stages which will hold us in good stead for the future. This morning’s crash was a surprise for both of us – it was such a fast stage. We simply came too fast over a crest and I didn’t have enough time to brake. I will be looking at the data with my engineer to see what went wrong and how I can learn from this crash before I go to Germany next month.”

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