Prokop leads the way for Ford Fiesta S2000 crews in Germany
An action packed ADAC Rallye Deutschland saw Martin Prokop fight a hotly contested battle for first place in the S-WRC – eventually missing out on the top spot by just 4.7 seconds.

Six Ford Fiesta S2000 crews were present in Germany, with three of the new generation rally cars fighting for S-WRC honours. Following Prokop’s second place finish, Xevi Pons claimed fifth overall with Bernardo Sousa just behind in seventh. All the Ford Fiesta S2000 crews made it to the end of the 405km event.

This is the sixth time a Ford Fiesta S2000 has achieved a podium finish in the 2010 S-WRC. Pons retains the lead at the head of the S-WRC championship standings, but after struggling to emulate his early season pace throughout the event his lead has now been reduced to 13 points.

Martin Prokop S-WRC final position: 2 Overall: 11

Martin Prokop got off to a flying start at Rallye Deutschland, leading the S-WRC from the opening stage and ninth overall. During SS2 and SS3, the Czech driver dropped some time but still led the S-WRC and was placed twelfth overall. On Friday afternoon, Prokop encountered no major problems apart from on SS5, when some spectators threw liquid on the windscreen of his Ford Fiesta S2000. By the end of opening day, Prokop was leading the S-WRC by 5.7 seconds as he headed into day two of the all-asphalt contest.

Prokop’s pace dropped on the second day and by the end of Saturday’s opening stages, the Czech driver dropped to second in the S-WRC, just 1.5 seconds behind P-G Andersson who led the S-WRC. By the close of play, Prokop had dropped into third place as Patrik Sandell passed him during the afternoon. However, the reigning Junior World Rally Champion took comfort in the fact that only 5.8 seconds separated the top three S-WRC contenders as they entered the final day.

The final day of Rallye Deutschland saw Prokop’s rival, P-G Andersson, lose three minutes in the opening stage and Prokop moved back into second position in the S-WRC. The Czech driver was just 3.4 seconds off claiming first position from Sandell but a small incident on SS16 meant the gap had extended to five seconds with only three stages remaining. Prokop was unable to close this gap on Sandell in the penultimate stages and finished the event second, just 4.7 seconds adrift of his S-WRC rival.

Martin Prokop said:
“What can I say? I’m disappointed to have finished second, of course it is a good position but I really, really wanted to win! Today we went back to the vineyards, which were good stages for me as I can pick up my speed, It was such a close fight and I am annoyed that I didn’t win – I really needed the points. We wanted to keep up the speed as much as we could all weekend but it was difficult with so many of the S-WRC contenders on my tail. Looking back, I should have pushed harder on Friday - I risked everything to try and win today.”

Xevi Pons S-WRC final position: 5 Overall: 15
The S-WRC championship leader had an unlucky start at Rallye Deutschland as he hit his right rear wheel coming out of a sharp left hand corner on SS1. This knocked the suspension out of line on his Ford Fiesta S2000 and the Spanish driver struggled during the next two stages. Pons pulled into service sixth in the S-WRC after the opening morning and their damaged Ford Fiesta S2000 was sorted during the first service. The experienced Spaniard continued to push during Friday afternoon but was unhappy with his times. However, by the end of the first day Pons had moved up into fifth in the S-WRC and was 18th overall.

On Saturday Pons reported that he was happier with the set-up of his Fiesta S2000 and held on to his fifth place in S-WRC for the day’s opening stages. He had no other problems in the afternoon but struggled to maintain the sort of pace he had shown on previous S-WRC rounds.

Pons struggled on the final morning of Rallye Deutschland as he suffered from a puncture and handbrake problems which made it hard for the Spaniard to negotiate the tight corners. The Spanish driver had a clear pass in the afternoon but again reported that he was not altogether satisfied with his performance. Despite his difficulties over the weekend, Pons still leads the S-WRC by 13 points.

Xevi Pons said:
”I was really struggling with pace this weekend but I don’t know why – the feeling of the car was good and I usually drive well on the tarmac. We were pushing all weekend but the times did not reflect this. I didn’t really understand how it happened and I will have to try and figure this out so I can improve next time. I’m glad that we still made it to the end – it was important for the championship that we finished and got some more points so we could hold onto our lead. It’s really not a bad result, I just would have hoped for better.”

Bernardo Sousa S-WRC final position: 7 Overall: 32
Rallye Deutschland debutant Bernardo Sousa opted for soft compound tyres for Friday morning but had a spin on SS2 and then missed a junction. At the end of the morning pass the young Portuguese driver was seventh in S-WRC, but was hampered by the loss of power steering on his Ford Fiesta S2000 during SS4. Sousa struggled to make it to the end but pulled into the day’s final service sixth in the S-WRC and 30th overall.

Sousa reported a painful shoulder after driving without power steering at the end of the first day but remained sixth in S-WRC at the end of Saturday morning’s stages. During the afternoon, Sousa gradually improved his times and moved up 27th overall at the end of SS13. However, during the monster 48 km stage at the end of the day Sousa hit a large rock hidden in a bush at the side of the road, which knocked his suspension out of line and tore off his right rear wheel. This dropped the young Portuguese driver from 27th to 34th position at the end of the second day but he remained sixth in the S-WRC. Sousa’s engineers worked until 3am on his Fiesta S2000 in order to allow him to return for the final day of Rallye Deutschland.

On the final day Sousa reported further problems with his shoulder and dropped down to seventh position in the S-WRC. The Portuguese driver made it to the end of a troubled rally to secure six points, successfully moving him up once place in the S-WRC overall standings.

Bernardo Sousa said:
“This was a tough rally for me - not because of the car but because I was feeling so ill. I have been in a lot of pain since Friday when I had to drive the car without power steering – it wreaked havoc with an old should injury that I have from go karting. Then yesterday I had a very bad headache which lost me time and then we had our accident at the end of the day which wasn’t good. I’m happy to have made it to the end – I’ve certainly had my fair share of problems but it’s good to finish my debut at this event and to leave with some points.”

Mads Østberg S-WRC final position: N/A Overall: 16
Mads Østberg got off to a flying start on Saturday as he was the fastest Fiesta S2000 through SS2, placing him 14th overall in the WRC leader board and the second fastest out of six Ford Fiesta S2000s. However, during SS3 Østberg lost power in his Ford Fiesta S2000. After a call to his engineer Østberg managed to sort the problem, but the incident lost the young driver approximately five minutes and dropped him into 54th position at the end of Friday morning. After an unfortunate morning Østberg had a clear pass on Friday’s repeat loop, and at the end of first day the young Nowegian had successfully climbed the WRC leader board to 31st overall.

On Saturday Østberg produced a series of quick stage times and was the fastest Ford Fiesta S2000 entry throughout SS8, beating Martin Prokop by 1.4 seconds. At the end of the morning pass Østberg was 24th overall and third-fastest out of the six Ford Fiesta S2000 cars present in Germany. Østberg had no problems on Saturday afternoon and continued to climb the WRC leader board, finishing the second day 21st overall.

Østberg was on fire on the final day of Rallye Deutschland and produced the tenth fastest overall stage time on Sunday’s opening 22.58 km stage - 5.2 seconds faster than fellow Ford Fiesta S2000 driver Martin Prokop. The 22-year-old had no other problems on the final day of Rallye Deutschland, continuing to climb the WRC leader board. Despite a significant loss of time on the opening day the Norwegian finished the event an impressive 16th overall.

Mads Østberg said:
“Apart from the problem on Friday, this was a really good event for me. I managed to pick up some good pace and I had some fast stage times. The car worked well – it’s my first time in the Ford Fiesta S2000 but I really enjoyed it and I gained a lot of experience from this event which will be useful for the future. I think I could have been in the top ten had it not been for the incident which lost me so much time on Friday but I’m happy with the result.”

Dennis Kuipers S-WRC final position: N/A Overall: 24
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 another all-asphalt event. Kuipers hit his door going into SS5 but the incident only cost him a few seconds and he finished the first day of action without any major problems in 27th overall.

On Saturday a stone on SS7 hit Kuipers’ front left wheel and cost the Dutch driver time and some confidence. At the end of SS10, Kuipers had dropped to 32nd overall but a clear run in the afternoon moved the Dutch driver back up to 27th position, just one above his father, Rene Kuipers, who was 28th overall.

On the final day of Rallye Deutschland Kuipers had another clear run but reported that he was struggling to find a good rhythm. However, the driver continued to climb the overall leader board and finished his second Rallye Deutschland 24th overall.

Dennis Kuipers said:
“It was not a bad weekend for me. I finished 18th last time I did this rally so I suppose it is a bit disappointing to finish a bit lower down the leader board this year, but there was some tough competition. The most important thing for me is to learn the car and, of course, to get to the end of the rally. I just found it hard to find a good rhythm this weekend but I had no major problems and I am just looking forward my two remaining WRC rounds in Wales and in France later this year.”

Henning Solberg S-WRC final position: N/A Overall: 32
Rallye Deutschland was the second outing for Henning Solberg driving the the Ford Fiesta S2000. The Norwegian opted for hard compound Pirelli P-Zero tyres on Saturday morning but the driver stopped on SS2 due to problems with gearbox and clutch that forced him to retire.

Solberg returned on Saturday under SupeRally regulations and was the fastest out of the six Ford Fiesta S2000s in Germany on three out of four of the morning stages. However, on the final 48 km Panzerplatte stage on Saturday Solberg stopped on the stage due to problems with his engine’s water temperature. During the evening service Solberg’s water pump was changed and it was reported the car would be fine to return for the final day of action.

Solberg lost his power steering on Sunday morning but made it to the end of the opening loop and the problem was sorted during the first service. The Norwegian then had a small spin at the start of SS17 but made it to the end of a difficult rally without any other issues.

Henning Solberg said:
”For sure, this was a harder rally for me compared to Bulgaria. But when the car was working well we made good time. It’s a fun car to drive on asphalt and the set-up worked well. It’s a shame we had some technical problems on this rally but it’s all about getting to know the car and my experience from this event will hold me in good stead for when I return to the Fiesta S2000 for France and Spain later this year. I feel sorry for [Martin] Prokop right now – he was pushing so hard throughout the rally and I’m disappointed that he was so close to winning the S-WRC at this rally as I know how much he wanted to win.”

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