Teemu Suninen leads the WRC2 championship with one event remaining. Gaurav Gill clinches the APRC championship crown. Gustavo Saba wins the Rally del Guairá to set up Paraguayan season finale with fellow FABIA R5 driver Didier Arias, while Matthias Kahle claims Lausitz Rally win.
Teemu Suninen secures third place in Wales to lead the WRC2 standings
The Wales Rally GB was the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) 2016 and promised much in the WRC2 standings with no fewer than three ŠKODA FABIA R5 drivers still in contention for the title. It didn’t fail to deliver either, as ŠKODA drivers claimed the top four spots in the WRC2 standings, and seven of the top nine WRC2 positions, in a dominant display amid challenging conditions.
It was ŠKODA Motorsport driver Esapekka Lappi who, along with his co-driver Janne Ferm, claimed victory in the WRC2 category to keep themselves firmly in the title race. They finished ahead of ŠKODA works crew Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson, who were driving under the ŠKODA Motorsport II moniker at this event.
Tidemand edged out another championship challenger, Teemu Suninen for second place by just 1.1 seconds. Suninen and his co-driver Mikko Markkula, who were driving a FABIA R5 for Team Oreca, also suffered a 10-second penalty for a jump start on stage 13, which has proved cost them valuable points.
However, the result leaves Suninen at the top of the WRC2 standings. He is level on points with Elfyn Evans, and they also have the same number of victories (3), second places (1), and third places (1). But Suninen leads the way on the basis of a better record in events which both drivers took part in. They both have 120 points but have driven all seven of their allocated events for the season.
Esapekka Lappi is now the only driver who can catch them. He sits 13 points behind on 107, but with one nominated rally remained. It means that if Lappi finishes in the top two WRC2 positions in the final event of the season, the Rally Australia, he will be crowned WRC2 champion. But if he doesn’t the title will go to Suninen.
The other ŠKODA Motorsport pairing of Jan Kopecký / Pavel Dresler finished in fourth place; a result which rules them out of the title race.
Behind them, there were more impressive customer teams’ performances. The young Norwegian driver Ole Christian Veiby, driving a FABIA R5 for the Printsport Oy team, finished in sixth place in the WRC2 standings.
Veiby, along with his co-driver Stig Rune Skjærmoen, endured a nightmare start, suffering two punctures in the opening stage. He also struggled with the fog on the opening day, but as the mist lifted, he settled into his groove and climbed steadily through the field to a very respectable finish for a driver in only his third WRC2 event in a FABIA R5.
One place further back, in seventh place in the WRC2 standings, were Peruvian Nicolás Fuchs and his Argentinian co-driver Fernando Mussano. They earned six more valuable points in their quest to become the highest ever Latin American finisher in the WRC2 championship and coped well with temperatures and conditions they were not used to.
“We were able to finish the rally and this was the main objective,” explained Nicolás Fuchs at the finish. “Adjusting our car to the wet ground and the cold weather has not been easy for us. This event gives us a lot of experience for next year. We still have one more round in Australia and we will fight until the end.”
In ninth place in the WRC2 standings came home the British pairing of David Bogie and Kevin Rae. They were driving a FABIA R5 run by the CA1 Sport team, and suffered a difficult end to the opening day, after hitting a rock on stage 5, which damaged his steering. This eventually broke on stage 7 causing them to crash off the road. But they recovered from this setback to post some strong times, particularly on the final leg, and finish respectably.
The final round of a compelling WRC2 championship will be the Rally Australia, taking place from 18th to 20th November.
Gustavo Saba secures Rally del Guairá win to set up championship decider with Arias
In the penultimate round of the Paraguayan Rally Championship at the Rally del Guairá, it was Gustavo Saba who emerged victorious to leave the championship on a knife-edge going into the final round.
Alongside co-driver Fernando Mendonca, Saba dominated this event in his ŠKODA FABIA R5, leading from start to finish and picking up six stage victories along the way. The result, which was his third win of the season, following earlier victories at the Rally de La Madera and the Rally del Alto Paraná, ensured that Saba picked up a maximum 45 points and kept his championship dream alive.
The result leaves him just four points behind fellow FABIA R5 driver and championship leader Didier Arias with one event remaining. Arias, along with his co-driver Hector Nunes, finished more than one and a half minutes behind Saba at this event, in third place overall.
In turn, he was more than a minute ahead of the other ŠKODA FABIA R5 of Miguel Zaldivar / Victor Aguilera, who came home in fourth place.
The result sets the scene for a scintillating final round of the Paraguayan Rally Championship, with Saba, Arias, and Thiago Weiler still in contention for the title. It should make for a compelling Rally de la República, the final round of the championship, and all the drama will unfold from 11th to 13th November.
Matthias Kahle cruises to dominant win at the Lausitz Rallye
Experienced German driver Matthias Kahle, alongside his co-driver Christian Doerr, claimed their first victory of the season at the Lausitz Rallye in Germany. It was a controlled performance for the Rallye – Das Magazin team driver who won 5 of the 13 stages at his local event in his ŠKODA FABIA R5 and finished second in 6 more, to ease to victory by a margin of 3 minutes and 35 seconds after his nearest rival, Anders Grøndal, was forced to retire on stage 7.
There was also a podium finish for the Czech pairing of Antonín Tlusťák / Ivo Vybíral. Driving a FABIA R5 in the Tlusťák Racing colours, they also put in a consistent and composed drive to finish in third place, more than two and a half minutes ahead of their nearest challenger.
Meanwhile, Albert von Thurn und Taxis and his co-driver Sandra Bufe, were in the fifth spot in their ŠKODA FABIA R5 before an incident on stage 4 saw them fall right down the field to 61st. But a stellar performance on the second leg, in which they won 3 stages and came second in 3 more saw them manage to climb up to ninth place by the end of the rally.
NEWS IN BRIEF
- In the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) at the Rally Malaysia, Gaurav Gill secured the championship title with his fifth successive win. And it was pretty comfortable for the Indian driver who, along with co-driver Glenn Macneall, was driving a ŠKODA FABIA R5 prepared and run by Racetorque Engineering. It marks his second APRC title and the fifth successive manufacturers crown for ŠKODA.
- There was a strong ŠKODA performance at the Most Rally, a local event held at the Autodrom Most racetrack, service roads and surrounding neighbourhoods in the northern Czech town of Most. Martin Hudec / Petr Picka won by a margin of 28 seconds, while Zdeněk Pokorný / Jiří Skořepa also finished on the podium, coming home third overall.
- At the Rally della Val d’Orcia in Italy, Luca Hoelbling / Mauro Grassi finished in third place overall and first in class. They ended up only behind more powerful WRC cars and were just 21.6 seconds behind the overall winner.
- Fabrice Bect / Arnaud Michal won the regional Rallye National de la Noix de Grenoble in France. They finished 50 seconds clear of their closest rival in their FABIA R5. Meanwhile, at another regional French event, the Rallye Régional de Sarrians, Julien-Alexandre Courchet / Lara Ferrari finished third, just 14 seconds behind the eventual winners.
COMING UP THIS WEEKEND
Rallye du Condroz-Huy
Huy, central Belgium; 4th to 6th November; a 9th round of Belgian Rally Championship; asphalt event, 24 special stages, around 220km of competitive distance.
Entered ŠKODA FABIA R5s:
Cédric Cherain / Renaud Herman; Ghislain de Mevius / Johan Jalet (Ice Pol Racing Team); Vincent Verschueren / Veronique Hostens (Go Drive)
Cédric Cherain won on his debut drive in a FABIA R5 in the previous round of the Belgian Rally Championship, at the East Belgian Rally. This will be just his second event in the car and he will no doubt looking to continue his 100% record. The last ŠKODA victory at this event was back in 2010 when Freddy Loix / Frédéric Miclotte won by almost 4 minutes in a FABIA S2000.