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Filip Nivette crowned Polish rally champion after winning the Rajd Nadwiślański ● Teemu Asunmaa secures the title in Finland, but it is Eerik Pietarinen who wins on his debut in a ŠKODA FABIA R5 at the Lake City Rally ● Kris Princen wins the East Belgian Rally but Vincent Verschueren retains his Belgian championship lead ● And there is more success for FABIA R5 drivers in Croatia, France, Austria, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Portugal, Great Britain and Paraguay

Filip Nivette wins Rajd Nadwiślański to secure Polish championship title

Filip Nivette clinched the Polish Rally Championship in fine style last weekend with victory at the fifth and penultimate round of the season, the Rajd Nadwiślański (29 September - 1 October).

Nivette and co-driver Kamil Heller, driving ŠKODA FABIA R5 prepared and run by Kresta Racing, were in dominant form, winning nine of the ten special stages driven to end up 1 minute and 29 seconds ahead of the chasing drivers. But they did not have everything their own way, as they fought off a stiff challenge from Frenchman Bryan Bouffier who was only 20 seconds behind in second place after SS6, before crashing out on SS7.

Filip Nivette / Kamil Heller, ŠKODA FABIA R5. Rajd Nadwiślański 2017

After that incident, Nivette stretched the gap back to his closest rivals well and still managed to win all the remaining stages on his way to victory and the championship title. This victory was his fourth in five rallies this season and ensured he was crowned champion with one round still remaining.

Filip Nivette

While the championship race may be over, there is still one rally remaining on the Polish calendar. That is the Rajd Śląska which will take place from 13th to 15th October.

Finsko

Teemu Asunmaa secures Finnish title, but its Eerik Pietarinen who stars at Lake City Rally

Teemu Asunmaa has been crowned the Finnish Rally Champion for 2017 at the end of an eventful Lake City Rally (29-30 September) which saw Eerik Pietarinen win on his first ever drive in an R5 car.

23-year old Pietarinen was making his debut drive in a ŠKODA FABIA R5 alongside his regular co-driver Juhana Raitanen. He had already put in some impressive performances this season, with a season’s best of fifth position overall coming into this event. But while TGS Worldwide OU obviously had faith in his potential, nobody could have foreseen the performance he put in at this event. He finished a remarkable 1 minute and 48 seconds ahead of the chasing pack, winning all but one of the ten special stages driven, and led the rally from the start to finish.

Eerik Pietarinen / Juhana Raitanen, ŠKODA FABIA R5, TGS Worldwide OU. Lake City Rally 2017

Speaking afterwards, even the driver himself was surprised at his comfortable margin of victory and also expressed a hope that this opportunity to drive an R5 would not be a one-off.

Eerik Pietarinen

While Pietarinen is undoubtedly a talent for the future, the big success story right now is Teemu Asunmaa. He was on the podium once again here with a third place in his Hannu’s Rally Team FABIA R5 alongside co-driver Jonne Halttunen. He missed out on second place to Juha Salo by a narrow margin of 2.6 seconds, but nonetheless, the result was enough to ensure he would be crowned Finnish Rally Champion for the first time in his career.

Teemu Asunmaa / Jonne Halttunen, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Hannu's Rally Team. Lake City Rally 2017

Asunmaa ended the season with 136.5 points, which was 11.5 more than Salo who finished second. And he was understandably elated at this achievement.

Teemu Asunmaa

There were two other FABIA R5 crews inside the top 10 as well. Mikko Lehessaari / Reeta Hämäläinen finished fifth for Hannu's Rally Team, while the Printsport Oy pairing of Jukka Kasi / Henri Ania came home seventh.

Kris Princen wins East Belgian Rally to take Belgian championship battle with Vincent Verschueren to the final round

The East Belgian Rally (29-30 September), which was the eight and penultimate round of the Belgian championship, had plenty of stories and drama as Kris Princen returned to take the victory and keep his championship hopes alive going into the final rally of the season.

Princen had originally declared his season to be over after a crash at the Omloop van Vlaanderen saw their car damaged. But after a change of heart, he returned to the field at the East Belgian Rally in emphatic style, edging out title rival Vincent Verschueren by just 11 seconds to take the championship down to the wire.

Kris Princen / Peter Kaspers, ŠKODA FABIA R5. East Belgian Rally 2017 (Photo: BRC Media)

Princen, who was in a ŠKODA FABIA R5 for the Bernard Munster Autosport team alongside co-driver Peter Kaspers, found his pace early, chasing down pacesetter Kevin Abbring, who won the first two special stages, before Princen winning five of the next six stages. A problem on SS8 put paid to Abbring’s hopes, but Verschueren continued to push Princen all the way. Anyway, BMA driver held his ground and keep his title dreams alive, for the time being at least.

Kris Princen

For Vincent Verschueren, driving a FABIA R5 for the GoDrive Racing team, getting to the end of this rally was the most important thing and he didn’t get involved in the battle between Princen and Abbring at the head of the field. With tricky conditions, which included muddy and slippery roads in places and even fog on the final stage, he managed his drive carefully to ensure he will have a 12 point lead going into the final rally of the season.

Vincent Verschueren / Veronique Hostens, ŠKODA FABIA R5. East Belgian Rally 2017 (Photo: BRC Media)
Vincent Verschueren

Verschueren co-driver Veronique Hostens can already celebrate as she has been confirmed as the Belgian co-driver champion for 2017 already.

Veronique Hostens

Further down the field, there was a fourth place finish for Ghislain de Mevius / Johan Jalet, who were driving for the Ice Pol Racing Team, in a FABIA R5 prepared and run by Bernard Munster Autosport. And Achiel Boxoen / Jasper Vermeulen were eighth for ŠKODA Belgium, in a car prepared and run by SXM Competition.

But the most interesting story in Belgian rallying right now is the title tussle between the FABIA R5s of Kris Princen and Vincent Verschueren. Verschueren still has the edge, but it will all be decided at the final round of the season, the Rallye du Condroz-Huy, which takes place from 3rd to 5th November.

Francie

Quentin Gilbert ends his career in the World Rally Championship

French rally driver Quentin Gilbert has announced that he will not be competing at the upcoming Rally Catalunya in the World Rally Championship (WRC) and indicated that this is the end of his WRC career.

After failing to secure the necessary budget to compete in the Spanish round of the championship, Gilbert thanked Tagai Racing Technology team, DMACK and all his partners for their support and noted that with two WRC2 podium finishes (third at the Rally Poland and second at the Rally Finland) secured on a very small budget, they can all be proud of their achievements.

Quentin Gilbert / Renaud Jamoul, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Tagai Racing Technology. Rally Finland 2017
Quentin Gilbert

When asked about his future plans, Gilbert indicated that he now plans to focus his efforts on the French championship in 2018.

Quentin Gilbert

NEWS IN BRIEF

Our roundup begins this week with the Croatia Rally (29-30 September), which was the eighth round of the FIA Central European Zone Championship. It saw a victory for the FABIA R5 of Dávid Botka / Márk Mesterházi (Botka Rallye Team). The Hungarian duo finished 22.3 seconds ahead of the pack and won five of the nine special stages driven. Further down the field, Krisztián Hideg / István Kerék (AK Delta Sport) finished fifth in a FABIA R5 prepared and run by Korda Racing, while Antonín Tlusťák / Ivo Vybíral (Tlusťák Racing) finished one place behind them in sixth.

Francie

In France, the Rallye Coeur de France (29-30 September) made a return to the French Tarmac Rally Championship after a fourteen-year absence. This lightning-fast event saw Quentin Giordano / Kévin Parent in a FABIA R5 (Sébastien Loeb Racing) finish in second place overall and first in the Michelin Trophy standings (for amateur drivers, not competing in a WRC cars). The result means Giordano remains in second place in the overall championship standings as well as in the Michelin Trophy classification, with two rounds remaining. Meanwhile, Charles Martin / Thierry Salva finished in fourth position overall and third in the Michelin Trophy standings in a FABIA R5 prepared and run by Team FJ for the RTTC – Yacco team.

Elsewhere in France, the Belgian driver Melissa Debackere and her co-driver Arne Dekeyser finished second overall and first in the R5 class at the Rallye National Charlemagne (30 September - 1 October) in the French Cup. Debackere was just 4.1 seconds behind the winning WRC car in her Autosport Debackere FABIA R5.

And at another French Cup event, the Ronde Nationale de Quarré-les-Tombes (30 September - 1 October), Christophe Vaison in a FABIA R5 continued his good form with a second place finish overall. Alongside co-driver Frédéric Deziré, he was just 23.9 seconds away from the win, while Teddy Stique / Laurent Piquet finished one place further back in third on their first ever rally in a FABIA R5.

Rakousko

To Austria, where the ŠKODA Rallye Liezen (29-30 September) was the sixth and penultimate round of the Austrian Rally Championship as well as the fourth round of the TER Series. It saw Andreas Aigner / Ilka Minor-Petrasko finish in second place overall and first in the R5 class in a FABIA R5 prepared and run by the Eurosol Racing Team Hungary. Meanwhile, the German pairing of Dominik Dinkel / Christina Kohl (Brose Motorsport) came home in fifth position overall in the FABIA R5 prepared and run by BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing. Further down the field, Christian Schuberth-Mrlik / Jasmin Kramer (BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing) finished eighth overall and Andreas Kainer / Benedikt Hofmann (BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing) tenth overall in their first ever R5 drive. Another notable drive came from regular motocross rider and Rally Dakar 2017 runner-up Matthias Walkner, who made his rally debut behind the wheel of the Zero Car alongside experienced co-driver Thomas Zeltner in another BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Team FABIA R5.

Itálie

On to Italy, where the Rally in Costa Smeralda – Sardegna (29-30 September) was the fifth and penultimate round of the Italian Gravel Rally Championship. There was a win here for Giuseppe Dettori / Carlo Pisano, driving a FABIA R5 for Team Autoservice Sport A.S.D. It was their second win this season. Further down the field, Luca Hoelbling / Mauro Grassi finished in fifth place for the Car Racing team, Pablo Biolghini / Michele Ferrara were seventh for Team Autoservice Sport A.S.D., and Vittorio Musselli / Luca Pischedda were one place behind in eighth for the Porto Cervo Racing Team.

Elsewhere in Italy, at the Rally Team 971 (29-30 September), Swiss driver Olivier Burri and his French co-driver Jean-Jacques Ferrero in a FABIA R5 won six of the nine special stages driven on their way to victory. They finished 21.3 seconds ahead of the field. Stefano Giorgioni / Roberta Passone also made it onto the podium with a third-place finish for the Turismotor's team, in a FABIA R5 prepared and run by P.A. Racing. This was Giorgioni’s first ever rally in a FABIA R5.

In Ireland, at the Cork 20 International Rally (30 September - 1 October), in the sixth and final round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, Joe McGonigle / Ciaran Geaney were pipped to runners-up spot on the final stage. They ended up in third place by a margin of just 0.7 seconds. The result means McGonigle also finishes third in the overall championship standings.

Moving onto Latvia, there was a win for the Sports Racing Technologies duo of Nikolay Gryazin / Yaroslav Fedorov at the Rallysprint Saldus (30 September). The Russian pair, who were using this event to prepare for the upcoming Rally Liepāja in the FIA European Rally Championship, finished an impressive 1 minute and 10 seconds ahead of the rest in their FABIA R5 at this 6-stage event.

Portugalsko

In Portugal, Diogo Salvi / Carlos Magalhães finished in the runners-up spot at the Rally Flor do Alentejo / Cidade de Serpa (30 September). The pair were driving a FABIA R5 for the Sports and You at this regional series event.

Spojené království Velké Británie a Severního Irska

And finally, to England, where the Trackrod Forest Stages (30 September) was the eighth and final round of the English Rally Championship. It saw the CA1 Sport’s FABIA R5 of Thomas Preston / Stuart Loudon finish in third place overall.

NEWS JUST IN – Didier Arias / Hector Nunes (ŠKODA FABIA R5) have won the Transchaco Rally (30 September - 2 October), the seventh round of the Paraguayan Rally Championship. They finished just ahead of fellow FABIA R5 pairing Gustavo Saba / Fernando Mussano, who were runners-up. Full report in next week’s Customer Teams Weekly.

COMING UP THIS WEEKEND

Date Rally Surface
5-8 Oct Rally Catalunya World Rally Championship Round 8 Mixed
6-8 Oct Rally Liepāja European Rally Championship Round 8 Gravel
6-8 Oct Rally Příbram Czech Rally Championship Round 7 Asphalt
7-8 Oct Raliul Sibiului Romanian Rally Championship Round 7 Asphalt