Delight for Ford as Fiesta S2000 claims two podium spots
Prokop and Tänak finish second and third
The fastest rally in the S-WRC calendar – Neste Oil Rally Finland – saw the two Ford Fiesta S2000 crews of Martin Prokop and Ott Tänak finish second and third respectively.
Frigyes Turán and Bernardo Sousa were both contesting Rally Finland for the first time this weekend and despite having no past experience of the blisteringly quick Finnish roads, both drivers secured valuable championship points.
Sousa battled back from a series of setbacks during Friday and Saturday to finish sixth. The Madeira-born driver now lies fourth in the standings, four points behind Tänak who has been elevated into third. Turán is seventh in S-WRC after finishing fifth this weekend.
Prokop remains second overall - 18 points adrift of current championship leader Juho Hanninen. However, with three rounds still remaining, the S-WRC title fight will step up a notch next month as the crews tackle the first all-tarmac event of the year - ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
Former J-WRC champion Martin Prokop reported a few small mistakes when trying to keep up with Ott Tänak on Thursday’s stages but at the end of the first day the Czech driver was third in S-WRC.
On Friday’s opening stage, Prokop reported a fault with his intercom and he struggled with hearing his co-driver’s pacenotes. The problem was fixed at the short 15 minute service at Lahti and Prokop was promoted to second after Tänak’s incident on Stage 8. Prokop remained second in S-WRC going into the final day.
Prokop had a relatively trouble-free day on Saturday but with Hanninen more than one minute ahead and with no immediate threat behind, the driver adopted a cautious driving approach to consolidate his second place finish and a well-earned 18 championship points.
“It’s been a difficult weekend but it’s great to finish second. I must concentrate on the championship now - it is still possible to beat Juho [Hanninen] but we have definitely got our work cut out for us. We had a few big moments where I thought I would roll the car this weekend but luckily we are still here and have made it to the end with 18 points. I must now concentrate on the next event and just hope that we can try and keep the pressure on Juho.”
Markko Märtin’s protégé Ott Tänak got off to a flying start on Thursday posting two fastest stage times. At the end of the first day, the Estonian was leading S-WRC - 8.5 seconds clear of local hero Hanninen.
Tänak held onto the S-WRC championship lead until Stage 5 when Hanninen edged ahead. The driver responded to the challenge with a fastest time on Stage 7 but a spin on Stage 8 cost the 23-year-old three minutes when his exhaust filled with soil. The incident dropped Tänak from second to fifth in S-WRC but he finished the day fourth, just 3.1 seconds adrift of third place.
Saturday saw flying Tänak post six fastest stage times but the gap between the Estonian and Prokop proved too much for Tänak to pose any immediate threat. The 23-year-old finished third in S-WRC and has moved into third in the overall standings after another strong performance this weekend.
“I’m happy to have finished on the podium - it’s been my first time in Finland so it’s good to get this result. To be honest, we are quite lucky to be here as we had driveshaft problems on the last stage. It’s been a hard rally because it’s fast but I’ve not been pushing to the limit. We did a test in Estonia before the rally which definitely helped but then after the couple of spins we had yesterday it was difficult to keep the momentum going and I knew the battle with Juho [Hanninen] was over. The gap was too much to catch Prokop in second place so we did not push – the points were really important.”
Frigyes Turán was lying seventh at the end of Thursday’s opening three stages after the Hungarian reported making a handful of mistakes on Stage 3.
Turán reported difficulties with confidence on Friday morning and was also hindered with an engine misfire. The team made some adjustments to the differentials and the Hungarian driver reported a better feeling in his Fiesta S2000 for the second pass. Turán was lying fifth in S-WRC going into the final day.
Saturday was relatively trouble-free for Turán and the driver pulled into the final service in a credible fifth in S-WRC.
“It’s been a great weekend and I’ve really enjoyed this rally. I’ve had no expectations and I didn’t expect to finish in the top five on my first time here so of course this is a good result for me. I’ve been making changes to my notes along the way - in some places I was too cautious and slowed down when I didn’t need to and in other places I went too quickly. It was great to see some Hungarian fans out on the roads too, it’s really helps having some support as it helped give me an extra boost.”
Bernardo Sousa’s debut in Finland got off to a shaky start when he discovered a broken front differential on his Ford Fiesta S2000 whilst driving on the road section to Stage 1. The problem meant the Portuguese driver had to compete the event’s opening three stages in rear-wheel drive only, losing Sousa significant time in the process. He was eighth in S-WRC at the end of the first day.
More problems followed for Sousa on Friday’s stages when he discovered issues with the limited-slip differential. The team tried to sort it at remote service but a loss of engine power hindered the driver’s progress during the repeat afternoon pass. Despite these problems, Sousa moved up to sixth at the end of the second day.
Sousa consolidated his sixth-place finish during the final day of action in Finland to secure the 24-year-old eight championship points.
“To be honest it’s not be an enjoyable rally for us, we’ve had a lot of small problems which can be frustrating but I’ve got to focus on the positives. I’m pleased to have made it to the end and with some points for the championship. I was getting quite frustrated yesterday and was also finding it difficult because I had no experience of the stages – this is definitely a rally where experience counts. We’ve had some bad luck this weekend but now I’ve got to concentrate on Germany where I’m hoping for a clear run and to get back in a podium position.”
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