WINDOW ON THE FUTURE OF WRC

Offering more excitement for World Rally Championship fans, the S2000 World Rally Championship is more than a mere supporter series. This is the future of the WRC!

Based on the technical regulations of the 2011 World Rally Championship, the S2000 World Rally Championship and the World Rally Championship Cup for Manufacturers has been greeted with overwhelming support and enthusiasm in at its launch at the recent WRC Rally Sweden.

Story by Evan Rothman
Pictures by Red Bull Rally and M-Sport
With a gaggle of new Ford Fiesta S2000 machines prepped and preened for the start of this event, with highly-talented drivers behind the steering wheels, and the fact that the M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 won in its debut competitive outing, all rally fans expected the Fiesta S2000s to power into the distance. However, the Skoda, Peugeot and Abarth teams were not to be outdone that easily…

Patrik Sandell and Emil Axelsson

After his WRC debut with the ill-fated Suzuki World Rally Team in 2008, former Junior World Rally Champion P-G. Andersson and co-driver Anders Fredriksson were left without a top flight drive for 2009. Deserving of a factory seat but unable to secure a deal for 2010, they took matters into their own hands and entered as privateers for the WRC Rally Sweden in a Skoda Fabia S2000.

In his home event, on roads he is utterly familiar with, Andersson powered through the opening stage on Day One of the event to take the lead ahead of his fellow S-WRC competitors. Drifting, sliding and powering through the bends, Andersson showcased his rally-winning abilities to cheers from the Swedish locals and held onto his lead to eventually cross the finish line on Day Three first. This fault-less and trouble-free event netted him nine consecutive fastest stage times in the S-WRC category. His winning margin was 57,3s ahead of Janne Tuohino (Ford Fiesta S2000).

“It feels fantastic to win here,” said Andersson. “We made a good start on Friday, but Saturday and today have been very tough on the brain – trying to keep focused. I don’t have any plans yet for the rest of the season. Let’s see what happens, but I hope to come back for some more rallies.”

Tuohino was the fastest of the full S-WRC Championship runners in his new Ford Fiesta S2000, and comfortably placed second in this category over 01m 59s ahead of Martin Prokop (another Ford Fiesta S2000 driver). Tuohino suffered problems on Day One of the event, and in his fight to secure second place he set four fastest stage times in the S-WRC category.

Janne Tuohino

Rally ace Martin Prokop (Ford Fiesta S2000) has a bright future in rallying. After a shaky start to the event, Prokop managed to pull a blistering stage time on SS16. This stage time was not only the fastest of the S-WRC runners, but of all the event competitors including the WRC cars!

“I knew I couldn’t catch P-G and Janne, so I could relax and enjoy the event,” said Prokop. “This rally has been nearly perfect, we have had no problems at all. We didn’t do anything special in terms of our driving so to get the stage win on Saturday was great. It was hard to fight with the others in front because they have a better understanding of these conditions. The rest of the year we will be more confident back on gravel and it is a big opportunity for us to do something really good.”

Red Bull Rally Team driver Patrik Sandell (Skoda Fabia S2000) finished in fourth place at the end of this challenging event 01m 43s behind Prokop’s Fiesta S2000. On Day One of the rally, Sandell and co-driver Emil Axelsson’s gearbox broke reversegear and had ripped their tungsten studs out of their snow tyres. This slowed the crew, but a stirring fight saw them regain to finish fourth in S-WRC and 15th overall.

Andreas Mikkelsen

“It has been a very good day for Emil and me and everything worked well with our Red Bull Rally Team Skoda Fabia,” said Sandell. “After the first day when everything seemed to go wrong we’ve come back strongly and scored a good result. I just wish the rally could have started again today because there have been no problems for us, which has been such a relief. It’s too bad the rest of the rally wasn’t like this.”

“Without the problems I am sure Patrik could have fought for victory here because he’s always very quick on his home rally,” said Raimund Baumschlager. “But he did not lose his belief and completed the final day without any problems.”

Bernardo Sousa

The dry and dusty climes of Mexico in a week’s time now await the S-WRC crews. With a more level playing field for the drivers, expect Sandell and Prokop to be locked in battle from SS1 to the finish line for the victory in this event. I’ll tip Sandell to take victory there!