Jan Solans and Mauro Barreiro claimed their first FIA Junior WRC victory of the 2019 season on Rally d’Italia following a hard-fought battle with Dennis Rådström and Johan Johansson that went down to the wire.
Solans and Rådström were a cut above the rest of the FIA Junior WRC field sharing all of the 17 possible stage wins between them with twelve and five respectively.
Solans has now taken the championship lead with 71 points, it is largely thanks to his impressive haul of stage win points which comes to a total of 19 – the most of any other driver this season. Rally Sweden winner Tom Kristensson sits second with 62 points and Rådström remains in third with 55 points.
The FIA Junior WRC field has been in impressive form all weekend as each crew demonstrated well thought out and mature drives on Rally d’Italia. It resulted in nine out of eleven EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta R2 Junior WRC cars crossing the ceremonial finish in Alghero – an achievement that underlines the depth of talent in the 2019 FIA Junior WRC Championship.
Solans won the opening Super Special Stage at the Ittiri Arena on Thursday evening, edging Rådström by just 0.1 seconds, however Friday was Rådström’s day. He was able to rely on his experience and asserted his dominance, ending Friday 16.8 seconds ahead of fellow Swede Tom Kristensson. The opening full day of rallying did not start according to plan for Solans after a series of mistakes across stages three and four saw him 29.5s off the lead at the start of SS7.
In stark contrast to Friday, Solans pushed hard from the get-go on Saturday morning, delivering five stage wins in a row, closing down the gap to Rådström from 17.4s to 1.2s by the conclusion of SS14. Rådström denied Solans of a perfect streak and claimed the final stage win of the day, extending his lead to 4.4s.
Sunday saw Solans regroup and repeat his Saturday form in the morning loop, adding another pair of stage wins to his name to claim the rally lead by just 1.3s. It set FIA Junior WRC up for a nail-biting conclusion in the Sardinian sun as the duelling duo headed into the final two stages of the rally.
Solans added another two seconds to his lead after SS18, starting the Wolf Power Stage with a 3.3s cushion to Rådström. In a final display of talent and speed Solans pushed through the last stage of the day, beat Rådström by 11.5 seconds to win the rally by 14.9s.
FIA Junior WRC Championship Manager, Maciej Woda, said:
“First of all, I would like to express my sincere condolences to Krisjanis Caune whose father sadly passed away on Saturday. Krisjanis made the decision to continue the rally today and for that I have the upmost admiration and respect for him as it required true bravery and determination.
“This rally is an incredibly demanding and tough one. I don’t think anybody imagined that nine out of 11 Junior WRC crews would finish, especially when you consider previous rough rallies in Junior WRC! It is an amazing accomplishment for every crew and we have been very impressed by the level of maturity everybody has demonstrated. The battle for the lead has been a classic and very enjoyable to follow as Jan and Dennis have been on another level. Dennis’s experience has helped him to keep cool in certain moments which allowed him to deliver a very consistent and impressive pace to maintain his lead throughout Saturday even though he won only one stage. Considering Jan was almost 30 seconds behind at one point on Friday, he has certainly raised a few eye brows by delivering so many stage wins while staying on the road and his victory is fully deserved.”
RALLY D’ITALIA SARDEGNA CLASSIFICATION AND DRIVER QUOTES:
1. Jan Solans / Mauro Barreiro 4h02m36.2s
“Amazing weekend, seriously, we have been on the limit on every stage since Friday after we had our problems. We decided to push on every stage and in the end, we achieved victory, so we are really happy and very proud. There’s a little bit of pressure now, I didn’t expect it to be leading the championship after this rally. Next up is Finland so it will be really difficult for us because it will be my first time there on fast roads so it’s time to work and prepare for that rally.”
2. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson + 00:14.9
“For sure it’s a little bit sad but we had strong competition from Jan this time. Jan did a really great job, we really pushed on the penultimate stage today and he beat us. We should be proud to be here without any problems in Sardinia.”
3. Tom Kristensson / Henrik Appelskog + 03:27.2
“I didn’t imagine that we would have finished this rally without any mistakes, punctures or major issues so I am extremely happy with that. Of course, there was more performance available on the stages but I really need to focus on the championship and that is what I am doing. You can lose too much time taking these kinds of risks.”
4. Raul Badiu / Gabriel Lazar + 04:37.5
“I’m feeling relieved now after a tough rally, I really enjoyed the car on the gravel. I was perhaps a little too cautious on the rough sections, but it doesn’t matter as we finished the rally, finally without any issues at all.”
5. Martins Sesks / Krisjanis Caune + 05:34.9
“We need to analyse this rally and see what to do next. After two big disasters on the previous two rallies this one was a finish which is good but it is not what I am aiming for.”
6. Julius Tannert / Jurgen Heigl + 06:41.8
“For sure it was a difficult weekend for us, especially in the beginning, we lost a lot of time. On Saturday morning we had to fix a leaking radiator and lost more time by arriving late to the next stage. In the end we are sixth overall which is not the result we wanted.”
7. Fabrizio Zaldivar / Fernando Mussano + 08:58.9
“I’m really happy, we came here, and we wanted a good result so seventh place is great for my first year in the championship. It’s completely different on these European stages, here there are a lot of mountains, in my home country it is just a flat surface.”
8. Enrico Oldrati / Elia de Guio + 17:44.6
“It was a very unlucky rally for us but it’s ok as we finished the rally without making too many mistakes. I am really tired but also happy to be here and finish the rally, let’s look forward to Finland.”
9. Nico Knacker / Michael Wenzel +19:53.9
“We learned so much, it was a really difficult rally. We are happy to finish, it was really hard, the stages were so difficult. The last stage time was encouraging for us and we are happy.”
Tom Williams / Phil Hall
“Rally Sardinia’s not gone well for us, it has been a really tough weekend. We learned a huge amount, but we broke the sump on the very last stage and we had to retire on the final road section. This will be a rally to forget for us but we will be pushing stronger in Finland.”
Sean Johnston / Alex Kihurani
“It’s definitely been a character-building rally with the incident on Friday. We’ve had lots of good learning experiences and today we had a big compression on the first run of the power stage and when were swapping wheels we noticed an oil leak so called it a day.”