Kajetan Kajetanowicz made it a clean sweep of stage wins on the opening day of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship, recording 10 out of 10 fastest stage times in his LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5 on the Internationale Jännerrallye powered by GaGa Energy.
Heavy snowfall in the Mühlviertel region of Upper Austria on the eve of the event had blanketed the Tarmac stages in a thick layer of white. It may have looked picture-postcard beautiful, but it made tyre choice particularly difficult.
Many drivers were caught out in the unexpectedly snowy conditions, yet Kajetanowicz was one of those who excelled in his Pirelli-shod car. Co-driven by Jarek Baran, the 35-year old Pole led by 6.4 seconds after the opening stage – and extended his advantage in the night stages to 3m52.5s by the end of the leg.
By leading at the overnight halt, Kajetanowicz is also halfway to securing the top share of the lucrative ERC round-by-round 20,000 Euros prize fund, which is awarded to the seven highest- placed privately-entered drivers. His performance during the day has also earned him 100 ERC Ice Master points.
“It’s a big lead but we have a long rally and we must keep pushing,” said Kajetanowicz. “There has been a lot of loose snow on the stages and in the dark sometimes you could not see and it’s a completely new experience for me. It’s working well but you need good tyres, a good car and a good team. I have those and I am happy.”
Robert Consani also enjoyed an excellent day in his Peugeot 207 S2000. Despite a spin on SS8 and a front left puncture on SS9, the Frenchman finished the day in second position. The top two drivers pulled out a 2m36.9s gap ahead of third placed Jaromír Tarabus (ŠKODA Fabia S2000), who had struggled for grip on wider winter tyres.
An overheating engine forced Alexey Lukyanuk to stop on the opening stage, but the Belarus driver recovered well to get his Ford Fiesta R5 into fourth place by the end of the day.
It had been an equally time-consuming start to the event for the ERC Junior champion Stéphane Lefebvre. He spun his Citroën DS3 R5 into a snowbank on SS1, and had to stop soon after to scoop the snow out of the radiator grille – losing over three minutes in the process. He later lost more time after a brush with a snowbank on SS8.
Jean-Michel Raoux spun his 100% Sport Ford Fiesta R5 on SS4, yet was delighted to successfully complete the opening leg in seventh – as was ERC stalwart Antonín Tlusták in his ŠKODA Fabia S2000 in tenth.
Jonathan Hirschi illustrated how slippery the conditions were better than most. The Swiss driver spun his Peugeot 208 T16 three times on the opening stage and overshot a junction by such an extent on SS2, that he had to drive around a house to get back onto the road! Two more spins on SS8 competed an eventful day, as he returned to Freistadt between Raoux and Tlusták in ninth.
Home favourite Hermann Neubauer was an excellent fourth after four stages, but the 26-year old Austrian was forced to retire when his Ford Fiesta S2000 sprang an incurable oil leak on the next test. The biggest retirement of the opening day of the Internationale Jännerrallye was Craig Breen.
The Irish ace was two kilometres from the finish of SS1, Pierbach, when his Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16 slid off the road on a slow downhill left-hand corner and became stranded. He will restart under Rally 2 rules tomorrow, eager to score leg bonus points.
“It was a 10kph accident,” said Breen. “I got it slowed down and was halfway round the corner but as I got back on the power I lost grip and the front of the car spun round. There was no damage but it was stuck on the sumpguard and we couldn’t move. The stage was going really well and we were doing the best job we could with the grip we had. I was really enjoying the conditions, they were consistent and I felt under control. I’m gutted to go out on the first stage of the year but I’ve got to put it to the back of my mind and get on with it. The world won’t stop, the car’s not damaged and we’ll come back tomorrow.”
ERC2: Štajf capitalises on Hideg misfortune
Vojtěch Štajf leads the ERC2 category for R4 production cars (and is eighth overall), after a great run in his Subaru Impreza WRX STI. He finished the day exactly two minutes ahead of Dávid Botka, who’d enjoyed a good day in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Krisztián Hideg (Mitsubishi) crashed out of the ERC2 lead on SS4, having set fastest time on three stages. Running first on the road didn’t help Łukasz Kabaciński (Subaru), who slid off the road two kilometres before the end of the opening stage.
ERC3: Ogryzek dominates ahead of Tempestini
Slawomir Ogryzek was the star of the ERC3 category, setting fastest stage time on all but one of today’s 10 stages to lead the category overnight by 3m55.8s (and 12th overall) in his Peugeot 208 R2. Simone Tempestini is second, despite an off on SS2 which required the help of spectators to get his Citroën DS3 R3T pushed back onto the course. An excellent run sees Kristóf Klausz (Renault Clio R3) in third, with Szabolcs Varkonyi (Honda Civic Type R3) fourth, Renato Pita (Peugeot 208 R2) fifth and Grzegorz Sikorski (Honda Civic Type R) rounding off the top six. Rok Turk had to retire his Peugeot 208 R2 on the opening stage with engine problems, while Ondřej Bisaha (Renault Clio R3) stopped on SS5.
ERC drivers attend baking masterclass
Five FIA European Rally Championship drivers enjoyed a baking masterclass prior to the start of the Internationale Jännerrallye powered by GaGa Energy – courtesy of local patisserie chef and rally enthusiast Ernst Haneder.
Jonathan Hirschi, Jaromír Tarabus, Hermann Neubauer, Łukasz Kabaciński and Simone Tempestini swapped overalls for aprons as they visited Bäckerei Haneder in the village of St Oswald, eight kilometres from the rally’s host town of Freistadt. They soon discovered baking isn’t a piece of cake, as they were put to work in the basement, making traditional Austrian Schwarzbrot (black bread) and inventing new and unusual shapes of pretzel.
“It was fun to bake bread, but I would not like to make a picture of this, because maybe my girlfriend is at home and puts me in the kitchen again when she sees me baking bread,” joked Neubauer.
Tuesday’s closing leg takes crews east of host town Freistadt for eight stages over a competitive distance of 99.40 kilometres. The opening stage, Gutau, gets underway at 07h43 local time, while two runs over the 21.10-kilometre Bad Zell-Tragwein-Aisttal test will bring the action to a close from 14h05. The finish is scheduled for 17h43 at the Messhalle in Freistadt.
MEDIA EVENTS AND INFORMATION (all timings local and subject to change)
Media centre opening times: From 06h30-22h00
Post-event press conference: 19h00, Messehalle, Freistadt. Top three drivers and co-drivers and leading Austrian crew in attendance
Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy presentation: Immediately following the post-event press conference, Messehalle, Freistadt
Event media contact: Armin Holenia, +43 6642012700, firstname.lastname@example.org
Television coverage: A preview show, daily highlights and the post-event Inside ERC magazine programme will be broadcast on Eurosport
ERC Rally Radio: Live throughout the event at Fiaerc.com or through the ERC app
Results, standings, live timing and text commentary: Fiaerc.com
Rights-free images: Register at the media lounge section of Fiaerc.com
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