02 Oct 09
Martin Prokop has overcome the brake problems which plagued his Citroen C2 S1600 this morning to lead the J-WRC field at the end of the opening leg of Rally Catalunya.
Having slashed Hans Weijs's lead on the morning’s final stage, Prokop moved into P1 on the first of the afternoon’s three tests. Quickest Junior on the stage was enough for the Czech driver to lead the standings for the first time in the rally. He then went fastest on the next two to ensure the perfect afternoon.
“I’ve got my confidence now,” smiled Prokop at the end of the day. “The car has been very good this afternoon. I don’t know. This morning, I think it was the damp sections in the first stage - that was what cost me the time. Also, I think I have been missing some experience on asphalt, but this afternoon is good for me.
“I realise I am the champion, but at the same time, I want to show the teams what I am capable of and what I can do - this is why I am going to keep pushing and keep setting the times. I’m confident for the rest of the rally now we have the set-up right.”
Prokop’s four consecutive fastest times translated into a lead of 12 seconds over the similar car if Weijs. The Dutchman was at a loss to explain his loss of the lead. “I was slower in stage five,” he said, “but I’m not really sure why. The car is working well, but he [Prokop] is fast. We have to push again tomorrow.”
Local hero Jorge Marti remained third in his Renault Clio, his R3 car not quite able to match the Super 1600 machinery on the fast and sweeping Tarragona turns. Marti’s gap between himself and the leaders was nearing two minutes this evening - leaving the Spaniard to focus his attentions on defending his provisional podium spot from the recovering Aaron Burkart, who ended the day 8.9 seconds behind Marti in fourth.
Marti said: “I have confidence in the car and I want to push harder, I want to go faster.” He’ll need to do just that through the six stages of the second day.
Burkart said: “This afternoon was better, everything was good with the car. We fixed this morning’s problems and we were able to push this afternoon.” The German’s Suzuki was third fastest on the final two stages of the day.
Kevin Abbring hadn’t had the best of starts this morning, but his afternoon was much worse - he suffered a puncture on his Renault and dropped nine minutes, slipping from fifth to sixth. Simone Bertolotti was chief beneficiary, moving up to end the day fifth in his Swift.