Winning the five stages Lemes missed out on has helped Hans Weijs Jr slash the Spaniard’s lead from 44.9 seconds to 14 seconds going into the third and final day of the Salou-based event. As expected, once the event hit the Catalan asphalt, Weijs Jr found an extra gear in his Citroen C2 Super 1600 and the Dutchman was on inspired form.
The morning’s big news, however, was the demise of Aaron Burkart. Coming into this event, Burkart was seven points ahead in the championship, but his hopes of taking a maiden J-WRC title hang by a thread after he went off the road at the end of the opening stage.
The German Suzuki driver was within sight of the finish of the Santa Marina test when a front wheel came off his Swift, leaving him powerless to stop the car ploughing off the road and down the bank. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I pulled the handbrake to try and get through the corner, but nothing. I didn’t hit anything. Okay, there were some big cuts in the stage, but I didn’t do anything differently, I didn’t hit the rock or anything like that. I’m so disappointed with this. It’s terrible.”
Burkart is expected to restart tomorrow’s final day, but he will start in sixth place, while his main title rival Weijs Jr battles for the lead.
Weijs Jr said Burkart’s problems would not alter his approach. “I have a plan for this rally and the plan is simple: to win,” he said. “I guess there might be more pressure now, but I can’t feel it. I’m not going to do anything differently, we’re just going to keep on pushing for the victory; we have to. If we get a puncture or anything, this could be lost. He [Yeray Lemes] is feeling the pressure for sure.”
After a day of being hunted down, Lemes looked fairly relaxed. “It’s a big fight,” he said, “but maybe I should be running in the Historic category - this car was first used in 2004!”
Lemes’ only problem came when he slid off the road momentarily on the day’s second test, but since then he’s been pushing his tired old Renault as hard as he can to try and stem the time loss to Weijs Jr - the stage win in SS10 earned him 2.5 back.
Todor Slavov moved up to third after Burkart went out. The Bulgarian’s progress was steady throughout Saturday, but an electrical glitch with his Renault Clio didn’t help matters.