This time yesterday, Czech driver Martin Semerad was eyeing a possible podium in the Production Car World Rally Championship. Now he will start the final day defending a category lead of 4m32.7s.
The drama started late last night, when yesterday afternoon’s pacesetter Patrik Flodin fell foul of the regulations and was excluded for using the wrong wheel rims on his Subaru Impreza.
The Uspenskiy Rally Tecnica team, which runs him, claimed an honest mistake, but exclusion was the heart-breaking verdict for last season’s PWRC title runner-up, who had been looking forward to continuing his big attack into today.
Anders Grondal had led the PWRC event from the start and was readying himself to defend his position from Flodin. His mindset had to change considerably when he started the morning’s opener in Lesjofors with more than four minutes in hand.
With that kind of advantage, Grondal was taking no chances - yet still taking big chunks of time out of the rest. Unfortunately for the Norwegian, his hopes of starting his season with what looked to be a fairly predictable dream result expired on his way out of service after lunch when his Impreza’s engine failed.
Having started day two in fourth, Semerad now led after Dmitry Tagirov lost nine minutes with an off on Saturday’s opening test. “It taught me an excellent lesson,” was the Russian’s pragmatic view on leaving the road.
There were no such problems for Semerad, however, as he completed the day-closing supespecial in Karlstad with a comfortable margin over Ukrainians Yuriy Protasov and Velriy Gorban, in second and third places respectively, in his Mitsubishi Lancer.
“Victory has fallen from the sky into my hands and I’m not going to let it fly away,” said Semerad. “It’s like a vacation for me now but I have to take care all of the time. In each stage, I am driving to make the finish.”
Semerad’s first Production Car World Rally Championship is potentially just a day away and the Prague driver is determined not to make any mistakes in what has already been an action-packed opening event.
While Protasov is comfortable in second place in his Mitsubishi, Gorban’s margin over Peruvian champion Nicolas Fuchs is a mere 1.7s. Fuchs actually led Gorban after 15 stages but Gorban was faster in the superspecial and therefore moved back ahead of Fuchs, who is competing on snow for the first time.
Italian veteran Gianluca Linari is fifth in his Impreza, with the recovering Tagirov keeping his similar machine intact for the rest of the day following his incident on the first Lesjofors test, in sixth place.