Burkart dutifully restarted this morning, knowing full well that he needed some sort of drama to hit Hans Weijs Jr’s Citroen C2 S1600. But nobody really expected it. Certainly not the Dutchman.
Weijs Jr was focused on getting past long-time Junior leader and local ace Yeray Lemes. He managed that in the first run at the 42-kilometre El Priorat stage, when the leader suffered a puncture. “It’s really disappointing,” said Lemes. “We were going to push so hard to try to stay in the front. The puncture cost me two minutes, it’s not so nice. We will carry on, we want to finish the rally, we had so many retirements this season.”
Second place appeared to beckon for Lemes, with Weijs Jr now out front and controlling proceedings perfectly. Until the return to El Priorat, when the C2 cut out and remained silent. Weijs Jr could scarcely believe it. Almost within sight of the finish, his nightmare had come true. The crank sensor had failed in the car. He managed to replace it, but 13 minutes had passed.
And so had Burkart. Understandably, things went a little bit loopy inside the Suzuki. “I can’t believe it!” he said at the end of the stage. “It’s incredible. I saw Hans in there, everything was going mad in my mind. In the end, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. That’s a very bad saying, but it’s true. Of course at the moment, it’s crazy. It’s for me, it’s amazing. It’s a crazy weekend. We crash the car on Monday [in the test], the guys have a lot of work to do and then we retire on Saturday. It’s been a crazy weekend.”
Weijs Jr could hardly find the words to describe his feelings. He said: “I just had to fix the car, the sensor and drive. I did my best to keep the car running. Now, it’s like this. I just hope somebody will invest in me for next season.”
The results for this event will reveal a Lemes win by five minutes from Todor Slavov’s Renault, with Weijs Jr third and Burkart fourth. But those results will not nearly tell the incredible tale of the rally.
Lemes was an emotional winner, saying: “This is a fantastic result for me. It’s been a long year, but I have learned so much. I am sorry for Hans [Weijs Jr] and congratulations to Aaron [Burkart]. What a rally!” What a rally indeed.