Double Victory As Solans Wins Prize Drives In Sardinia

After winning the opening round in Corsica, Spain’s Nil Solans and Miki Ibanez took a second victory on this weekend’s Rally Italia Sardegna to extend their FIA Junior World Rally Championship lead and win the first two prize drives supplied by DMACK.

They drove a sensible rally in Sardinia, mixing both speed and consistency, winning by 46.1 seconds and claiming eight stage victories along the way. With wins on the first two rounds of the series, they were easy victors of the first two prize drives in next year’s WRC 2 championship and extend their Junior WRC lead to 20 points. Their 18th place in the overall standings also saw them take honours in the WRC 3 support series.

French pairing Nicolas Ciamin and Tibo de la Haye cemented their second position in the championship with second overall this weekend – repeating their result from Corsica. A change to their pacenote system allowed them to push harder and that resulted in four fastest stage times.

The final podium place was taken by Julius Tannert and Jurgen Heigl who put in their best performance so far to take a well-deserved third place. Tannert had a mistake-free weekend and controlled his pace from the very start to gain both gravel experience and a strong haul of championship points.

Terry Folb and Christopher Guieu also had a positive rally but they collided with a rock and punctured a tyre, dropping nearly three minutes and slipping back to fourth. Swedes Dennis Rådström and Johan Johansson were top Rookies as they delivered their best drive of the series so far – coming home in fifth and winning their first stage.

Rob Duggan and new co-driver Tom Woodburn retired on Friday after hitting a gate post but they show an improved pace to set four fastest times and finish sixth.

Rally Sardinia was an extremely positive event for the Junior competitors, who all took a clever approach to the challenge of the Mediterranean isle. One of the toughest rallies of the entire WRC calendar, the identical Ford Fiesta R2T rally cars withheld the battering from the rocks and ruts and were maintained expertly by M-Sport Poland all weekend.

Championship partners DMACK produced a specially reinforced version of their DMG+22 tyre in hard G23 compound – which coped remarkably with the conditions and suffered only one puncture across all nine cars.

Maciek Woda, M-Sport’s Junior WRC manager, said:

“Well done to Nil and Miki on another fantastic result – after two extremely positive rallies they really deserve the prize drives Every single competitor impressed me this weekend. They all adopted a clever and mature approach to this difficult rally and it really paid off.”

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:

“Rally Sardinia was always going to be a huge test for our tyres, but fortunately the reinforced version stood up exceptionally well to the rocky stages. Nil and Miki have done another great job, not only winning the first prizes but proving the performance of our tyres by taking a victory in WRC 3.”

Top-Three Driver Comments

Nil Solans: “It is amazing to take another win. We made no mistakes both here and Corsica even though it was a tough rally. I stuck to my strategy of not pushing too hard as I knew we needed to preserve the car and that worked perfectly. I wasn’t trying to push for stage wins but it was a bonus to take those extra eight points.”

Nicolas Ciamin: “We’ve had a good start to the season with two second places. I’m still building my experience on gravel so I’m very happy with this result on such a difficult rally. We went back to my previous pacenote system for this rally and that worked better for us so I was able to push a little harder.”

Julius Tannert: “I’m really happy with this result, especially on such a tough rally. The stages were difficult and a big challenge but we didn’t make any mistakes and concentrated on trying to protect the car as well. It has been a very good weekend and a boost for my confidence.”

Individual Competitor News

Sebastian Careaga / Rodrigo Sanjuan
Coming to Sardinia with a new co-driver in a bid to extend his WRC experience, Careaga got off to the worst possible start when a freak incident saw an engine sensor get knocked off, sideling him on the first main stage on Friday. The pair returned on Saturday to get as much mileage as possible and finished eighth despite catching a few cars along the way.

Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye
The French pair had a great event, scoring four fastest stage times and finishing second overall for the second rally in a row. After pacenote problems on their last event in Portugal, Ciamin moved back to a previous system and immediately felt more at ease. He concentrated on building his pace throughout the weekend, a strategy which worked well.

Robert Duggan / Tom Woodburn
With new co-driver Tom Woodburn, Duggan demonstrated a strong pace on the opening day of the event, taking two stage wins and climbing into third place. However, on stage seven he braked a little too late and collided with a gate post – damaging the rear beam on his car. He returned and upped his pace to score another two fastest times today.

Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu
After a podium on the first event in Corsica, the French pairing were chasing victory here in Sardinia. Their pace was strong all weekend and they managed to set two fastest times but a puncture on Saturday dropped them nearly three minutes and out of the podium places into fourth overall.

Miko Niinemäe / Martin Valter
The Estonians had another rally to forget. After a positive start, when they finished second and third on the first two main stages, they went off the road on stage seven and collided heavily with a tree. Even though the car was fully repaired for the following day, Niinemäe hurt his back and retired on Saturday as a precaution to seek medical attention.

Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson
Leading Junior WRC Rookies, Rådström and Johansson took on their first gravel WRC event and put in a strong showing, setting their first fastest stage time of the season. Their pace was both strong and consistent all weekend and they were rewarded with fifth and best Rookie finishers again.

Nil Solans / Miki Ibanez
Solans and Ibanez had the perfect rally, leading from start to finish and taking two wins from two events. They controlled the pace from the front and, despite taking a wrong turn at a junction on Saturday, set eight fastest times to extend their championship lead. They also won WRC3 and pick up two prize drives in 2018.

Julius Tannert / Jurgen Heigl
Tannert had focussed on a clean rally and stuck to the plan to finish third – his first podium and best result of the season. He tried to drive a little faster on Saturday but had a few moments and decided the safe option was best. He now goes to Poland with more experience on gravel and a confidence boost.

Dillon Van Way / Dai Roberts
Happy to be back on his preferred gravel surface, the USA driver and his British co-driver had a solid drive, gaining more experience of these tough WRC conditions. A damaged oil sump on Friday forced them to retire but they completed the rest of the event to gain valuable mileage.

Overall Classification

1. Nil Solans / Miguel Ibanez, 4h 00m 07.8s
2. Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye, 4h 00m 53.9s
3. Julius Tannert / Jurgen Heigl, 4h 03m 28.6s
4. Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu, 4h 04m 49.0s
5. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson, 4h 07m 04.9s
6. Robert Duggan / Tom Woodburn, 4h 16m 19.6s
8. Dillon Van Way / Dai Roberts, 4h 28m 15.4s
7. Sebastian Careaga / Rodrigo Sanjuan, 5h 11m 47.6s
-. Miko Niinemäe / Martin Valter, DNF

Championship Points After Round 2

1. Nil Solans / Miguel Ibanez 62
2. Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye 42
3. Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu 33
4. Julius Tannert / Jurgen Heigl 27
5. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson 21
6. Robert Duggan / Tom Woodburn 20
7. Sebastian Careaga / Rodrigo Sanjuan 10
7. Dillon Van Way / Dai Roberts 10
9. Miko Niinemäe / Martin Valter 2
10. William Wagner / Kevin Parent 0