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Solans And Ibanez Crowned Champions On Home Event

It was a dream home rally for Spain’s Nil Solans and Miki Ibanez as they were crowned 2017 FIA Junior WRC Champions* on Rally RACC – Rally de España today. After a season-long battle, they mastered the mixed-surface, final-round decider to take the Junior WRC championship alongside the WRC 3 title already secured on the last event in Germany.

They sealed victory by one minute 33 seconds, their fourth win of the season, and in doing so won the final pair of prize drives provided by championship partner DMACK. The extra prize event for championship victory means they have secured a full season of seven rounds in WRC 2 next year, in a M-Sport-prepared Ford Fiesta R5.

The final event in the six-round championship was a deciding duel between Solans and Frenchman Nicolas Ciamin. Ciamin and co-driver Tibo de la Haye had an outside shot at the title and won half of Friday’s opening gravel stages to hold a 22-second overnight advantage.

However, they went off the road on stage 11 and suffered damage to the suspension of their Fiesta R2T – forcing them to retire for the day. They returned today to take fifth and finish runners-up in the championship standings.

Second in Spain were Terry Folb and Christopher Guieu, finishing the season on a high with a consistent front-running pace to end up on the podium with their best result of the year.

German Julius Tannert with Austrian co-driver Jurgen Heigl, winners of the previous round, were third after a relatively strong drive. They battled some final day issues, including a broken windscreen and intermittent brakes to take the final podium spot.

Early day-one leaders Dennis Rådström and Johan Johansson from Sweden were fastest out of the blocks after winning the opening stage, but they crashed on Friday with a heavy impact damaging their Ford Fiesta R2T. The pair came back to complete all the asphalt stages and win the Rookie championship.

It was also a successful event for WRC journalist Reiner Kuhn. He and Ella Kremer were competing alongside the Junior crews to chart their experience over a tough weekend of rallying on dual surfaces.

Rally de España was the only mixed-surface round of the series. On Friday, crews used DMACK DMG+22 gravel tyres on six abrasive stages west of host town Salou. Then M-Sport technicians transformed the cars to Tarmac specification during an extended service on

Friday night before two full days of asphalt action on the fast, flowing stages.

That meant swapping to DMT-RC2 Tarmac tyres which performed well on the tricky Spanish roads, where drivers had to contend with many corners covered in gravel from cutting to find the fastest line.

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

“It has been a great season with many ups and downs. Congratulations to all crews who completed Junior WRC this year as everyone showed their strengths over different rallies and stages.

“The biggest congratulations go to Nil and Miki who have mastered the challenge. They won the Junior WRC title, secured the WRC 3 Championship and won the full prize of seven rallies in a M-Sport-run Fiesta R5 next season. This is for sure one of the strongest performances we have seen for a few years.

“I would like to say thank you to all competitors and wish them all the best for next year. I hope that with the refreshed calendar starting in Sweden, we will have an even better Championship next year.”

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:

“It has been another exciting end to a competitive season. Nil has shone though on both surfaces and his experience has helped his championship drive. We look forward to working with him and Miki on their prize drives next year.”

Top-Three Driver Comments

Nil Solans: “We’ve had a wonderful weekend, it couldn’t really have gone any better. We had two jobs here this weekend, the first was to take the Junior WRC title and the second was to try and secure the final prize drives. I was confident we could do both as it is my home rally and we’ve been fast here before. I want to thank everyone for the support we have had this weekend.”

Terry Folb: “This has been one of our best rallies of the season. We didn’t try to push flat out but kept a sensible pace all weekend. It was always going to be difficult to beat Nil on his home stages but second place is a very good result for us to end the season off with.”

Julius Tannert: “I’m pleased with another podium on such a tricky rally. The stages are difficult and it’s easy to make a mistake but we came here to get more experience and to improve our pace a little more. We’ve had a good season and nice to finish it off on the podium.”

 

Individual Competitor News

Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye

The French pair had an outside shot at the title and went for it. They led until half-way before going off the road and damaging their rear suspension on Saturday. With their championship hopes dashed, they returned today to score three stage wins and finish as championship runners-up.

Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu

Folb and Guieu put a disappointing season behind them with a strong drive all weekend. They controlled their pace and overcame some small problems to secure a strong second place. They were aware how difficult the stages can be here and didn’t take a completely flat-out approach.”

Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson

The Swedes returned after missing Germany to have a push on gravel and gain more experience on asphalt. They went all out from the start, winning the first stage and taking an early lead on Friday. But their pace was a little too hot and they retired with broken steering after going off the road on the final stage. However, they did win the Rookie championship.

Nil Solans / Miki Ibanez

After coming to the rally with a healthy championship lead, Solans drove another clever rally – sealing the 2017 championship for himself and co-driver Ibanez by the first stage on Saturday morning. They went on to win their fourth round of the season and secure all seven WRC 2 prize events for next season – rounding off a perfect weekend.

Julius Tannert / Jurgen Heigl

After winning in Germany, Tannert and Heigl started the gravel stages slowly, aiming to improve their pace on the loose. They held fourth after day one and climbed up to third by the end of the event.

Reiner Kuhn / Ella Kremer

Competing as a guest entry alongside the Junior regulars, well-known WRC journalist Reiner Kuhn took to the stages to see what life was really like for our Junior stars. After a cautious start on gravel, Kuhn and co-driver Kremer picked up the pace on Tarmac and reached their aim of getting safety to the finish.

 

Overall Classification

1. Nil Solans / Miguel Ibanez, 3h 29m 02.3s
2. Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu, 3h 30m 35.4s
3. Julius Tannert / Jurgen Heigl, 3h 33m 48.5s
4. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson, 3h 48m 00.9s
5. Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye, 3h 49m 27.6s
Final Championship Points after round 6
1. Nil Solans / Miguel Ibanez 158
2. Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye 125
3. Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu 92
4. Julius Tannert / Jurgen Heigl 80
5. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson 77
6. Dillon Van Way / Dai Roberts 28
7. Robert Duggan / Tom Woodburn 20
8. Sebastian Careaga / Rodrigo Sanjuan 16
9. Emil Lindholm / Tomi Tuominen 6
10. Miko Niinemäe / Martin Valter 2
11. William Wagner / Kevin Parent 0

 


*subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA.