Battle for Pirelli-equipped ERC Junior title hots up in Ypres
|Griebel on his way to a first ERC Junior victory|
A first European Junior Championship victory for Germany’s Marijan Griebel in Ypres has intensified the battle for the title as the series reaches its halfway point. The Pirelli-equipped Opel Adam R2 driver had to fight hard for his win though: at one point on the final day, his advantage over second-placed Chris Ingram in a similar car (the championship leader) was just one second. “I’m delighted with the win, which keeps the championship alive,” said Griebel. “It was essential for us to win here. The car and the tyres were perfect, which meant that we could push really hard.” This was despite the hazards that Ypres has become famous for: slippery and dirty roads (caused by cars cutting the 90-degree corners) as well as changeable weather conditions and obstacles such as kerbs and ditches. The Junior drivers all used Pirelli’s P Zero RK5 tyre: a medium compound that worked well under a wide range of conditions and temperatures, going from bright sunshine to cool temperatures during the night stages. The tyres also proved to be remarkably tough. Punctures are a common occurrence in Ypres due to the corner-cutting and the many obstacles to hit, but despite a few impacts, all the Pirelli runners survived with their tyres unscathed. Unfortunately, it was mechanical problems that caused an end to Alexey Lukyanuk’s rally, with the Pirelli-equipped Russian hoping to reel in the 15-point deficit that separates him from overall championship leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz. But with Kajetanowicz deciding not to contest the Ypres Rally, to prepare for his home WRC round in Poland next week, the status quo at the top of the championship remains, with Pirelli first and second. The P Zero RK5 tyre that proved so successful in the hands of Griebel was actually originally developed for the World Rally Championship, with a single pattern to cover an ample range of asphalt conditions. Consquently, versatility and strength are two of its strongest assets, as was clearly seen at the ever-popular Ypres Rally. Pirelli also won the ERC2 class for Group N cars, thanks to a first victory for Italian driver Giacomo Scattolon in Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Pirelli’s rally activity manager Terenzio Testoni concluded: “Ypres was as tough and varied as we expected it to be for the tyres, but the P Zero RK5 performed brilliantly to enable a fierce fight for victory in the Junior category, with all the young drivers pushing to the maximum on an unforgiving rally to maximise their chances of the championship title. It was a pity that Alexey was denied the chance to push for a win on his Ypres debut: having seen how he drove to victory on his debut in the Canaries on asphalt this year, there’s no doubt that he could have been a top contender. However, Pirelli drivers continue to lead every class in the championship, so we’re looking forward to a strong finish to the series.” The next round of the FIA European Rally Championship is Rally Estonia, which takes place on gravel from 15-17 July.
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