- Opel teams dominate fourth round of FIA ERC Junior
- Three ADAM R2 winners – Aleks Zawada ahead of Marijan Griebel and Julius Tannert
- Bad luck costs Opel works drivers Griebel and Bergkvist near certain victory
|Marijan Griebel, Stefan Clemens, Cathy Derousseaux, Aleks Zawada, Julius Tannert and Jennifer Thielen (from left to right) celebrate the Opel one-two-three at the Ypres Rallye.|
Opel reinforced its strong position in the FIA ERC Junior at the Kenotek Ypres Rallye in West Flanders, Belgium. Pole Aleks Zawada and his French co-driver Cathy Derousseaux celebrated their first victory in their customer Opel ADAM R2, ahead of German Opel works drivers Marijan Griebel/Stefan Clemens from the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team and Julius Tannert and his Luxembourgian co-driver Jennifer Thielen in another customer Opel ADAM R2. Three of this year‘s four season victories in the FIA ERC Junior have now gone to the brand with the blitz!
“A fantastic day, a fantastic car, a fantastic rallye,” said an elated Zawada, who seemed to be out of the running for victory at the beginning of the second day after his 190 hp front-wheel drive car was stuck in a ditch for a minute after a harmless spin. But the Polish-French team did not give up, fought their way back and ultimately also benefitted from their competitors’ back luck. “Luck also plays a role, and the score is settled at the very end,” said Zawada. “I am really sorry for Emil and Marijan. Both deserved to win. But I am overjoyed that our efforts resulted in victory.”
The Opel works drivers Emil Bergkvist and Marijan Griebel battled for the lead from the first kilometer before both were impeded by mishaps. First Bergkvist had to retire his Opel ADAM R2 in the twelfth of seventeen stages with an engine problem. And then Griebel, who went into the last stage with a 36-second lead, suffered a left rear puncture shortly before the finish line. The 26-year-old from Hahnweiler still managed to take his Opel ADAM R2 across the finish line on one rim, but the time loss of nearly one minute sent him and his co-driver Stefan Clemens (28, from Thailen) to second place behind Zawada.
|Bad luck strikes: Opel factory driver Marijan Griebel was leading until a damaged tire on the last stage of the Ypres Rallye saw him drop to second.|
Griebel was understandably frustrated: “After a few days, I’ll probably be able to be pleased with our good performance and Opel Motorsport’s superior showing in this magnificent setting in front of thousands of excited spectators here in Ypres. But right now disappointment is the overwhelming feeling. Opel’s triple victory clearly proves that especially on asphalt, ADAM R2 currently sets the benchmark in its class. So we’re going into the last two FIA ERC Junior events in Estonia and the Czech Republic with a lot of self-confidence.”
|Lead defending: Opel factory driver Emil Bergkvist defended first place in the FIA ERC Junior despite having to retire from the Ypres Rallye.|
Swede Bergkvist (21, from Torsaker), who together with his co-driver Joakim Sjöberg (29, from Ösmo) won the first two FIA ERC Junior rounds in Latvia and Ireland, was disappointed but composed. “We had absolutely everything we needed to win here today. But things like this happen in motorsports, and there is no one I can blame for it. To be honest, I’d rather fight to win and have to pull out because of bad luck than be too slow and finish fourth. And we still have the best shot at the FIA ERC Junior championship.”
Indeed, the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team’s position in the FIA ERC Junior is still excellent. As only four of six rallye results are taken into consideration for the final points tally, Bergkvist’s withdrawal in Ypres could be a void result. And as his two toughest pursuers also failed to finish the race, he even increased his lead in the ranking after four rounds by two to 26 points. Griebel’s second-place finish put him in third place in the overall standings. He is currently 43 points behind his team colleague Bergkvist.
Opel Motorsport Director Jörg Schrott commented on his charges’ results with mixed feelings: “Today two hearts beat in my chest. We celebrated a fantastic result for Opel that proves that our customer ADAM R2s are just as powerful as both works cars. I really feel for Emil and Marijan. Both gave a fantastic performance that deserved a victory. Marijan really had everything under control until the last stage. But I’m also happy for Aleks and Julius, who showed that they are capable of keeping up with the fast pace at the top of the FIA ERC Junior. Overall the performance of the Opel ADAM R2 was extremely good. And we are of course happy to go into the races in Estonia and the Czech Republic knowing this.”