Eric Camilli put in a cautious final day performance to secure his maiden WRC2 victory at Rally Deutschland, while a podium for Pontus Tidemand was enough to secure the WRC2 title.
Camilli took a steady approach to the final day, having inherited first position late on Saturday after a puncture for long time class leader Jan Kopecký.
Kopecký won two of the final day’s four stages, cutting the deficit to 48.1 seconds by the finish, far less than the minute and a half lost on the previous day from his puncture in Panzerplatte.
All eyes were on third place however, with Tidemand taking a safety-first approach to secure a podium which would mathematically guarantee him the WRC2 Championship title.
Like his Škoda team-mate, the Swede also suffered a puncture in Panzerplatte on Saturday, and was unconcerned with losing over half a minute to Kopecký in the last four stages of the rally. His focus had been entirely on securing the championship.
“It’s amazing for me and for the team,” he said at the finish line of the last stage. “We worked very hard this year and the team has given me a very good car. It’s been a perfect season with no technical problems.
“A big thanks to Jonas [Andersson, co-driver], always a perfect job, and all the team and engineers. I cannot get better support. We need to enjoy when we are in the final finish!”
Gus Greensmith had started the day in fourth place, but tragically lost what would have potentially been his best result of the season when radiator damage to his Fiesta R5 forced the Brit to retire.
Quentin Gilbert and Teemu Suninen were engaged in a fight for fourth as a consequence of Greensmith’s retirement. Suninen swiped fourth away from Gilbert with a stage win in the morning’s opening test, but fell back to seventh in the following stage, running wide in a muddy corner and getting stuck for over a minute trying to recover.
Behind Gilbert was fellow countryman Pierre-Louis Loubet, who was relieved to make the finish in fifth place after a sideways moment in Sunday’s opening stage. Flat out in fifth gear, the Frenchman described it as “the biggest moment of my life”.
Loubet had been forced to push by Simone Tempestini, who had started the day 0.4 seconds ahead. He jumped into fifth through the opening test, extended his lead in the first running of St Wendeler Land, and then fell back towards the Italian-Romanian driver in the final pair of stages, ensuring Tempestini stayed in sixth by only 1.9 seconds by the finish.
Suninen held seventh following his earlier mistake, ahead of WRC2 newcomer Marijan Griebel. The local driver – whose home town is only 16 kilometres from the rally base in Bostalsee – had initially been competing for a top five finish, but a crash on the previous day in the treacherous Panzerplatte stage set him back several minutes and forced him to settle for eighth.
Thanks in part to the high attrition during Saturday’s punishing Panzerplatte tests, Benito Guerra moved into ninth by the rally’s end. He finished a minute ahead of a tight battle for the final point, with Emil Bergkvist snatching tenth away from Bernhard Ten Brinke in the penultimate stage. He had pulled closer in the morning’s first test despite running wide and taking a trip through a field.
Jon Armstrong picked up the consolation prize of a stage win in his R5 category debut. The Brit had retired on Friday after brake failure caused him to crash out on stage six, but returned with more confidence and pace on Sunday on his way to 14th place overall.
|1.||Eric Camilli||M-Sport World Rally Team||3:08:16.0|
|2.||Jan Kopecký||Škoda Motorsport||+48.1|
|3.||Pontus Tidemand||Škoda Motorsport||+1:50.7|
|4.||Quentin Gilbert||Quentin Gilbert||+3:03.4|
|5.||Pierre-Louis Loubet||Pierre-Louis Loubet||+3:48.9|
|6.||Simone Tempestini||Gekon Racing||+3:50.8|
|7.||Teemu Suninen||M-Sport World Rally Team||+4:17.2|
|8.||Marijan Griebel||BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Race Team||+4:45.5|
|9.||Benito Guerra||Motorsport Italia SRL||+6:09.5|
|10.||Emil Bergkvist||Emil Bergkvist||+7:04.9|