Rd.1 Rally Ireland

  • Country : Ireland
  • Date : 29/1-2/1/2/2009
  • Road surface : tarmac
  • Total distance : 1405.99km

EVENT REPORT

Success for Burkart and Suzuki on opening round of 2009 JWRC!

Suzuki has proved to be the most successful manufacturer on the opening round of the 2009 Junior World Rally Championship in Ireland, thanks to a comfortable win for German driver Aaron Burkart, driving a Suzuki Swift Super 1600. As well as claiming victory on the season-opener, Suzuki also finished third and fourth in the class thanks to the Swift Super 1600s of Simone Bertolotti and Yoann Bonato.

This ensures that Suzuki driver Burkart now has the lead of the title race heading into the next round of the Junior World Rally Championship: the Cyprus Rally from March 13-15, which in an innovative break from recent tradition is run on both gravel and asphalt.

About Rally Ireland:

Rally Ireland was run as the very first event of the 2009 Junior World Rally Championship, featuring stages both in Northern Ireland (which belongs to the United Kingdom) and also the Republic of Ireland (which is an independent state). It was the first time in the 30-year history of the World Rally Championship that the series had started anywhere other than in Monte Carlo. Rally Ireland is based in the town of Sligo, to the north-west of the island, near the Atlantic coast. Ireland features fast and bumpy narrow asphalt stages, which are highly specialised. Adding to the challenge are uncertain weather conditions, with heavy rain a common feature of the climate and plenty of mud and gravel on the road. This year’s event was no exception, with major downpours over the opening two days making conditions even more treacherous than usual. The action took in 19 all-asphalt special stages totalling 366.75 competitive kilometres.

Suzuki entries on Rally Ireland:

Four Suzukis took the ceremonial start of Rally Ireland, from Enniskillen town centre on Thursday night. There were three Suzuki Swift Super 1600s, for Aaron Burkart/Michael Kolbach (number 31), Simone Bertolotti/Luca Celestini (number 33) and Yoann Bonato/Benjamin Boulloud (number 35). In addition, there was a Group N Suzuki Swift Sport for local crew Ross Forde/Arron Forde (number 60).

Aaron Burkart
News from Aaron Burkart (D)
  • Born 20 September 1982
  • Co-driver: Michael Kolbach (D)

Burkart had a fault-free rally on his first World Championship event at the wheel of the Suzuki Swift Super 1600. Despite the atrocious conditions, he made the correct tyre choices throughout all three days and his Suzuki Sport Europe-run Swift S1600 enjoyed perfect reliability to claim a memorable victory. He ended an exciting opening day just 1.9 seconds off the class lead, and then went in front at the end of day two. On the final day, he was able to control his pace all the way to the finish.

“I never expected to win such a tricky event, and I’m absolutely delighted. I drove on the Galway International Rally in Ireland with the Swift S1600 recently in order to gain experience of the car and the conditions, so I had some idea of what to expect. The biggest difficulty was coping with all the standing water – sometimes the car was completely out of control – but I have to say that the Swift is really stable under these difficult conditions and it always gives the driver a lot of confidence.”

Simone Bertolotti
News from Simone Bertolotti (I)
  • Born 4 May 1985
  • Co-driver: Luca Celestini (I)

Bertolotti’s only setback on his first experience of Rally Ireland was a couple of punctures that cost him time but fortunately not too many places. Even though he had no familiarity with driving in torrential rain, he steered a sensible course to record his best-ever finish in the Junior World Rally Championship. By the end of the opening day he was already fourth and he gradually improved his speed over the remaining two days to claim the final JWRC podium place, having enjoyed perfect reliability.

“I’m very happy. I liked the rally a lot, even though it was one of the most difficult events I have ever contested. Together with my co-driver I concentrated on keeping my driving clean and steering clear of trouble. This tactic worked well and the result is my very first podium, which is fantastic both for me and for Suzuki. Now we have to keep working hard on our speed and make sure that we keep improving. We still have a lot to learn and there is plenty more to come.”

Yoann Bonato
News from Yoann Bonato (F)
  • Born 13 May 1983
  • Co-driver: Benjamin Boulloud (F)

Bonato is the reigning FFSA Suzuki Rallye Cup winner, but this was his first Junior World Rally Championship event at the wheel of the Suzuki Swift Super 1600. The talented Frenchman suffered a setback on the opening afternoon of the rally, when he skated off the slippery road and lost some time. As he tried to regain the stage, his car got stuck in a ditch. Nonetheless, Bonato showed some impressive speed, winning a stage and climbing as high as second overall on the opening morning.

“It’s not been a completely perfect rally for us, but in the end we have finished fourth and taken some good points so it’s not so bad. In this championship, scoring points is the main thing. On the last day I was feeling ill, so we just had a quiet finish to the rally. It’s a pity that we lost time on the opening day: when we went off we thought that there would be a quick way to get back on the road, but unfortunately our car got stuck in a ditch. I’ve got a good feeling with the Swift now, which is very important.”

2009 JWRC Rd.1 : Rally Ireland, final results
Pos. No. Driver Car Total Time Diff 1st
1 31 A. BURKART Suzuki Swift Super 1600 3:16:41.5 0.0
2 38 M. PROKOP Citroen C2 S1600 3:17:28.8 +47.3
3 33 S. BERTOLOTTI Suzuki Swift Super 1600 3:25:41.6 +9:00.1
4 35 Y. BONATO Suzuki Swift Super 1600 3:29:47.7 +13:06.2
5 37 K. ABBRING Renault Clio R3 3:34:19.5 +17:38.0
6 34 L. GRIOTTI Renault Clio R3 3:43:49.9 +27:08.4
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