Sun 20 Aug 2023

Schulz supreme for maiden Junior ERC victory

Timo Schulz has made it four different winners in this season’s Hankook-equipped FIA Junior ERC Championship with a breakthrough triumph on Barum Czech Rally Zlín.

Driving an Opel Corsa Rally4 for the ADAC Opel Rally Junior Team, Schulz took the lead on Saturday’s opening stage, went unbeaten throughout the day in terms of stage wins, then calmy managed his overnight advantage to the finish.

With Michael Wenzel co-driving, Schulz came home with a winning margin of 1min 15.2sec over Austrian Fabian Zeiringer, with Robert Daprà completing the podium after the ACI Team Italia driver battled back from brake issues on leg one and a powersteering fault this morning.

“We are just super-happy to take the victory here after all the problems we had in the first three rallies of the year,” said Schulz. “Now the season is really good for us with P2 in Rome and the perfect rally here. I have to say thanks to Opel Motorsport. They are so behind me, trusting me and helping me with everything. It’s the perfect teamwork.”

Having won six of the seven stages on leg one, Schulz bagged four more fastest times on leg two to underline his dominance.

Although he didn’t quite register a stage win, ex-ski racer Zeiringer’s capture of second place in another Opel Corsa marked his best Junior ERC finish to date.

“The goal before the weekend was around top five so second place is awesome but the maximum we could get this weekend because Timo was just on another level,” Zeiringer said. “I feel sorry for Max [McRae] because it would have been a great battle with him on the final stage.”

Max McRae had been second with two stages to go but a broken wheel on the penultimate stage forced the Scot to retire. The Racing Factory driver’s misfortune promoted Zeiringer into second and Daprà to third.

Daprà moves into second place in the provisional championship standings, which fourth-placed finisher Norbert Maior now leads, albeit by a slender four-point gap. Ola Nore, who had topped the table after four rounds, was a non-starter in Zlín due to funding issues.

“We are very happy with third place because it’s very important points for the championship,” said Daprà, the category winner on the last round in Rome. “We had problems yesterday with the brakes but the team fixed it. We started his morning very nice with a stage win but after we had to make a reverse [on SS9] and then we broke the powersteering and lost a lot of time. Now everything will be decided in Hungary.”

Mille Johansson should have finished in the top five but the Ford Fiesta Rally4-powered teenager hit trouble on the penultimate stage, which let in his fellow Swede, Victor Hansen, to finish fifth ahead of Mattia Zanin and Aoife Raftery. Mark Škulj retired his Opel Corsa with a broken driveshaft after SS8.

Rally Hungary hosts the FIA Junior ERC Championship finale from 6 - 8 October.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM