Winner at the last round in Portugal, Stéphane Lefebvre secured a second consecutive victory as he prevailed on the stages of Rally Poland.In a Citroën DS3 R3, the young French driver was joined on the podium by the Briton Alastair Fisher and another Frenchman, Quentin Giordano.In the FIA Junior WRC, Stéphane Lefebvre now has a 22-point lead over Christian Riedemann. Martin Koci lies third, a point behind the German. Eleven Citroën DS3 R3s lined up at the start of Rally Poland, the second round of the 2014 FIA Junior WRC, for which Citroën Racing is the exclusive supplier.
Right from the word go, on Thursday’s opening stages in Mikolajki, the championship leader looked to be in impressive form. Stéphane Lefebvre won all of the first three stages to head back to the service park with a lead of almost ten seconds over Martin Koci, Simone Tempestini and Alastair Fisher.
When the action switched to Lithuania, Stéphane Lefebvre maintained his strong pace. He collected another two fastest times before Simone Tempestini finally managed to bring his run of stage wins to an end. After two stages were cancelled by the Rally Organisers who felt the road conditions were too dangerous, the crews headed back to Poland. At that point, Stéphane Lefebvre held a 21.9-second lead over Simone Tempestini. Martin Koci, Alastair Fisher and Christian Riedemann were within a minute of the leader.
On Saturday, Simone Tempestini, Federico Della Casa and Panikos Polykarpou went off. Alastair Fisher set two consecutive fastest times to move into second place in the overall standings, ahead of Christian Riedemann and Quentin Giordano. Martin Koci lost two minutes when he twisted the rear axle of his car.
Alastair Fisher, Stéphane Lefebvre and Quentin Giordano produced the top performances on the second runs, taking a stage win apiece. Stéphane Lefebvre was already over two minutes ahead of Alastair Fisher by the end of day two. After suffering a breakdown on the super special stage, Christian Riedemann lost third place to Quentin Giordano, whilst fourth-placed Martin Koci, 25.2 seconds further back, still had his sights set on a podium finish.
On Sunday, Stéphane Lefebvre controlled from the front to take victory ahead of Alastair Fisher and Quentin Giordano. A broken suspension meant Martin Koci had to be content with fourth place, followed by Christian Riedemann, Kornel Lukacs, Aron Domzala, Molly Taylor and Federico Della Casa, who had all had to rejoin under Rally 2 rules.
The eleven crews were all able to monitor the progress of Sébastien Chardonnet. Winner of last season’s Citroën Top Driver series, the Frenchman has been handed a WRC2 programme in a Citroën DS3 R5 this season. Runner-up in Sardinia, he showed his skills in his first appearance at Rally Poland. Caught out on day two when he was running in fourth position in the WRC2, he nonetheless finished the rally, adding to his experience.
QUOTESStéphane Lefebvre: “It’s very pleasing to win our second consecutive rally with the Citroën DS3 R3. We didn’t take any risks. You just had to drive as cleanly as possible. We managed to be very consistent and I was sometimes surprised by how good my times were. It was a long and difficult rally. This win is important for the rest of the season.”
Alastair Fisher: “We made a cautious start to the rally. We really had to avoid making any mistakes after our retirement in Portugal. I upped my pace on Saturday. And although we picked up a puncture, we were able to stay among the frontrunners. Second place is a good result. We needed to build our confidence back up before heading to Finland. I should be able to use my experience at the next round.”
Quentin Giordano: “It was almost as if we had two separate rallies. Everything changed when we altered the set-up of our Citroën DS3 R3 half-way through Saturday’s leg. I felt much more comfortable. I was able to drive faster with a greater safety margin. I must congratulate and thank my team and my co-driver for this great podium finish. I couldn’t total relax at the end of the rally, but we were able to hang in there with a couple of stage wins. This is only my second event in the Junior WRC. Finishing on the podium is a great result.”
Marek Nawarecki (Customer Racing Manager at Citroën Racing): “This second event of the Junior WRC proved to be very demanding. The majority of the crews had never competed at this rally before. Stéphane Lefebvre took his second win, ahead of Alastair Fisher and Quentin Giordano. The next round in Finland will also be important for the development of our young drivers. The experience acquired in Poland should be useful for them. We must also mention the fine performance of Sébastien Chardonnet in the Citroën DS3 R5. If he hadn’t had the overrun that prevented him from completing the second leg, he would have undoubtedly been close to securing another podium finish. He has learned a lot and has worked on the set-up. It augurs well for the rest of the season and beyond, and it’s certainly motivating for the Junior WRC drivers who are competing for a drive in the Citroën DS3 R5 next year!”
FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS1. Stéphane Lefebvre / Thomas Dubois 2:58:25.32. Alastair Fisher / Gordon Noble +2:13.33. Quentin Giordano / Guillaume Duval +3:25.94. Martin Koci / Lukas Kostka +4:52.55. Christian Riedemann / Lara Vanneste +12:16.16. Kornel Lukacs / Marc Mesterhazi +17:22.67. Aron Domzala / Przemyslaw Zawada +25:26.58. Molly Taylor / Sebastian Marshall +38:10.39. Federico Della Casa / Domenico Pozzi +49:54.9
Stéphane Lefebvre, 14 – Alastair Fisher, 3 – Quentin Giordano, 2 – Simone Tempestini, 1 (two stages cancelled)
SS1 to SS24 (finish): Stéphane Lefebvre
FIA JUNIOR WRC STANDINGS (2/6)1. Stéphane Lefebvre 50 points2. Christian Riedemann 28 points3. Martin Koci 27 points4. Alastair Fisher 18 points5. Quentin Giordano 16 points6. Federico Della Casa 14 points7. Simone Campedelli 10 points8. Simone Tempestini, Kornel Lukacs and Molly Taylor 8 points11. Jan Cerny and Aron Domzala 6 points13. Panikos Polykarpou 2 points
NATIONS TROPHY1 France 40 points
2 Germany 28 points
3 Slovakia 27 points
4 United Kingdom 18 points
5 Switzerland 14 points
6 Italy 10 points
7 Romania, Hungary and Australia 8 points
10 Czech Republic and Poland 6 points
12 Cyprus 2 points