The battle for victory on the Prime Yalta Rally is tightly poised following the opening two stages in
Ukraines Crimea region today (Thursday). Thierry Neuville, driving a Team Peugeot Belgium-
Luxembourg 207 Super 2000, leads overall with Guy Wilks, in a Peugeot UK 207, just 0.1s behind
heading into Fridays six stages.
Day one of the all-asphalt Intercontinental Rally Challenge qualifier consisted of two short stages
close to the rally base in Yalta. Held in warm and dry conditions, the tests were considered a
taster of the action expected tomorrow when the rally begins in earnest with demanding stages
characterised by their bumpy nature and inconsistent surface.
Early leader Neuville began the event on a high following his victory on the previous IRC round in
Corsica. Considered a favourite for a second win in Ukraine by many of his rivals, Neuville
underlined his billing by winning the rallys first stage, a 2.12-kilometre sprint.
Although he was beaten on the next stage by Wilks, whose 207 S2000 is run by the same Kronos
Racing operation from Namur in Belgium, Neuville was second quickest to maintain a slender
advantage at the completion of Thursdays opening exchanges.
Behind the pacesetting Peugeots, Patrik Sandell heads the Skoda challenge in his Skoda Swedenbacked
Fabia in third place. The Swede has vowed to make up for his lacklustre showing in
Corsica and impressed with the second quickest run through the first stage.
Andreas Mikkelsen is fourth overnight in his Skoda UK Motorsport entered Fabia with Toni
Gardemeister completing the top five in his TGS Worldwide-entered Skoda. Mikkelsen said his
pace was compromised slightly by his decision to carry two spare tyres to counter the possibility of
rain. Gardemeister was one of the few drivers who managed to test in Ukraine before the rally and
was buoyed by his upturn in form following changes to his cars rear differential and damper
Bryan Bouffier is sixth after two stages in his Peugeot France 207 with Jan Kopecky seventh in the
lead Skoda Motorsport-entered Fabia. Kopecky reckoned he could have been higher up the order
had he not opted to run a softer set-up in the mistaken belief it might rain.
Giandomenico Basso heads the three-strong PROTON Motorsports assault in his Satria Neo
S2000 with Estonian teenager Karl Kruuda ninth on his first competitive drive in his Fabia on
asphalt. Bassos PROTON team-mate PG Andersson completes the top 10.
It was a frustrating start for defending IRC champion Juho Hanninen, who is making his return to
the IRC after missing the previous round in France. Despite setting top three times on both stages
today, the Finn was handed a 10-second time penalty for being adjudged to have jumped the start
of stage two.
It seems we went too soon and got a penalty, which I dont think will be removed, said the Finn. I
dont remember anything special happening, maybe there was a problem somewhere. But I dont
think 10 seconds will decide this rally because there is still such a long way to go.
Oleksiy Tamrazov is the leading Ukrainian driver in 14th overall aboard his MSport
Ford Fiesta S2000. His countryman Valeriy Gorban tops the IRC
Production Cup classification in 15th position at the wheel of his Ralliart
Mitsubishi Lancer, while Oleksandr Saliuk Sr is 18th in his PROTON, which is
being co-driven by Evgeny Chervonenko, the president of Ukraines
automobile federation and co-chairman of the Yalta Rally organising
Belgian newcomer Cedric Cherain heads the IRC 2WD Cup driving a Megane RS. Frenchman
Jean-Michel Raoux is second.
Thierry Neuville (Belgium), Peugeot 207 S2000, first overall: It felt very comfortable on the
good smooth roads. Tomorrow will be bumpy and difficult so I tried to make a difference today and
it seemed to work. I know it wont be so easy tomorrow.
Guy Wilks (United Kingdom), Peugeot 207 S2000, second overall: It was very difficult
because sometimes I was lifting when I should have been flat and other times thinking I should
have lifted because the grip is changing so much. But it felt good in a lot of places.
Patrik Sandell (Sweden), Skoda Fabia S2000, third overall: I feel I am back in the game now. It
was a bit difficult to make the right tyre choice in case it started to rain so maybe I did not have the
best choice all of the time. But Ive done two good stages.
TOP 10 IRC POSITIONS AFTER DAY ONE
1 Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000 4m30.6s
2 Guy Wilks (GBR)/Phil Pugh (GBR) Peugeot 207 S2000 +0.1s
3 Patrik Sandell (SWE)/Staffan Parmander (SWE) Skoda Fabia S2000 +2.1s
4 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Floene (NOR) Skoda Fabia S200 +2.2s
5 Toni Gardemeister (FIN)/Tapio Suominen (FIN) Skoda Fabia S2000 +3.2s
6 Bryan Bouffier (FRA)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +3.5s
7 Jan Kopecky (CZE)/Petr Stary (CZE) Skoda Fabia S2000 +5.5s
8 Giandomenico Basso (ITA)/Mitia Dotta (ITA) PROTON Satria Neo S2000 +5.6s
9 Karl Kruuda (EST)/Martin Jeovoja (EST) Skoda Fabia S2000 +6.7s
10 PG Andersson (SWE)/Emil Axelsson (SWE) PROTON Satria Neo S2000 +8.5s
IRC Production Cup: Valeriy Gorban (UKR)/Vadim Chernega (UKR) Ralliart Lancer Evolution IX
IRC 2WD Cup: Cedric Cherain (BEL)/Cedric Pirotte (BEL) Renault Megane RS
DAY TWO ITINERARY (FRIDAY 3 JUNE)
Special stages: Six
Special stage distance: 137.52kms
Liaison distance: 204.61kms
Total distance: 342.13kms
Service B: Yalta (0:15hrs), 08:06hrs
SS3: Ai-Petri 1 (17.26kms), 08:49hrs
SS4: Plato 1 (22.55kms), 09:17hrs
SS5: Orlinoje 1 (28.95kms), 11:00hrs
Service C: Yalta (0:30hrs), 11:55hrs
SS6: Ai-Petri 2 (17.26kms), 13:13hrs
SS7: Plato 2 (22.55kms), 13:41hrs
SS8: Orlinoje 2 (28.95kms), 15:24hrs
Service D: Yalta (0:45hrs), 16:19hrs
The Intercontinental Rally Challenges media partner Eurosport, Europes leading sports
entertainment group, will show highlights from the opening day of the Prime Yalta Rally as follows:
Friday 3 June:
23:45-24:10: Day one highlights (Eurosport)
Saturday 4 June:
03:30:04:00: Day one highlights replayed (Eurosport Asia-Pacific)
Daily highlights will also be shown at www.rally-irc.com and via the IRC iPhone and iPad App. All
times are CET.