Pajunen snatches IRC lead from Protasov
Mikko Pajunen clocked the fastest time through stage two of Prime Yalta Rally to lead the Intercontinental Rally Challenge event in Ukraine at the end of the first competitive leg.
Piloting an M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 for the first time, Finland’s Pajunen completed the second 5.49-kilometre Livadija special stage with a time of 3:23.6.
Ukraine’s Yuriy Protasov was second fastest at the wheel of a M-Sport Ford Fiesta RRC, and lies only 0.98 seconds adrift of overall leader Pajunen.
Earlier home favourite Protasov was fastest in SS1, a 2.12-kilometre speed test.
Third quickest was Turkey’s Yağiz Avci in another Fiesta S2000, 6.2 seconds behind Protasov.
“We’ve only had two short stages today but now we must concentrate on keeping Yuriy behind us tomorrow,” explained rally leader Pajunen, whose Fiesta is run by the AT Rally Team.
“The first part of the second stage was very slippery and had a lot of hairpins. It was the first time I haven driven tight hairpins in this car so that was a new learning experience for me. I’m feeling very comfortable in the car but there are still a lot of new things to learn so I need to be careful tomorrow.”
Leading the way for the IRC Production Cup was Marco Tempestini in his Subaru Impreza R2 STI who finished 1.2 seconds ahead of Vitaliy Pushkar at the wheel of a Mistubishi Lancer Evolution X R4. In the overall IRC Production Cup standings, Tempestini leads Pushkar by 1.76 seconds.
Vlad Cosma posted the quickest time out of the IRC 2WD Cup contenders on stage two but Turkey's Murat Bostanci continues to lead the overall standings with a 2.61 second advantage.
Saturday’s action will consist of six stages totaling 145.13 competitive kilometres. The day will begin with the 17.26-kilometre Al Petri 1 test at 06:49 UK time.