Positive start to the season despite bad luck

Strong performance of the ADAC Opel Rally Junior Team at the opening round of the European Rally Junior Championship. Opel Junior Timo Schulz fights for JERC podium positions for a long time at Rally Poland. Unscheduled repair on Saturday is followed by retirement shortly before the finish.

The ADAC Opel Rally Junior Team was not rewarded for a strong performance at the opening round of the FIA Junior European Rally Championship (JERC) at Rally Poland. In their European Championship debut, Opel Junior Timo Schulz (23, Siersburg) and his co-driver Michael Wenzel (46, Mehlingen) delivered an impeccable performance on the super-fast gravel stages around Mikołajki in northeastern Poland and fought for the podium places in their Opel Corsa Rally4 in the field of the continent's best junior rally drivers from the very beginning.

In the sixth special stage on Saturday evening, the Opel crew, which was already in second place, suffered a sudden setback. While driving through a particularly deep rut, the oil cooler on the Corsa Rally4 was damaged. Schulz stopped the vehicle in time and thus prevented more serious damage to the 212-hp 1.2-liter three-cylinder turbo engine. Nevertheless, the Stohl Racing squad, who as defending champions are responsible for the ADAC Opel Rally Junior Team's entry in the JERC again this season, had to make a lengthy repair. Only after a test run shortly before 11 p.m. was it clear that Schulz/Wenzel would be able to return to action on Sunday.
Which they did again in convincing fashion. However, the 30 penalty minutes for the three special stages not completed on Saturday were too much of a burden for them to aim for a top place. Undeterred, last year's champion of the ADAC Opel Electric Rally Cup "powered by GSe" fought his way back into the points and had planned a final attack for the 16th and final stage, the so-called "Power Stage". A problem with the transmission, again due to a deep rut, abruptly ended the plan shortly before the finish.
"Of course we are disappointed," commented Schulz. "We had made a great start to the rally and quickly found a good rhythm. Even though I still made some mistakes, I felt very comfortable on my European Championship debut. The Corsa Rally4 ran perfectly and we steadily approached the limit. The track conditions here were really extreme. Getting through these deep ruts unscathed was also a question of luck. And unfortunately, that's what we lacked here." 
Opel Motorsport Director Jörg Schrott was pleased with his protégé's JERC debut: "Timo approached these demanding gravel tracks intelligently and found a good pace. A podium finish in this strong field would have been possible. But once again we saw how quickly things can go wrong in rallying. Big compliments to the Stohl Racing team for the perfect repair on Saturday and to the cockpit crew for an overall good performance."
The second round of the Junior European Championship will take place from June 16 to 18 at the Rally Latvia. The competition around the Latvian port city of Liepāja will also be held on gravel.