Japan’s Kazunokota won eight stages as he controlled Rally Spain to take his second rally win in Jon Armstrong’s Thrustmaster eRally Series. Kazunokota took a start-to-finish victory eventually finishing 35 seconds ahead of last week’s Rally Poland winner Andritiana Mathieu.
Kazunokota has proved to be the tarmac master after winning both asphalt rounds of the championship. While his Round 1 success in Germany went down to the very last stage, Kazunokota’s win in Spain was never in doubt.
Round 2 winner, Matthieu, admitted ahead of the rally that asphalt wasn’t his strong point and looked set to lose vital points to his championship rival as he sat in fourth overall with one stage remaining.
But a fastest time on the final stage, a 14-kilometre test in the dark, was enough for Matthieu to climb back up to second in the final standings.
It continues the succession of top-two finishes for Kazunokota and Matthieu through the championship and leaves it all to play for on the final round, Rally New Zealand.
Sim Vansevenant completed the podium in Rally Spain after a consistent performance across both days. The Belgian was lucky to survive a heavy impact with a rockface on Stage 10. The impact spun his Volkswagen Polo R5 into the air but luckily landed in the right direction without losing too much time.
Kristof Kasza was the main loser from Matthieu’s blistering time on the final stage. Kasza had held second for most of the rally but dropped to fourth behind Matthieu and Vansevenant on the last stage.
Meanwhile, championship organiser Jon Armstrong suffered a disastrous event. An off on the fourth stage dropped him down the leaderboard before his understeering Polo slid off the round several more times on a very wet Stage 5. The Junior World Rally Championship competitor eventually finished in 48th overall.
The JA Thrustmaster eRally Series concludes in New Zealand this week as Kazunokota and Matthieu go head-to-head for the championship.
The fast-flowing gravel stages will once again require the competitors’ full attention and who knows, will there be another twist in the story of this championship?
Cover photo by Timothy Mabutt