IRC news before Rally San Marino (Part 3)

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By Olivier Ferret

6 July 2012 - 10:45
IRC news before Rally San Marino (...)

Short delay for opening Rally San Marino stage

The opening stage of Rally San Marino, round seven of the all-action Intercontinental Rally Challenge, will run five minutes behind schedule at 11:00hrs CET, event organisers have confirmed.

In addition, the top 15 drivers will start in intervals of two minutes to allow for hanging dust clouds that are a feature of gravel events, particularly when stages are surrounded by trees and bushes that restrict air flow.

Sibiu Rally entries to close on 10 July

Crews planning to contest Sibiu Rally Romania, round eight of the all-action Intercontinental Rally Challenge qualifier, have until Tuesday 10 July to enter, organisers have confirmed

The exciting event, a new addition to the IRC for 2012, takes place from 19-21 July.

Already 40 crews have signed up including IRC champion Andreas Mikkelsen, leading local driver Marco Tempestini, rising star Sepp Wiegand, IRC Production Cup frontrunner Andreas Aigner and former IRC 2WD Cup champion Harry Hunt.

Basso will need time to shine on IRC return

Giandomenico Basso admits it will take him a few stages before he is able to demonstrate his true pace on Rally San Marino, round seven of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

The Italian star, who will pilot an M-Sport Ford Fiesta RRC for the A-Style Team, has not competed on a gravel for two years and only finalised his agreement to compete in San Marino last week.

He said:“For sure we are late preparing but now we have to focus on the rally and to get a good result. I am sure the feeling of the car will get better and better stage-by-stage. I just have to keep close to Andreas Mikkelsen because he will be the man to beat.”

ŠKODA UK Motorsport driver Mikkelsen said he was excited by the prospect of going up against Basso in the battle for IRC glory, adding: “It’s good because this is the first time we drive on gravel together. His car is very good, he’s a very good driver as well and I am sure he will be fighting at the top.”

Nikara aims to make up for Corsica woe in San Marino

Jarkko Nikara starts Rally San Marino today determined to make up for the disappointment he experienced on his last appearance in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Nikara, from Finland, was on course for a podium finish in the IRC Production Cup section of Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse in May, only to retire on the final morning with gearbox failure.

The Tommi Mäkinen Racing Subaru Impreza driver said: “It was my fault because I changed from fourth to third, not fourth to fifth but it’s in the past and now I have to look to this rally and to the best result possible.

“Gravel is a more natural surface for me even though this rally is more slow and twisty than what I experience at home in Finland. My team-mate Toshi Arai will be my big rival but I will do my best to beat him.”

Tempestini eyes San Marino IRC Production Cup gain

Marco Tempestini can move to the top of the IRC Production Cup standings with a strong result on Rally San Marino this week.

With title leader Andreas Aigner not contesting the gravel event and second-placed Robert Consani not eligible for IRC Production Cup points following his switch to a Renault Clio R3 for this rally, Tempestini will be bidding to take full advantage.

“This is the perfect opportunity to win some points, especially as this is my perfect surface,” said the Napoca Rally Academy driver. “I’ll try to keep up the pace from the Azores Islands, even if it won’t be easy alongside pilots like Nikara, Arai or Szabo, and also top pilots from Italy. We hope to gather as many points as possible.”

Hunt will have to push for IRC 2WD Cup glory

Harry Hunt’s team manager Iwan Evans says the young Englishman will have to be at full speed from the start of Rally San Marino if he is to land top IRC 2WD Cup points for the first time this season.

Twenty-three-year-old Hunt holds the joint title lead with Honda driver Martin Kangur starting the gravel event this morning.

Evans said: “It’s a relatively short event and will require the need to be fast right from the start. We’ve shown good speed and consistency on the last four rallies, so we’re hopeful that we can continue that trend.”

He continued: “It will be our first time competing in San Marino, so set-up will be critical. The roads over here are much smoother than other European gravel events we’ve competed at, so it requires a different car set-up.”

Three questions to: Germain Bonnefis

Emerging talent Germain Bonnefis will make his Intercontinental Rally Challenge debut in San Marino this week alongside co-driver Olivier Fournier. This is a short interview prepared by his team, Peugeot Sport.

What does taking part in the Rally San Marino mean to you?

“It’s a great opportunity for Olivier and me. We will do everything we can to profit from the opportunity and make it a success. Our tactic will be to turn on the speed gradually as the rally progresses. We will also need to adapt to the recce procedure which is different to the system used in France. We will get two passes, but in an ordinary road car. We shouldn’t be under any pressure, so we will try not to make any mistakes on the first visit to each stage before upping our pace second time round to see how we compare with the other drivers during the latter part of the rally. We won’t go flat out from the start, but we don’t intend to hang about either. I am very proud to have this opportunity to contest the same event as the likes of Andreas Mikkelsen who is something of a benchmark. He succeeded in keeping Sébastien Ogier at bay in Argentina! I need to be realistic, however, because there will be a lot of top drivers on the event. The best thing will be to take one step at a time...”

How have you prepared for the Rally San Marino?

“The 207 S2000 is a competitive and reliable car, so it will be up to me to make the most of those strengths. A few days ago, I took an advanced gravel rally driving course and that helped me improve in a couple of areas. Since winning the ‘Volant 207’ in 2011, and thanks to the support I am getting from Peugeot Sport and my sponsors, I am in a position where I can focus solely on my rallying. I take my role as a works driver very seriously: I have a regular fitness training programme and I’m also learning English, because that’s another essential part of being a rally driver.”

Were you expecting a programme like this when you won the ‘Volant 207’?

“I would recommend the ‘Volant’ to any youngster. This season is turning out to be something of a dream for me. Initially, I was only supposed to have contested five rounds of the French gravel championship. I then found some partners to allow me to do the full calendar and try to win the title. Peugeot Sport has given a little extra help and has also involved me in its testing work with the 207 S2000 and the new 208 R2. We have also found resources to contest the Rally San Marino and the Rallye des Cévennes, plus a round of the RCZ Racing Cup at Magny-Cours which will be the icing on the cake! It’s a great all-round programme which will hopefully allow me to learn even more quickly, both on the loose and on asphalt.”

Wiegand unsure of opposition in San Marino

Sepp Wiegand says he is unsure where he will finish on Rally San Marino because of his limited knowledge of the opposition.

The ŠKODA Auto Deutschland young star, currently fourth in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge drivers’ standings, has not gone up against many of his expected rivals before.

“Most of the drivers I expect to compete against I really don’t know,” said the 21-year-old. “People like [Patrik] Flodin and [Juha] Salo I don’t know what they can do. I just hope to find the pace I found in Azores, where I finished fourth, and will see what result we can get.”

Leading runners not concerned by high temperatures

Drivers contesting Rally San Marino, round seven of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, say the high ambient temperatures currently being experienced do not concern them.

Temperatures are expected to reach 35 degrees centigrade today and with only light wind, driving conditions are expected to be very tough for the crews.

But Martin Kangur and Sepp Wiegand both have said they are not worried about the temperatures.

“We will just have to drink more water,” said Kangur, one of the favourites for victory in the IRC 2WD Cup in his Catwees Honda Racing Civic Type R.

Wiegand, who will pilot a ŠKODA Auto Deutschland Fabia, added: “It really isn’t a problem. We’re fit enough and most of us are young enough and there is only really one long stage to think about.”

New co-driver no issue for fit again Flodin

Patrik Flodin’s change of co-drivers for Rally San Marino won’t affect his pace on the Intercontinental Rally Challenge event.

Mike Patterson, of Flodin’s principal partner Hankook Motorsports, says Göran Bergsten’s stand-in, Morgan Olsson, has extensive experience working with Flodin and added that he expected the change to be seamless.

“It won’t be a problem,” said Patterson. “They know each other well, have worked together a lot and have even done some testing together in the [M-Sport Ford] Fiesta S2000. It’s just a case of Göran having work commitments and being unable to do this rally.”

Patterson added that Flodin, who drives for Petter Solberg Engineering, is fully fit after recovering from a broken collarbone earlier this year.

“That was the first question I asked him when I saw him this week,” added Patterson. “But he’s been doing his physiotherapy and manipulation therapy and is fine.”

IRC aces get ready for gravel switch

Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Andreas Mikkelsen starts Rally San Marino as one of the favourites for victory in his ŠKODA UK Motorsport Fabia Super 2000.

Like many of his rivals, he will have to transfer his blistering pace on asphalt – the surface used on the last five rounds of the IRC – to the gravel stages that form the bulk of the competitive action on Friday and Saturday.

“The biggest thing is the reaction time and movement with the steering wheel in terms of how long it takes before something happens,” said Mikkelsen. “On Tarmac you need to be so smooth and precise but on gravel you have to be much more aggressive by throwing and sliding the car around. It’s a completely different driving style.”

He continued: “It’s easier to switch from Tarmac to gravel than gravel to Tarmac but that’s maybe because being born and raised in Norway on the gravel roads I’m maybe born with this type of driving.”

While gravel stages compromise much of the competitive route, Friday’s final 6.43-kilometre test, San Marino, runs entirely on asphalt and crews will tackle it using gravel-specification tyres, albeit with a semi-Tarmac set-up to aid handling precision.

Rally San Marino: Friday stage guide

Rally San Marino is an exciting new addition to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2012. Vastly successful co-driver Tiziano Siviero is your expert guide to Friday’s action in and around the Republic.

SS1 and SS3, Sestino (19.33 kilometres): “This is one of the most popular special stages among rally enthusiasts. At the beginning it is made up of a succession of slow turns until it gets to the first downhill part, but after about one kilometre it becomes faster. The central part goes alternatively uphill and downhill with hairpin bends and is therefore quite slow. About halfway through the stage competitors will drive through very charming small villages reachable from different local roads. The last two kilometres are perhaps the most beautiful of the entire rally: a fast part that runs along the crest of the Apennines. As far as spectators are concerned, they can follow the stage closely in several interesting places, the small village of Campo crossroads at seven kilometres is always a very good location.”

SS2 and SS4, Mercatello (24.15 kilometres): “This is the longest stage of the rally and the more evocative. The start is in the small industrial area of Mercatello sul Metauro, slightly uphill with very fast first kilometers. Fans should walk up to the first corners placed at one kilometre. The first six kilometres are very fast with a very wide road. The central part is more driven but slower. At the junction with the roads to Guinza at 15 kilometres the last downhill section is very nice. From this point the stage continues to Lamoli with quite slow and demanding turns. Even the last part of the special stage is still very beautiful, there is a wide visible stretch and it’s still very fast.”

SS5, San Marino (6.43 kilometres): “It is the only stretch on asphalt of the rally with arrival in the heart of the historic centre of the San Marino Republic. Never a competition has come so far up here. The special stage was designed precisely to best honour the 40-year history of the race organised by FAMS. This stage is performed only once and is scheduled at the end of day one. Among the most fascinating places from which to follow the stage, beyond the Casa, there is also the crossroads leading to Montecerreto, the passage of Santa Mustiola centre, the hairpin bend entering the road leading to the heart of the Republic and the big turn of G. Giacomini street.”

Rally San Marino won’t be easy, say leading crews

High ambient temperatures, dust clouds and leaves blocking radiators are set to add to the task facing crews on Rally San Marino, round seven of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

That’s the view shared by some of the leading competitors ahead of the exciting gravel event, which joins the IRC for the first time in 2012 and consists of 13 stages over Friday and Saturday.

“It’s going to be warm but Sicily for the Targa Florio was also very warm so I don’t think this will be the biggest problem,” said defending IRC champion Andreas Mikkelsen, who will pilot a Fabia Super 2000 for ŠKODA UK Motorsport.

“The biggest problem will be the dust,” Mikkelsen continued. “When there are so many trees hanging over the road and no wind to carry the dust away it will be difficult. Also the leaves in the road can block the radiator, which actually happened to us on the test we did before the rally.”

Subaru co-driver Dale Moscatt said: “The temperatures are higher than expected and the stages are a lot more twisty so tyre wear is something we’re going to have to be careful of. In the test before here you had to keep an eye on the temperatures and if you’re feeling hot in the car then you have to think how hot the engine is getting.”

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