IRC news in brief after Day 1

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By Olivier Ferret

24 February 2012 - 10:59
IRC news in brief after Day 1

Wiegand to start first on day two

Sepp Wiegand might be making his Intercontinental Rally Challenge debut on SATA Rallye Açores this week but he’s already leading the field.

Wiegand, a rising star from Germany, is contesting 10 rounds of this year’s IRC with the ŠKODA Auto Deutschland team. He completed Thursday’s opening three stages in fifth overall.

With the top five overnight positions reversed to form the running order for Friday’s stages, Wiegand will go first on the road on today’s spectacular tests in the ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 he shares with co-driver Timo Gottschalk.

Starting position can be a major factor on gravel rallies due to the effect of road cleaning, particularly if it’s dry. That’s because drivers running at the head of the field are handicapped by having to sweep a clean line through the loose-surface gravel, which reduces traction and braking performance and effectively benefits the drivers chasing behind.

Bruno Magalhães from Portugal will run second on the road today in his Peugeot 207 S2000 with Bryan Bouffier third to start. Juho Hänninen goes fourth in his factory ŠKODA with rally leader Andreas Mikkelsen fifth on the road.

Hunt happy with IRC 2WD Cup lead

Harry Hunt had every reason to be cheerful when he completed the opening day of SATA Rallye Açores on Thursday evening.

The 23-year-old Briton is leading the IRC 2WD Cup standings with an advantage of 5.1s over Portugal’s Paulo Maciel, who won the two-wheel-drive category on the Atlantic archipelago last season.

“I am enjoying it and have a good set-up – so far, so good,” said the London-based Hunt, IRC 2WD Cup champion in 2010.

Hunt was the fastest IRC 2WD Cup driver on two of Thursday’s stages with fellow Citroën driver Maciel going quickest on one occasion.

Behind Hunt and Maciel, Menya Krózser from Hungary is the leading Honda Civic Type R driver in third overall, 35.3s adrift of top spot.

Bouffier vows to push in Açores

Bryan Bouffier has vowed to do more driving like this when SATA Rallye Açores resumes on Friday morning.

Bouffier, an Intercontinental Rally Challenge event winner, is third overall after three special stages in his Delta Rally Peugeot 207 Super 2000.

But with a deficit of 23 seconds to make up to rally leader Andreas Mikkelsen, Bouffier knows he has to keep attacking.

“I was too careful on one stage and my times were not so good,” said the French ace who is co-driven by countryman Xavier Panseri. “I have to improve and I have to push, I have to be quicker.”

Portuguese hero Bruno Magalhães is also driving a Peugeot 207 S2000 on the all-gravel event. He is currently fourth overall, 6.9s behind Bouffier.

Day of firsts for Skydive’s Al-Ketbi

It was a day of firsts for Rashid Al-Ketbi as Intercontinental Rally Challenge season six got underway on SATA Rallye Açores yesterday (Thursday).

Not only is the Emirati on course for his maiden IRC points in ninth overall, he also tackled a superspecial stage for the first time in his career, completing the popular 2.20-kilometre Grupo Marques test with the 11th fastest time.

“This was the first time in my life that I drive head-to-head with another driver on a special stage,” said Al-Ketbi, who is driving a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 for the Skydive Dubai Rally Team alongside co-driver Khalid Al-Kendi.

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