Sibiu - IRC news before SS3
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Szabo surprised to be second in Sibiu
Gergély Szabó has conceded it’s a “big surprise” that he’s currently in second place overall on the Intercontinental Rally Challenge-counting Sibiu Rally in Romania.
The Hungarian only managed a 20-kilometre test in his Eurosol Racing Team ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 prior to the gravel event getting underway earlier today.
With 10 stages remaining Szabó is 57.4s behind leader Andreas Mikkelsen. He said: “It’s a big surprise because this is the first time in the ŠKODA and we really are learning the car and driving with 100 per cent safety.”
Szabó, who finished sixth overall on Rally San Marino earlier this month in a Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, could have been closer to Mikkelsen had it not been for a left-rear puncture six kilometres from the finish of stage two. “I was like my grandfather towards the end, driving very slowly but I am here and that is the main thing,” he said.
Szabó’s ŠKODA is the same car his team boss János Puskádi used in San Marino. Puskádi is in Sibiu albeit in a managerial capacity only.
Burri pleased with start to IRC debut
Michaël Burri said he was pleased to have completed the opening loop of stages of the Sibiu Rally in contention for Intercontinental Rally Challenge points.
Burri, from Switzerland, is not only competing in Romania for the first time, he is also making his IRC debut and driving his Saintéloc Racing Peugeot 207 Super 2000 on gravel for the first time.
“The stages are very difficult for my first time so I am happy because really I am here to learn and get the experience,” said the 24-year-old.
After two stages, Burri is in eighth overall alongside co-driver and countryman Stéphane Rey.
Flodin backed to recover lost ground in Romania
Hankook PS Engineering’s Mike Patterson insists Patrik Flodin’s hopes of a podium finish are not over despite the Swede dropping 3m36.2s off the lead of the Sibiu Rally following a disastrous second stage.
Flodin was 3.8s off the lead after the opening stage of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge event only to suffer a left-rear puncture on the very next run, caused when a rock broke the wheel rim of his M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000. He reached service in Sibiu in 10th overall.
“He should have stopped to change the puncture rather than completing the stage on the rim,” said Patterson. “But these things happen and he’s got to move on. Hankook drivers are nothing but persistent, it’s disappointing but he’ll fight back because there’s still a long way to go on this rally and gravel’s his surface.”
Caution the key for IRC 2WD Cup contender Consani
Robert Consani plans to drive with plenty of caution in his bid to finish the Sibiu Rally, which he is contesting for the first time in a Renault Clio R3.
Consani was one of a number of IRC 2WD Cup contenders delayed on stage two of the gravel event when Romanian driver Dan Girtofan crashed his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 and blocked the stage.
“It’s a very, very complicated rally and I don’t think about the racing, I just try to finish,” said the Frenchman, who was an impressive second fastest in class on the opening stage. “I have no option but to look after my car.”
Ducher disappointed for emerging talent Arzeno
Mathieu Arzeno’s team manager Vincent Ducher has spoken of his disappointment for the Saintéloc Racing driver following his retirement on stage two of the Sibiu Rally.
Arzeno had been tipped as a possible podium finisher on the gravel event, round eight of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, but his hopes ended five kilometres from the stop line of the 28.70-kilometre Crinți stage when he took a wheel off his Peugeot 207 Super 2000.
“It’s very disappointing for him because he is here to learn and now that’s not possible for him,” said Ducher. “We will try to carry on tomorrow but first we have to see what the damage is.”
Flodin issues apology to Delecour after stage delay
Patrik Flodin has issued an apology to François Delecour after he accidentally delayed his rival on the second stage of the Sibiu Rally.
Swede Flodin picked up a left-rear puncture on his PS Engineering M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 six kilometres from the finish of the 28.70-kilometre Crinți stage and reported to having to drive extremely slowly over the closing two kilometres in his efforts to complete the test and record a time.
“I didn’t know where he was and I am so sorry that I made his stage much longer,” said Flodin. “I tried to look in my mirrors but all I could see was dust from my car.”
Delecour (pictured) was third fastest through the stage in his Munaretto Sport Peugeot 207, albeit 56.8s down on stage winner and defending Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Andreas Mikkelsen. The Frenchman reckoned he lost more than 20s behind Flodin.
Broken wheel hits Aigner’s IRC Production Cup hopes
Andreas Aigner’s hopes of a third consecutive victory in the IRC Production Cup look to be over after he stopped on the second stage of the Sibiu Rally.
The Austrian, who is being co-driven by Ilka Minor for the first time, was one of the favourites for victory in the IRC support category but failed to complete the 28.70-kilometre Crinți test after the right-rear wheel broke off his Subaru Impreza R4 STI during the punishing run.
Aigner’s Stohl Racing team said it was still unclear what had caused the wheel to break. He completed the first stage with left-rear damage after he nudged some bushes.