Jun 30

Rally San Marino preview : IRC stars back on gravel

2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, round seven of 13

Basso San MarinoIRC - Intercontinental Rally ChallengeThe all-action Intercontinental Rally Challenge is back on gravel next week when Rally San Marino joins the series for the first time.

RALLY SAN MARINO PREVIEW: IRC STARS BACK ON GRAVELBased in the Republic of San Marino albeit with all but one stage in neighbouring Italy, the event marks the halfway point of the season and a crucial stage in the title race with six points separating the top two drivers.
Rally San Marino is the first of two loose-surface rounds in succession, with Sibiu Rally Romania running two weeks later. It’s also the second IRC round in a row to take place in two different countries following the Geko Ypres Rally, which included stages in Belgium and France.
This year’s Rally San Marino is the 40th running of the event. To mark the occasion, organisers have altered the route considerably by including stages not used for a number of years. They are also planning various activities to celebrate the milestone including the commissioning of a commemorative watch and book and the hosting of a post-event party for former winners.
The competitive action consists of five repeated all-gravel stages, plus a single-use Tarmac stage through the streets of San Marino City. Day one features two runs over the 19.33-kilometre Sestino stage and two passes over the 24.15-kilometre Mercatello test with regular service halts in San Marino, plus the day-closing 6.43-kilomete San Marino street stage, which gets underway at 21:32hrs local time.
Saturday’s route includes the 6.82-kilometre Monte Benedetto stage and the 15.85-kilometre Rofelle stage, both run three times, plus the Sant’Agata Feltria test, which measures 14.45 kilometres in length and runs twice. The finish is set for 20:00hrs on Saturday in San Marino.
All drivers competing on Rally San Marino will be in contention for the prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy, which is awarded to the driver whose performance best embodies the spirit of the rallying legend.
Rally San Marino is considered to be a straightforward gravel event with the stages consisting of a smooth surface, formed of soft stones, but with a hard base. Road cleaning, normally such a factor on gravel rallies is less prevalent with the surface changing minimally from one run to the next, which means consistency is rewarded.
The gravel stages, held in the picturesque countryside, are generally high speed and fairly wide in nature with some undulation. Specialist knowledge is not so crucial as it is on other IRC rounds with the stages relatively easy to master with an effective set of pacenotes. 
*The constitution of San Marino was enacted in 1600 and is the oldest constitution still in effect.
*San Marino’s sporting stars are not universally known although motorbike riders Alex De Angelis and Manuel Poggiali, footballer Davide Gualtieri – whose goal against England after 8.3s in a World Cup qualifying match in 1993 is still a record – and rallying brothers Mirco and Loris Baldacci have bucked that trend.
*Despite its size San Marino has a rich motorsport history, giving its name to a Formula One grand prix, which took place 100 kilometres into neighbouring Italy at the Imola circuit from 1981 until 2006.
*A local delicacy worthy of sampling in San Marino is Torta Tre Monti, a wafer layered cake covered in chocolate.
*Piero Longhi is one of the most successful drivers in Rally San Marino history, winning from 2005-2008 in a Subaru Impreza.
Andreas Mikkelsen will be out for revenge when the Intercontinental Rally Challenge resumes on Rally San Marino next week. Although the defending IRC champion holds a six-point advantage heading to the gravel event, he will arrive in the republic on the back of his first non-score in the series since the Canon Mecsek Rally last September.
Mikkelsen, who crashed out of the recent Geko Ypres Rally, won in San Marino last season during his stint in the Italian Gravel Trophy. However, with the route for this year’s rally significantly altered, the ŠKODA UK Motorsport driver won’t necessarily have an advantage.
Giandomenico Basso is the man most likely to push Mikkelsen for top honours in the same M-Sport Ford Fiesta RRC he took to a podium finish on Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia. The Italian has previous San Marino knowledge to call on and is fast on gravel as he is on asphalt.
Sepp Wiegand returns to action after missing the recent trip to Ypres through illness. The ŠKODA Auto Deutschland youngster has impressed during his maiden IRC campaign, scoring points on his five appearances so far.
Rapid Swede Patrik Flodin will form part of the two-strong Petter Solberg Engineering line-up in San Marino and will joined by Finn Kristian Sohlberg in a second M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000. It will be Sohlberg’s first IRC appearance and his first on an international rally for several years.
Frenchman Germain Bonnefis will make his IRC debut in San Marino after being handed a dream opportunity by Peugeot Sport. Bonnefis is competing in the French Gravel championship in a 207 Super 2000 as his prize for winning Peugeot’s Volant 207 one-make series last season. His entry in San Marino is a bonus following several strong performances in his homeland.
Other contenders include Skydive Dubai Rally Team’s Rashid Al-Ketbi and Janós Puskádi, who will be back behind the wheel of his Eurosol Racing ŠKODA Fabia having spent the Ypes Rally running it for fellow Hungarian László Vizin.
IRC Production Cup
Inaugural IRC Production Cup winner Toshi Arai will make his second start of 2012 on a surface he relishes: gravel. The Japanese will head the Subaru challenge in his Impreza R4 STI and will be one of the favourites for victory along with Tommi Mäkinen Racing team-mate Jarkko Nikara and Romanian Marco Tempestini, a regular frontrunner this year.
Davide Catania is back in the IRC 2WD Cup for the first time since SATA Rallye Açores in February. As a gravel specialist, Catania will be out to impress but will have to overcome the challenge of joint title leaders Harry Hunt and Martin Kangur. Honda Civic driver Kangur is on a high after winning in Ypres and has more experience of gravel competition.
A double Rally San Marino-winning co-driver, D’Esposito is now the team co-ordinator for ŠKODA UK Motorsport, which runs Andreas Mikkelsen’s IRC title-winning Fabia Super 2000
What is your connection with Rally San Marino?
“I won it twice as a co-driver, on both occasions with Andrea Aghini. My first win was 1998, in a Toyota Corolla WRC, and the second was in 2002 with a Peugeot 206 WRC. Back then it was very different: around twice the distance, as it also took in some stages near Gubbio that are now part of the San Crispino Rally in the Italian championship.”
Your driver Andreas Mikkelsen has previous knowledge. How much will this help him?
“We competed in San Marino last year with Andreas, as part of the Italian Gravel Trophy, and we won that too. He liked it: it’s a nice fast, flowing gravel rally. But I’m not sure how useful that experience will be for him this year, as the route is basically all new.”
How much has been changed?
“Only eight kilometres of the first stage, Sestino, have been kept from last year and that stage is run twice: so we just have 16 kilometres in common with 2011. The rest are old stages from back in my day – or even earlier sometimes!”
What’s the key to success in San Marino?
“In the past, the key to success certainly used to be tyres. There’s quite a hard surface underneath a bit of loose gravel, so if you had racing gravel tyres you could really make a big difference, as they were able to bite into the surface below. The road doesn’t clean much though, so the grip stays quite consistent.”
How much of Rally San Marino is actually in San Marino?
“Just one stage, which is called ‘San Marino’ – but that’s more of a superspecial on Tarmac. The service park and the headquarters is all in San Marino though, which is a very good thing as the organisation of this rally has always been fantastic.”
Event: Rally San Marino, Intercontinental Rally Challenge, round seven of 13
Starts: San Marino, 19:00hrs, Thursday 5 July
Finishes: San Marino, 20:00hrs, Saturday 7 July
Headquarters: Palazzo Dei Congressi – Kursaal, Viale JF Kennedy, 47890 San Marino
Service park: Viale Campo di Giudei, 47890 San Marino
Facts and figures: Entries received: Entry list due 30 June; IRC appearances: None; Stages: 13; Stage distance: 190.30 kilometres; Liaison: 574.15 kilometres; Total: 764.45 kilometres

IRC drivers after round six of 13
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) 89pts; 2 Jan Kopecký (Czech Republic) 83pts; 3 Juho Hänninen (Finland) 68pts; 4 Sepp Wiegand (Germany) 40pts; 5 Bryan Bouffier (France) 27pts; 6 Dani Sordo (Spain) 25pts; 7 Craig Breen (Ireland) and Freddy Loix (Belgium) 18pts; 9 Giandomencio Basso (Italy), Pierre Campana (France), Luis Monzón (Spain) and Pieter Tsjoen (Belgium) 15pts.

IRC co-drivers after round six of 13
1 Ola Fløene (Norway) 89pts; 2 Pavel Dresler (Czech Republic) 83pts; 3 Mikko Markkula (Finland) 68pts; 4 Timo Gottschalk (Germany) 40pts; 5 Xavier Panseri (France) 27pts; 6 Carlos del Barrio (Spain) 25pts; 7 Gareth Roberts (United Kingdom) and Lara Vanneste (Belgium) 18pts; 9 Eddy Chevaillier (Belgium), Sabrina de Castelli (France), Jose C Deniz (Spain) and Mitia Dotta (Italy) 15pts.

IRC manufacturers after round six of 13
1 ŠKODA 249pts; 2 Peugeot 154pts; 3 M-Sport 53pts; 4 Renault 52pts; 5 Subaru 41pts; 6 Honda 28pts.

IRC Production Cup drivers after round six of 13
1 Andreas Aigner (Austria) 50pts; 2 Robert Consani (France) 47pts; 3 Marco Tempestini (Romania) 33pts; 4 Garry Jennings (United Kingdom), Ricardo Moura (Portugal) and Massimiliano Rendina 25pts; 7 Johan Heloïse (France) 22pts; 8 Toshi Arai (Japan), Bob Colsoul (France), Donagh Kelly (Ireland) and Sérgio Silva (Portugal) 18pts.
IRC Production Cup co-drivers after round six of 13
1 Daniela Ertl (Austria) 50pts; 2 Nicolas Klinger (France) 47pts; 3 Dorin Pulpea (Romania) 33pts; 4 Sancho Eiró (Portugal), Barry McNulty (United Kingdom) and Mario Pizzuti (Italy) 25pts; 7 Thibault Gorczyca (France) 22pts; 8 Tom Colsoul (France), Kevin Flanagan (Ireland), Dale Moscatt (Australia) and Fernando Nunes (Portugal) 18pts.

IRC 2WD Cup drivers after round six of 13
1 Harry Hunt (United Kingdom) and Martin Kangur (Estonia) 33pts; 3 Petru-Antone Boschetti (France), Simone Campedelli (Italy), Robert Consani (France), Paulo Maciel (Portugal), Marty McCormack (United Kingdom) and Joan Vinyes (Spain) 25pts; 9 Gorka Antxustegui (Spain), Melissa Debackere (Belgium), François Delecour (France), Tommy Doyle (Ireland) and Énio Medeiros (Portugal) 18pts.

IRC 2WD Cup co-drivers after round six of 13
1 Robbie Durant (United Kingdom) 33pts; 2 Danilo Fapani (Italy), Filipe Gouveia (Portugal), Nicolas Klinger (France), Benoit Manzo (France), Jordi Mercader (Spain), David Moynihan (Ireland) and Andres Ots (Estonia) 25pts; 9 Cindy Cokelaere (Belgium), Liam Moynihan (Ireland), Paulo Rego (Portugal), Dominique Savignoni (France) and Gabriel Suarez (Spain) 18pts.

IRC 2WD Cup manufacturers after round six of 13
1 Renault 176pts; 2 Honda 83pts; 3 M-Sport 60pts; 4 Peugeot 41pts; 5 ŠKODA 8pts.

IRC rally wins in 2012 (drivers)
Juho Hänninen: 2; Jan Kopecký: 2; Andreas Mikkelsen: 1; Dani Sordo: 1

IRC rally wins in 2012 (manufacturers)
ŠKODA: 5; MINI: 1 (note: MINI is not currently eligible for IRC manufacturers’ points)

IRC stage wins in 2012 (drivers)
Andreas Mikkelsen 30; Juho Hänninen 23; Jan Kopecký 17; Freddy Loix 5; Dani Sordo 3; Giandomenico Basso 2; Pierre Campana 2; Bryan Bouffier 1.

Stage wins in 2012 (manufacturers)
ŠKODA 70; Peugeot 8; MINI 3; M-Sport Ford 2.
Media centre: Palazzo Dei Congressi – Kursaal, Viale JF Kennedy, 47890 San Marino
Opening hours: 15:00hrs-19:00hrs, Wednesday 4 July; 10:00hrs-20:00hrs, Thursday 5 July; 08:00hrs-23:00hrs, Friday 6 July; 08:00hrs-22:30hrs, Saturday 7 July
Contact: Sandra Strazzari, sandra.strazzari@gmail.com, +39 3389607060
Shakedown: 11:00hrs-16:00hrs, Piandavello-Domagnano, San Marino, Thursday 5 July
Pre-event press conference: Media Centre, 16:00hrs, Thursday 5 July
Post-event press conference: Media Centre, 20:30hrs, Saturday 7 July
Visit the new-look official IRC website, www.ircseries.com, for:
*Daily news updates
*Media Lounge, including press kit, rights-free images
*TV times
*Official entry list
*Event itinerary
*Video highlights
*Live Rally Radio, results and live timing
*Links to new IRC Facebook page and Twitter feed
IRC drivers’ championship: Points will be awarded to the top 10 eligible finishers on all IRC events as follows: 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1. On the Cyprus Rally double points will be awarded to the top 10 eligible finishers as follows: 50-36-30-24-20-16-12-8-4-2. Drivers will count their best eight scores out of a possible 13.
IRC manufacturers’ championship: Points will be awarded to the two highest-placed cars from each eligible make on all rounds with the exception of the Cyprus Rally as follows: 25-18-12-10-8-6-4-2-1. On the Cyprus Rally, double points will be awarded. All available points will be allocated even if a manufacturer’s leading car finishes outside of the overall top 10. Manufacturers will count their best eight scores out of a possible 13.
IRC Production Cup: The IRC Production Cup is for drivers in R4 and Group N4 production cars. It will be contested on all 13 rounds of the IRC and use the same point-scoring system as the main IRC drivers’ championship.
IRC 2WD Cup: Drivers in any two-wheel-drive rally car built to Group A, Group N and Group R regulations will be eligible for the IRC 2WD Cup drivers’ title. However, only car makes registered as an IRC manufacturer will be permitted to score IRC 2WD Cup manufacturers’ points.
The IRC works in partnership with Colin McRae Vision, the charity established in memory of the rally legend. Colin McRae Vision will support initiatives and other good causes close to IRC events. The Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy will be awarded on all rounds of the IRC to the driver best embodying McRae’s spirit. Andreas Mikkelsen was chosen as the winner on SATA Rallye Açores with Luis Monzón selected as the recipient on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés and Marty McCormack picking up the award on the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally. Jan Kopecký received the accolade on Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse. No awarded was presented on Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia as a mark of respect to Gareth Roberts who lost his life competing on the event. Juho Hänninen’s capture of 12 fastest stage times in Ypres earned him the prize on the Belgian asphalt event.
source: ircseries.com