2013 FIA European Rally Championship, round 11 of 12, 10-12 October
Following three epic events in Super September, the 2013 FIA European Rally Championship heads to Italy next week (10-12 October) for the legendary Rallye Sanremo. And there will be more serious competition ahead with the might of the ERC contenders taking on the cream of the Italian championship runners.
ERC aces ready for Italian asphalt battle
Located in Italy’s Liguria region close to the border with France, Rallye Sanremo remains one of the sport’s most endearing events. With central service on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea and the demanding all-asphalt stages taking place in the hills high above the Italian Riviera town, the rally will be one of the highlights of the 2013 ERC season.
Serious competition ahead on the Italian Riviera
With ŠKODA Motorsport’s Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler completing their ERC schedule for 2013 by celebrating the coveted drivers’ and co-drivers’ titles on the previous round in Croatia*, the focus is on the ERC Production Car Cup and ERC 2WD Championship.
Andreas Aigner is the man of the moment in the ERC Production Car Cup stakes following his top score in Croatia. With close rivals Germain Bonnefis (Team Renault Sport Technologies) and Jaroslav Orsák (GPD Mit Metal Racing Team) not competing in Sanremo due to injury and medical reasons respectively, the Subaru Impreza ace can pull further clear in the title race.
In the ERC 2WD Championship, all eyes will be on Kornél Lukács, who must win to keep his hopes of the crown alive in the absence of Eurosol-Honda Civic Type R’s runaway title-leader Zoltán Bessenyey. Rising talent Lukács has endured a torrid run of results of late, but what his lower-specification Citroën C2R2 Max lacks in outright pace, the Hungarian more than makes up for in talent and determination.
Having secured the ERC Production Car Cup for Teams in Croatia*, Napoca Rally Academy won’t be represented in Sanremo where Team Renault Sport Technologies’ sole driver, Robert Consani, will be out to impress following a strong showing last time out.
Championships join forces
It’s not just several leading lights from the ERC who’ll be chasing success on Rallye Sanremo: a number of frontrunners from the Italian championship are included on the exciting entry. They include ŠKODA’s recently-crowned national champion Umberto Scandola, multiple title-winner Paolo Andreucci and double European champion Giandomenico Basso, who has twice tasted victory in Sanremo, including last season when he won in a Ford Fiesta RRC. Now armed with a Peugeot 207 S2000, Basso will be one of the favourites for victory.
Running into the night at 55
Rallye Sanremo turns 55 in 2013 and to mark the milestone, event organisers have increased the length of the famous Ronde stage to 55 kilometres. Run on Friday night, the stage is the longest on the ERC schedule and will test car and crew to the limit on tight, twisty and undulating roads.
Meanwhile, the rally’s inclusion on the European championship roster for this year rekindles a relationship that began way back in 1964.
Who can tame the lion?
Peugeot’s 207 Super 2000 has a strong record of success on Rallye Sanremo with Kris Meeke, Paolo Andreucci and Thierry Neuville using the car to claim a hat-trick of wins between 2009 and 2011. With Andreucci, Stefano Albertini, Giandomenico Basso, Bryan Bouffier plus Peugeot Rally Academy team-mates Jérémi Ancian and Craig Breen among the stars using the French machines next week, Peugeot could celebrate a quartet of Sanremo triumphs.
Flying Finn back on ERC duty
Esapekka Lappi will return to ERC duty on Rallye Sanremo following his impressive showing on Barum Czech Rally Zlín in the summer. Lappi, the 2012 Finnish champion, will represent the factory ŠKODA Motorsport team in a Michelin-shod Fabia S2000, which guided Jan Kopecký to the European crown last month*. Eurosol Racing Team Hungary’s János Puskádi will also be competing in a Fabia.
Subaru team doubles up
The Stohl Racing operation will expand to a two-car team of Yokohama-equipped Subaru Impreza R4 STIs on Rallye Sanremo with Toshi Arai returning to the fold after skipping the previous round in Croatia, where Andreas Aigner reclaimed his ERC Production Car Cup lead.
ERC 2WD contenders out in force
With more than half of the entrants in two-wheel-drive machinery, the ERC 2WD Championship runners will be out in force on Rallye Sanremo. Among the drivers of note are Sebastian Barbu (Citroën DS3 R3T), Renault Clio R3 ace Hannes Danzinger, Renato Pita in a Peugeot 208 R2, the car of choice for young Italian Gabriele Cogni. Other frontrunners include Italian talents Alessandro Bettega, Simone Campedelli, Andrea Crugnola and Andrea Nucita.
Q&A: GIANDOMENICO BASSO
The double European champion is also a two-time Rallye Sanremo winner
How did the deal for you to contest the penultimate round of the ERC come together?
“It came together a bit like all the deals we’ve had this year: at the last minute! Although to tell the truth we wanted to do two rounds of the European championship this year and Sanremo was always going to be one of them, so we made it a priority. Luckily we’ve got a very good relationship with all of our usual partners and we were able to rely on them once more. The car will be from Munaretto and our tyres will be Michelin: we’ll be using the new specification of tyre that will be used from next year, so I think it was interesting for them to make the comparison as well.”
In terms of a result, what can you achieve this year?
“We’ve won in Sanremo twice before, and so you have to say in the context of that your only objective has to be to try and do that again. So let’s say that our goal is the podium and hopefully the top step of it. But Sanremo is a very tricky event and we’ve had wins that got away from us before. All we can do is try our best and that’s what we’re going to be doing.”
What does it take to win in Sanremo?
“A lot of it is out of your hands, the weather changes a lot and it’s important to be on the right compound tyres. Sometimes you get it right and other times you’re just lucky. Other times you’re completely wrong. As Sanremo is a very flowing event, without many straights, I would say that it’s also essential to find the right rhythm with the car from the very beginning and be able to keep it up consistently: not just at the start. You’ve got to avoid making mistakes – that’s part of the consistency – and if you can get a good time in the long stage, that will be of vital importance too”
The Ronde night stage is 55 kilometres this year. How much of a challenge will this be?
“It’s a really big challenge. I think the 10 kilometres they have added to the stage are completely new; they’ve never been done before. So that is sure to put an interesting perspective on it. A stage of this length really tests the drivers, the tyres, and the car. It’s just very different to what you experience anywhere else, also because it’s in the dark. Anything can happen as the weather and the grip changes a lot over the course of the stage: not surprising as you go up and down, through valleys and over mountains. I think we need to give a lot of credit to the organisers because it’s really hard and complicated to run a stage of this length while keeping to the required standards of safety, marshalling and so on. All credit to them and their ambition in doing it again. This is a combination of the stages we have in the afternoon joined up, so obviously it will be a big help when we run through them for the first time during the day.”
What about the serious competition in the ERC?
“The competition gets tougher all the time, which is why I want to be in the ERC next year. The European championship attracts world-class drivers all over the world and, closer to home we have Paolo Andreucci in another 207 and Umberto Scandola in the ŠKODA. Of course they will be strong as well. The championships in Europe and in Italy are all decided now – except for the manufacturers’ championship in Italy – so everybody is going to be pushing hard from the start; there’s going to be no other priority for everyone apart from trying to win.”
*Sanremo is affectionately known as the Citta dei Fiori, the city of flowers, due to its flower market.
*Giandomenico Basso won’t be the only former European champion competing in Sanremo next week. Italian veteran Maurizio Verini won the coveted crown back in 1975.
*The Liguria region, where Sanremo is located, has a reputation for olive oil production, which is used with basil to make pesto, a popular Ligurian speciality.
*Sanremo rose to prominence as a holiday destination with several grandiose hotels built overlooking the Mediterranean sea, including the Royal Hotel, the rally’s headquarters, which was opened in 1872.
*Multiple event-winner Sandro Munari is one of the legends of Rallye Sanremo. Such was his fanatical following that spectators would get on their hands and knees and kiss the asphalt he’d just driven on.
Starts: 14:00hrs, Friday 11 October, Service Park, Old Railway Station, Sanremo
Finishes: 18:04hrs, Saturday 12 October, Service Park, Old Railway Station, Sanremo
Headquarters: Royal Hotel, Sanremo
Service park: Old Railway Station, Sanremo
Facts and figures:
Entries received: 55
ERC appearances: None (since restructuring of ERC in 2004)
Stage distance: 232.91 kilometres (107.89 kilometres leg one, 125.02 kilometres leg two)
Liaison: 227.55 kilometres
Total: 460.46 kilometres
source fiaerc.com, eurosport.com