From IRC media [ 08/06/2012 ].
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Full and compulsory PREVIEW: 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, round five of 13 Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia, 14-16 June
New meets old when the legendary Targa Florio hosts the all-action Intercontinental Rally Challenge for the first time next week (14-16 June).
Created in 1906 by amateur racer Vincenzo Florio, the event originally consisted of a road race around the whole of Sicily, but by the 1930s it was down to a 72-kilometre lap on public roads, called the Circuito delle Madonie – which was repeated 11 times. Covering nearly 1000 kilometres, drivers were usually split into teams of two.
The route was fearsome, consisting of several hairpin bends and narrow mountain roads with changeable grip, which the spectators adored. Many of the biggest heroes of the sport competed on the roads of the ‘Targa’: winners include Sir Stirling Moss, Vic Elford, Arturo Merzario and Sandro Munari.
Although the roads were twisty and average speeds low, a number of accidents meant that the road race was discontinued after 1977. Instead, the Targa Florio was resurrected as a stage rally in 1978, joining the Campionato Italiano Rally (the Italian Rally Championship) and using sections of the original Madonie circuit. It remains a key feature of the Italian series and forms round five of the 2012 IRC.
Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia, to give the event its full title, will present a tough test for the IRC regulars as they go up against the cream of the Italian championship on high-speed, undulating Tarmac stages east of Palermo, Sicily’s capital city.
Because of the Mediterranean island’s intense heat, the road surface is prone to softening, which makes the asphalt slippery and bumpy in nature as a result. Grip levels also change frequently, which increases the challenge facing the crews.
In keeping with the event’s origins, the stages are effectively extended versions of race circuits with wide open corners so a precise driving style and car set-up is vital in order to achieve optimal cornering and exit speeds. And because of the high speeds achieved, engines are subjected to significant stress levels.
The format of the modern-day Targa differs to other IRC rounds with the action contained within five different stage layouts: a single run over the Citta’ Di Palmero stage on Thursday night, three passes over the Targa and Collesano stages on Friday and two runs over the Cefalu and Castelbuono stages on Saturday. The Collesano and Castelbuono stages haven’t been used since the 1980s and are therefore unchartered territory for the leading contenders.
Fans flock to the stages in great number in Sicily and the addition of the IRC regulars to the entry list will only increase the levels of interest. And those who can’t make it to the stages will be able to watch the key action on Eurosport.
*Industrialist Vincenzo Florio founded the Targa Florio as an ultimate test of machinery, even though there were only 50 cars in Sicily when it was first run in 1906
*Multiple Italian champion and pre-event favourite Paolo Andreucci has won the Targa Florio six times, an event record
*When Alessandro Cagno triumphed on the inaugural event he covered a total distance of 446,469 kilometres
*IRC champion Andreas Mikkelsen has competed in Sicily before, albeit on the all-gravel Rally Conca d’Oro
*Two must-have delicacies in Sicily are arancini (fried rice balls often filled with meat and a tomato sauce) and cannoli (a tube-shaped pastry with a sweet filling)
The battle for victory
The chase for first place on Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia is set to come down to a close fight between several leading runners from the Intercontinental Rally Challenge and their counterparts in the Campionato Italiano Rally, the Italian Rally Championship.
Paolo Andreucci, in a Peugeot Italia 207 Super 2000, is likely to set the standard his rivals must surpass if they are to win the asphalt event. With six triumphs to his name in Sicily, five of which were secured alongside current co-driver Anna Andreussi, the Italian veteran will be hard to beat.
One driver aiming to prevent Andreucci from claiming victory number seven is Giandomenico Basso. The double European champion and four-time IRC event winner has never won the Targa Florio but will be a strong contender in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta RRC.
IRC frontrunners Jan Kopecký and Andreas Mikkelsen will be taking part on Targa Florio for the first time this year and will be expected to take the fight to Andreucci and Basso. Kopecký, currently second in the IRC drivers’ standings, lines up for the factory ŠKODA Motorsport team, while Mikkelsen, the defending IRC champion and current title leader, will drive a Fabia S2000 for ŠKODA UK Motorsport.
Craig Breen is another Targa Florio rookie vying for a strong result. The Irishman, a point-scorer on his two previous IRC outings this season, is making a one-off appearance in an HRT Motorsport Peugeot 207 before returning to his regular team, Saintéloc Racing, for the Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium, which takes place one week after Targa Florio.
Peugeot drivers Matteo Gamba and Alessandro Perico and Umberto Scandola (ŠKODA) are three other drivers aiming to impress, while Sepp Wiegand will be looking to make it five points finishes in a row for ŠKODA Auto Deutschland. The promising German driver arrives in Sicily on the back of his circuit racing debut in Austria earlier this month. Meanwhile, Rashid Al-Ketbi will be aiming to increase his experience of asphalt competition in his Skydive Dubai-backed Fabia.
IRC Production Cup
Johan Heloïse makes his long-awaited return to the IRC after contesting selected events in 2011. The Martinique driver will be at the wheel of a Top Run Motorsport-prepared Subaru Impreza and will be expected to challenge for category honours, as will Vitaliy Pushkar, who forms part of the Dream Team Ukraine operation in a Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. However, both drivers will face a tough battle to beat Marco Tempestini. Born in Italy but now living in Romania, Tempestini hasn’t enjoyed much luck in his Impreza R4 this season but has the pace to secure top spot in the showroom class.
IRC 2WD Cup
Reigning Italian Junior champion Simone Campedelli will be among the favourites to win the IRC 2WD Cup in his Citroën DS3 R3T but he will face strong opposition from Briton Harry Hunt, who will drive a similar DS3, and Estonian Martin Kangur, who makes his first start of the year in a Honda Civic Type R. Andrea Nucita lives in Sicily so will be looking to capitalise on his local knowledge in his C2, while Finnish Renault Twingo driver Mikko Pajunen is highly-rated and can count on the services of experienced co-driver Kaj Lindström.
Event: Targa Florio-Rally Internazionale Di Sicilia, Intercontinental Rally Challenge, round five of 13
Starts: Piazza Castelnuovo, Palermo, 20:00hrs, Thursday 14 June
Finishes: Targa Florio Village, Termini Imerese, 17:30hrs, Saturday 16 June
Headquarters: Hotel Dolcestate, Campofelice de Roccella
Service park: Targa Florio Village, Termini Imerese
Facts and figures: Entries received: 35; IRC appearances: None; Stages: 11; Stage distance: 151.95 kilometres; Liaison: 641.87 kilometres; Total: 793.82 kilometres
IRC Production Cup drivers after round four of 13
1 Andreas Aigner (Austria), Robert Consani (France), Garry Jennings (United Kingdom) and Ricardo Moura (Portugal) 25pts; 5 Toshi Arai (Japan), Donagh Kelly (Ireland), Sérgio Silva (Portugal) and Marco Tempestini (Romania) 18pts; 9 François Delecour (France), Sam Moffett (Ireland) and Ruben Rodrigues (Portugal) 15pts.
IRC 2WD Cup drivers after round four of 13
1 Petru-Antone Boschetti (France), Paulo Maciel (Portugal), Marty McCormack (United Kingdom) and Joan Vinyes (Spain) 25pts; 5 Gorka Antxustegui (Spain), François Delecour (France), Tommy Doyle (Ireland) and Énio Medeiros (Portugal) 18pts; 9 Jonny Greer (United Kingdom), Harry Hunt (United Kingdom), Angel Merrero (Spain) and Henrique Moniz (Portugal) 15pts.
IRC 2WD Cup manufacturers after round four of 13
1 Renault 111pts; 2 Honda 43pts; 3 M-Sport 27pts; 4 Peugeot 23pts.
Saturday 16 June
• 01:00 01:30 – highlights from day1 (Friday leg) (30min)
Sunday 17 June
• 09:00 09:30 – repeat of day1 (30min) **
Monday 18 June
• 01:00 01:30 – highlights of day2 (Saturday leg) (30min)
Tuesday 19 June
• 23:00 23:30 - Inside IRC (30min)
Wednesday 20 June
• 11:30 12:00 - repeat of Inside IRC (30min) **
Reminder: Saturday 23 June
• 01:00 01:30 – Rally Ypres day1 (Friday leg) (30min)
All times are CET
Marked as ** is shown on Eurosport2 only