From IRC media [ 13/07/2012 ].
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Full preview: 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, round eight of 13 Sibiu Rally, 19-21 July IRC aces set for Romania debut
With the dust still settling following the dramatic battle for Intercontinental Rally Challenge glory in San Marino last week, the all-action series heads to Romania for the first time and the mainly gravel-based Sibiu Rally from 19-21 July.
A former IRC Supporter Event, the Sibiu Rally ran for the first time in its current format in 2001. It has since become established as one of Romania’s most important motorsport events, which is reflected by the bulging 60-car entry and the prospect of thousands of fans lining the route around the Transylvanian city, a former European Capital of Culture located 280 kilometres north-west of Bucharest.
The Sibiu Rally kicks-off the IRC’s exciting four-event tour of Eastern Europe with Czech Republic, Ukraine and Bulgaria all hosting rounds in the coming months, which will all be shown extensively on Eurosport.
As well as counting as a round of the IRC, the Sibiu Rally is round five of the Romanian national championship, which will ensure a strong turnout of local aces looking to capitalise on their knowledge of the challenging route run in spectacular countryside and consisting of 12 stages with two taking place on the opening night.
Crews will cover 100 kilometres of stage action each day with Friday’s itinerary getting underway at 14:31hrs local time with the first of seven stages. Saturday’s schedule starts at 11:12hrs local time and consists of five stages, including the second run of the superspecial at Sibiu’s rallycross circuit.
The permanent service park will be housed in Sibiu’s historic central square where the start and finish ceremonies will also take place.
While it’s classified as a gravel event, the Sibiu Rally does incorporate some Tarmac sections with the famous Santa Max stage featuring a combination of the two surfaces and the 10-kilometre Paltiniș stage run entirely on asphalt.
Sibiu’s gravel roads aren’t the roughest currently in use in international rallying although punctures are a constant threat. With ambient temperatures expected to exceed 30 degrees centigrade, crews will be subjected to a tough test, especially on Gâtu Berbecului, the longest stage of the rally at 28.50 kilometres.
Organisers have worked tirelessly on the route and stage preparation, which has been underway for several weeks as they get ready for what has been described as their most important event yet.
*With a strong international contingent competing in Sibiu the chances of an overseas winner are highly likely. However, it wouldn’t be the first time that a non-Romanian driver has triumphed with the last four victors all born outside of the country.
*Sibiu’s superspecial on Friday and Saturday is based at the city’s rallycross circuit where drivers will tackle the 1.90-kilometre course in pairs.
*Until 1941 the majority of Sibiu’s population was ethnic German. Although many returned to Germany from the 1950s onwards, about 2000 remained including Klaus Johannis, the city’s chairman.
*Tocaniță, a meat stew seasoned with onions, sarmale, picked cabbage leaves stuffed with a mix of minced meats, rice and spices, and mititei, small skinless grilled sausages, are among popular entrees served in Romania.
*Transylvania is Dracula country and author Bram Stoker’s fictional Count’s castle is located in Brasov, 143 kilometres from Sibiu.
THE BATTLE FOR VICTORY
Having narrowly lost out on winning the previous round in San Marino, Andreas Mikkelsen will be hoping for a maximum score on his preferred surface of gravel in his bid to make it two Intercontinental Rally Challenge titles in succession. Mikkelsen, who will drive a ŠKODA UK Motorsport Fabia Super 2000, is one of several frontrunners with no knowledge of the Sibiu stages.
ŠKODA Auto Deutschland’s Sepp Wiegand arrives in Sibiu on a high following his maiden stage victory in the IRC last time out on what was only the third gravel event of his career. Armed with slightly more experience and knowledge, Wiegand is set to challenge for a podium finish.
Rallying legend François Delecour, who turns 50 in August, starts his first IRC qualifier since Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse in May only this time he’s switched from a Renault Mégane RS to a Peugeot 207 Super 2000. Delecour has already vowed to fight for victory after winning class nine in 13th overall in Sibiu last year and his progression to a Super 2000 machine will provide the extra power he craves.
Marco Tempestini, a Romanian domiciled Italian, is also switching to Super 2000 technology. Last season’s victor has campaigned a Subaru Impreza R4 STI for much of this year’s IRC but has opted for a ŠKODA Fabia for his home event. He has some knowledge of the Fabia from testing but the Sibiu Rally will mark his first competitive outing in the Czech car.
Patrik Flodin is set to challenge in his Petter Solberg Engineering M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 having only managed one stage in San Marino before water pump failure led to engine damage and retirement. The Swede is acknowledged as a gravel expert. Capable Finn Kristian Sohlberg will also drive a Fiesta on his long awaited IRC debut.
Frenchman Mathieu Arzeno partners Michael Burri in the two-strong Saintéloc Racing line-up of Peugeot 207 S2000s and will be a contender based on his performances earlier in the season, although his experience in the car on gravel is limited. Local driver Dan Girtofan completes the S2000 runners in Romania in a Fabia.
IRC Production Cup
With two wins from two starts so far this season, Andreas Aigner is the favourite to make it three in a row aboard his Stohl Racing Subaru Impreza R4 STI. The Austrian has a new co-driver for the rally with Ilka Minor deputising for Aigner’s regular navigator Daniela Ertl, who has work commitments. Romanian drivers Valentin Porcistean and Bogdan Marisca will threaten in their Ralliart Lancers, while Hungarian duo Csaba Spitzmuller – the current Romanian championship leader – and Gergély Szabó should also shine. The Sibiu Rally signals the return of Marco Cavigioli to the IRC. The Italian, the inaugural IRC 2WD Cup champion back in 2008, was a Production Cup frontrunner in 2011 and makes his first start of the season in a Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Dream Team Ukraine’s Vitaliy Puskhar is another driver targeting honours. Marco Tempestini’s 17-year-old son Simone will also be in action in a Subaru.
IRC 2WD Cup
Vlad Cosma and Alex Filip will provide strong opposition to title leader Harry Hunt, who won his class in San Marino where IRC 2WD Cup talents Robert Consani (Renault Clio R3) and Martin Kangur (Honda Civic Type R) both hit trouble. Austrian Michael Kögler makes his second start of the year in a Clio R3, while Italian veteran Davide Catania will bid to score more points having returned to IRC action in San Marino earlier this month.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: MARCO TEMPESTINI
Romania-domiciled Italian Marco Tempestini won in Sibiu last season and makes his seventh start on the event this year. He offers his views on the rally and reveals why he’s changing cars
What will the IRC community experience in Sibiu?
“They will be happy I hope. It’s a bit like the old Acropolis Rally in Greece but with better roads. It’s not smooth gravel but there are a lot of stones and punctures are a big issue so drivers will have to take care. The night stages will attract a lot of fans and with the IRC coming for the first time it will be a really interesting event.”
Some stages feature Tarmac sections. How tough will that be in a car set up for gravel?
“There is some Tarmac which is very fast and wide so not a problem with gravel tyres. The Tarmac stage is really like an uphill race with some hairpins. We will use the same section for the Santa Max stage, which is on gravel and Tarmac on day two.”
How difficult will the event be for those competing in Sibiu for the first time?
“It’s a little bit different from what they are used to but it’s also a big challenge and really interesting. The temperature will also be very hot so it’s another challenge. Everybody will be fine at the end because it will be a really great experience.”
You’re a regular in Sibiu. How many times have you done the rally?
“I’ve done it six times now and I won last year. The rally has always been a lottery because the driver who makes a full attack in Sibiu normally doesn’t win but the one who waits doesn’t win either. The strategy is very important: you have to be fast but there are places where you have to save the car.”
Having spent 2012 driving a Subaru Impreza R4 STI you’re switching to a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 for Sibiu. Why?
“Because we’ve had two retirements in the IRC Production Cup we decided to switch from the Subaru to the ŠKODA for this rally. I’ve done some tests in the car and for me it’s the best choice. Although I know very well the stages and have a Super 2000 car it will not be possible to compete against people like Andreas Mikkelsen who will be very fast.”
Event: Sibiu Rally, Intercontinental Rally Challenge, round eight of 13
Starts: Piața Mică, Sibiu, 21:00hrs, Thursday 19 July
Finishes: Piața Mică, Sibiu, 19:00hrs, Saturday 21 July
Headquarters: Sibiu City Hall, Piața Mică, Sibiu, Romania
Service park: Piața Mare, Sibiu
Facts and figures: Entries received: 60; IRC appearances: None; Stages: 12; Stage distance: 200.20 kilometres; Liaison: 357.70 kilometres; Total: 557.90 kilometres; Surface: Gravel with some asphalt sections
IRC Production Cup drivers after round seven of 13
1 Andreas Aigner (Austria) 50pts; 2 Marco Tempestini (Romania) 48pts; 3 Robert Consani (France) 47pts
IRC 2WD Cup drivers after round seven of 13
1 Harry Hunt (United Kingdom) 58pts; 2 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
IRC 2WD Cup manufacturers after round seven of 13
1 Renault 219pts; 2 Honda 83pts; 3 M-Sport 60pts; 4 Peugeot 41pts; 5 ŠKODA 8pts.