Why you should follow Sata Rally Acores

Why you should follow Sata Rally AcoresFrom Chris Biewer [ 25/04/2013 ].
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Sata Rally Acores ( Azores ) is an absolute season highlight for rallying full stop, regardless of the series title. Actually the series title does maybe matter for unexpected reasons. ERC: Serious competition ahead! We just don't see this type of variation in WRC these days. Here is a slightly different preview with some video links. Read it and you will understand why you should be alert the next 4 days.

4 days. Well, not having to stick to any WRC clover leaf schedules, this rally will be 3 days, and ATTENTION: starting Thursday, finishing Saturday night.

With clover leaf, well the rally will still be compact since it is on a small island. It also is as close as we get to USA: Acores is part of Portugal, but it is an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, half way between Europe and America! It is actually a group of small islands. The rally will be held on one of them – Sao Miguel – such the rally will still be compact.

Its location still would not have you guess the climate and vegetation of the Acores. It’s tropical! It seems strange to compare it to something Africa, but since we lost the Bandama Rallye, this is as close as we will ever get to rallying in a dense rain forest! Not content with that, the Acores islands were actually created by volcanoes. So it all is incredibly green and still volcanic!

One of the most famous features of the Acores, and probably the most famous stage in the international rally calendar of 2013, is the 24km Sete Cidades stage. This stage goes right over the top of a volcano! Just look at the photo at the top of the article. This is Skoda’s Jan Kopecky on the Sete Cidades stage. From your view point, to the left of the car you see the deep crater of the volcano, to the right it is the Atlantic Ocean, going off either way you fall so deep that you probably won’t realise any more that eventually it gets wet. Well, you probably won’t go over the edge that easily, but what a scenery! On the East African Safari Rally going from Rift Valley towards the Ugandan border there is a world famous stage called God’s Bridge, that is quite similar with deep drops either side for about 500 metres, but Sete Cidades is longer and probably more beautiful too.

The rally kicks off with 3 stages on Thursday evening, Sete Cidades then is the highlight of the Friday stages and is run as SS8 at 14:36 Central European Time and as SS12 at 19:06 CET and both will be shown on Eurosport live – DON’T MISS!

The 3rd day, Saturday, will “only” have 6 stages, but they are the longest and narrowest and most technical stages of the whole rally. To note here is the 22km Tronqueira as SS14 at 12:21 CET and as SS19, the last stage of the event, at 19:06 CET again, both again shown live on Eurosport!

This is still not all the rally has to offer. It follows a link to the Marques stage of previous years. Since the rally allows many combinations, Marques is not part of Sata Rally Acores this year, but it is near the superspecial and includes parts of the Lagoa stage. This is an onboard from Marques to just show the incredible variation this rally has to offer.

This example stage on the link starts on fast gravel
Then asphalt, fast main road – already here the WRC boys would start spitting their dummies, in fact such surface variety is not allowed in WRC, the same as the WRC kids can’t drive in the dark – but back to Acores, before that get’s “boring”, approaching 2:00min,,,
Now this main road turns left onto gravel, but hang on for a moment, this turns into a nother main road, even though still all gravel, loads of space, fast, flowing corners, if you like ultra high speed drifts, watch this!
One-and-a-half minutes later we are back on asphalt, followed by some traffic islands, then it turns just straight on, top gear rev limiter – now to be honest I am not a fan of this, it just proves engine power, no driving skill, but this is even for me a big exception, the best part is coming:
WHATCH at 4:30, hairpin right, but not just hairpin right, you are absolutely flat out on asphalt, 230, 240km/h, even more if your car gives that, slow down to nothing, and at the same time judge that right now the surface changes back onto gravel! If this doesn’t give you adrenalin, go and see a doctor! Now we are in a gravel pit. Until now you may be surprised to hear Sata Rally Acores is actually a very slow and technical rally. This was all very fast, but
After another 2 minutes or so in the gravel pit we turn into a rain forest, proper rain forest vegetation, but the road full of corners and not at all wider than your car!
Have you ever seen a stage with more variation? This much variation is even illegal in WRC!


It’s not only that. Drivers could be intersting too. Beyond the ERC regulars, how very nice to see Bruno Magalhaes reunited with his old 207 S2000 – he won Sata rally Axcores in 2010, when it was an IRC round and in exactly that 207 he is using now (chassis 003, meanwhile re-registered EM 001ZV). Another name that beyond the usual ERC favourites could be an insider tip is Ricardo Moura. Ricardo actually is from Acores and for some reason never got a chance (or doesn’t even want) to compete much away from the island. He finished in the top6 overall in the last 3 editions of this rally driving a dated showroom Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9. Not so this year: It will be Ricardo Moura’s first start in an S2000 car, a Skoda Fabia – and even though I should maybe be proud of some Germans, want to bet Moura ends up minutes ahead of the reigning German Champion Mark Wallenwein, who has a lot more experience of the Skoda S2000? And also note we have a comeback of Madeiran Bernardo Sousa in a Ford Fiesta RRC.

So a good sporting aspect is guaranteed too. There are quite some names that could spoil the party for the establishment. And the establishment is there. Well, sadly Francois Delecour missing, but we have Jan Kopecky, Craig Breen, Robert Kubica.... And Ricardo Moura will drive a fabia S2000 of equal specification to Jan Kopecky’s works car. You don’t see that in WRC, I mean not that we find someone of the qualities of a Séb Loeb or Séb Ogier and all the sudden turn the WRC into an interesting place....

But if it is scenery you want to see. Well, here another video advertising the event very well. The sample stage above gave you about everything but snow and volcanoes. I don’t think we want any snow any more. This video shows quite a bit of the Sete Cidades stage, this time from outside. Here again the mix of surfaces. You come up the hill on asphalt and do not actually see where you turn square left onto gravel.... basically as a spectator you can easily identify a good navigator from a bad one, the driver with the bad navigator will go straight on into the volcano!

Don’t miss this, it starts Thursday at 17:30, live TV stages see above, live stage end radio you find on this web site front page, and stage by stage results you find just above the radio link in the just-in section.