From General Article [ 30/09/2006 ].
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Fiat Punto driver Paolo Andreucci won the 48th Rallye Sanremo earlier this month, claiming three out of the six stages that were run after adverse weather conditions forced the cancellation of the opening stages. The Italian, co-driven by Anna Andreussi as usual, scored 10 vital points that allow him to increase his lead in the Italian Championship (CIR) to 9 points over his main title challenger Piero Longhi (Subaru Impreza). Meanwhile, Giandomenico Basso was crowned International Rally Challenge (IRC) champion by virtue that Alister McRae, the only driver who could have challenged him for the inaugural title, did not start the event.
Although it was originally scheduled for 10 stages and almost 250 kilometres of timed stage distance, the 48th Rallye Sanremo finally got underway - with the running of the 23.38 km SS5 Garofano - last Saturday morning, and with an immediate duel between Andrea Aghini and Paolo Andreucci. The first stage was also longest stage of the day, from Carpasio to Andagna, and it resulted in Aghini taking an early advantage, ending the stage with a 3.3 second lead over Renato Travaglia – who started the day with the unhappy expectation of having his minute’s penalty confirmed by an appeal hearing. Paolo Andreucci was third, ahead of Piero Longhi. Simon Jean-Joseph led the Super 1600 classification, lying in sixth place overall 20.7 seconds behind the leader. Stefano Bizzarri hit brake problems, while Andrea Dallavilla regretted his choice of cut intermediate tyres that dropped him to 13th place, 37 seconds behind the leader.
On SS6 (Fresia 1 – 19.96km) Andreucci was quick to respond, winning the Colle Langan stage overall. He beat Aghini by 3.9 seconds, who nonetheless just retained the overall lead. Simon Jean-Joseph extended his lead over Luca Rossetti in the Super 1600 class. Dallavilla retired after going off part of the way through the stage, while Sandro Sottile was forced to stop with a broken turbo. On SS7 (Mimosa 2 –10.58km) Aghini fought back, winning the stage by 1.2 seconds from an inspired Jean-Joseph, to extend his lead. By midday service, Aghini’s lead was 8.4 seconds over Andreucci, with Travaglia in third place, 10.7 seconds off the front. Former European Champion Simon Jean-Joseph led the Super 1600 category in fifth overall.
At the midday service point, rally leader Andrea Aghini said: “I could maybe have gone a little bit quicker, but my goal for now remains to get to the end of all the stages with all four wheels pointing in the right direction!” Meanwhile his rival at the front of the pack, Paolo Andreucci, commented: “Aghini is very quick as everyone knows, and he’s also got the slight advantage of not having to think about the championship. On the last stage I just lifted off slightly to avoid taking too many risks on such a slippery surface.” Close behind these two was Renato Travaglia, in third place overall: “It’s turning out to be a really good fight, and I’m determined to push as hard as I can to the finish in order to try and win.”
Guido D’Amore, co-driver to Andrea Navarra was frank with his assessment of the other Fiat crew's morning: “On the first stage today we spun and lost a lot of time. On the next stages…well, we weren’t quick enough…” Also attending the Rallye Sanremo - but only as a spectator - was factory Fiat driver Giandomenico Basso, the 2006 FIA European Rally Champion, and now the International Rally Challenge (IRC) winner.
The Rallye Sanremo was the fourth event of the inaugural IRC season and as no championship rivals started the event, it confirmed the title would go to Basso. He commented: “It’s a real shame that I cannot be competing along with my colleagues: this is a rally I love and one that I always find challenging. Looking at the classification, I think that if the weather conditions keep on improving my team mate Paolo Andreucci should win.”
Three afternoon stages wrapped up the very truncated Rallye Sanremo. The first was SS8 (Garofano 2 – 23.38km), and Paolo Andreucci immediately launched a big attack to shave 16 seconds off his time over the same stage in the morning, and he took the overall lead of the rally – by just five tenths of a second! Andrea Aghini, who set fourth-quickest time 8.9 seconds behind Andreucci, slipped to second place. In the Super 1600 classification, Luca Rossetti was faster than Simon Jean-Joseph for the first time.
The penultimate stage of the rally (SS9 – Fresia 2 – 19.96km) saw Andreucci set another fastest time, thanks to the confidence gained from his earlier performance and the harder tyre that he had selected at midday service. This meant that he extended his slim lead in the overall classification. The final stage of the rally (SS10 – Eurosport – 3.60km) saw Fiat driver Andrea Navarra channelling all his frustration and disappointment into producing his first fastest time of the rally. Paolo Andreucci however kept hold of his overall his lead and won the 48th Rallye Sanremo in style and in the process he significantly boosted his CIR title hopes.
Paolo Andreucci was delighted to have won the rally, and increase his title advantage to 9 points from Piero Longhi, the only driver who still has a realistic chance of winning the CIR. “It was an intense sprint race, in very difficult conditions," said Andreucci on the podium. "Hats off to the organisers for having pulled it off! On this morning’s first loop of stages the roads were very slippery, and especially on the third stage, there was a lot of water on the road. I thought that the conditions would get better though and for the second loop I used harder tyres, which turned out to be the right choice.” Meanwhile his long-time co-driver Anna Andreussi said: “These are very difficult special stages and they were even more difficult than usual this year. Tyre choice, which was particularly difficult, turned out to be fundamental.”
Second place went to Andrea Aghini: “Of course it annoys me to end up second on a rally I was leading," he said at the finish. "It was a very close fight that I lost because of a tyre problem – when I realised that we were down to the canvas I just tried to limit the damage and defend my position," added Aghini. Renato Travaglia claimed the final podium position and said: “I don’t want to talk about the penalty as I will do that at the appeal hearing. I would just like to repeat though that I have always believed in respecting the rules and I will stand by that now. As for my rally, I thought it was extremely positive – particularly because we have never run in conditions like this before. We’ve got plenty of running under our belts and tried out a few different things. It all worked out well and so I am happy.”
While the battle for the Italian Rally Championship title was the focus of attention, the Rallye Sanremo was also the fourth and final round of the new Eurosport-backed IRC, the inaugural title going to Fiat factory driver Giandomenico Basso as the only driver who could challenge him in the points standings - Alister McRae - did not start the event. “I would have liked to have been driving on this Sanremo Rally, but my programme means that I will be driving the Grande Punto Super 2000 on the World Championship Rally of Turkey, and this at least slightly softened the blow of not being able to compete on these fantastic stages," said Basso. "I also saw my team mate Paolo Andreucci win, thanks also to a fantastic tyre choice, so really I have little to complain about.”
48th Rallye Sanremo - Final Classification: 1. Andreucci/Andreussi (Fiat Grande Punto) in 1: hour 12.55.0; 2. Aghini/D’Esposito (Subaru Impreza) + 14.2; 3. Travaglia/Granai (Mitsubishi Lancer) + 25.3; 4. Longhi/Imerito (Subaru Impreza) + 37.1; 5. Jean Joseph-Boyere (Renault Clio) + 1:02.6; 6. Navarra/D’Amore (Fiat Grande Punto) + 1:04.6; 7. Colombini/Guglielmini (Subaru Impreza) + 1:42.1; 8. Rossetti/Chiarcossi (Peugeot 206) + 1:53.3; 9. Ratiglia/Biondi (Mitsubishi Lancer) + 1:59.6; 10. Medici/Cicognini (Mitsubishi Lancer) + 2:08.2.
International Rally Challenge - Final Positions (after 4 rounds): 1. Basso (Fiat Grande Punto) 20 points; 2. Andreucci (Fiat Grande Punto) and Alister McRae (Mitsubishi) 10.
CSAI Italian Rally Championship - Drivers' standings (after 9 rounds): 1. Andreucci (Fiat Grande Punto) 64 points; 2. Longhi (Subaru) 55; 3. Navarra (Fiat Grande Punto) 45; 4. Travaglia (Mitsubishi) 36; 5. Aghini (Subaru) 32.
Article courtesy of http://www.Italiaspeed.com