Rally Madeira: Preview

Rally Madeira: PreviewFrom IRC media [ 31/07/2008 ].
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The fifth round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge takes crews to the picturesque Atlantic island of Madeira, 650 kilometres off the North African coast, for some classic asphalt stages. The Madeira Rally is a well-known fixture on the international rally calendar, containing breath-taking mountain stages together with a number of extremely big challenges for all the drivers. The roads take in a wide variety of different speeds and corners, ranging from tight and narrow bumpy asphalt mountain sections, which are reminiscent of the Monte Carlo Rally, to more open corners as can often be found in Sanremo. The rally is based in Madeira’ s capital Funchal, which is also the venue for the resoundingly popular superspecial stage that takes place on Thursday night through the streets of the capital city.

Last year, Abarth driver Giandomenico Basso dominated the event with a masterful
performance in changing weather conditions. Madeira’s climate is defined as ‘oceanic
subtropical’ – which means that sudden rain storms can strike with little warning. This makes
tyre choice a crucial ingredient to success on the event, and as is often the case, the best
compromise is often the most effective choice.

The surfaces vary quite considerably as well. Many of the stages run on smooth,
comparatively new asphalt, but there are also some stages where the asphalt surface is
older and broken, depriving the cars of traction and grip.

After the superspecial stage on Thursday night, the cars head into the mountains around
Funchal for two full days of rallying on Friday and Saturday. In total, there are 282.18
competitive kilometres on the menu, split into 21 stages. The event is due to finish at 18:00
on Saturday evening back in Funchal.

The competitors...

One of the star attractions of the entry list is the return of joint IRC series leader Luca
Rossetti, who drives for Peugeot Italy. Rossetti is currently tied on 26 points with Peugeot
Belgium’s Nicolas Vouilloz at the head of the standings, so both of them will be trying their
hardest on the twisty roads of Madeira.

One of the strongest challengers will be last year’s winner Giandomenico Basso, who drives
for Abarth, but the Italian team has been forced to change its driver line-up at the last minute
after Anton Alen was struck down by a virus. On this event the Finn will be replaced by
Umberto Scandola, who drove for Abarth on the IRC last year.

The IRC regulars will face tough opposition from a number of very strong local drivers:
particularly Bruno Magalhaes, who finished on the podium in Madeira last year. The Peugeot
driver has won all four of the Portuguese Championship rounds held so far this year, so
heads to one of his home IRC events as a strong contender for victory.

The other drivers to look out for include Jose Pedro Fontes at the wheel of an Abarth Grande
Punto, while Luca Betti makes a welcome return in his privately-run Peugeot 207 S2000.
Mitsubishi also has a strong contender in the shape of Yeray Lemes: an up-and-coming
young Spaniard who has previously competed on the Junior World Rally Championship.
The IRC 2WD Cup, which sees four drivers locked in an intense battle for the top spot at the
moment, will also be fiercely contested in Madeira. One of the series leaders, Marco
Cavigioli, is returning to the IRC with his diesel-powered Fiat Grande Punto and will be
aiming for a strong result to consolidate his lead. He too will have to overcome the might of
some intense local opposition, principally from the Peugeot 206 S1600 of Miguel Nunes.

The expectations...

“I’m looking forward to getting back into the IRC and Madeira is a rally that I am very eagerly
anticipating. It is not an event that I have contested before, although I was there last year as
a spectator. From what I can see it is quite a classic asphalt rally, with some nice stages, so I
am hoping that there will be no nasty surprises for us. My tactic will be the same as it is
always: we will run at a comfortable pace for and then just see where that puts us relative to
our rivals. Of course one thing that could get in the way is the weather, but I hope that the
conditions are the same for everybody so we can have a proper sporting contest. Otherwise,
if there are mixed wet and dry conditions, it could become a lottery."

Luca Rossetti,IRC series leader,Peugeot Italy

“Madeira is a rally that I know quite well, but it is reasonably tricky as there are lots of surface
changes and also variable weather conditions. It’s the sort of event where you have to be a
bit clever. From our point of view, we have maybe not had the best of starts to the season
but I definitely feel confident that we can turn it round. The whole team is working extremely
hard and we are all focussed on getting back to winning again. Of course Madeira is a rally I
won last year, so we’ll certainly be trying to do the same again this weekend.”

Giandomenico Basso, Abarth driver.