Rossetti, BFGoodrich and Peugeot
Luca Rossetti and his co-driver Matteo Chiarcossi continued their unbeaten run in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge by securing their third victory from three starts in the series.
The Italian pair finished the Istanbul Rally ahead
of the similar Peugeot/BFGoodrich of Nicolas Vouilloz/Nicolas Klinger, while Finland's Anton Alen and Timo Alenne took third place with their Abarth/BFGoodrich.
The Istanbul Rally, which was based to the east of the Turkish city between the Marmara and Black Seas, was not expected to be rough, yet its fast, wide, gravel stages turned out to be a nightmare for tyres as ever sharper stones became exposed as the rally progressed. The IRC rules do not permit the use of run-flat systems, so drivers knew they would have to be blessed with a certain amount of luck if they wanted to complete the 255.77km of competitive action without picking up any punctures.
As it turned out, Luca Rossetti only had one slow puncture to report over the two days (at the end of SS12), which meant he came through the weekend relatively trouble-free to pick up his third consecutive win in the series, despite this event being new to him and despite his relative lack of experience on loose surfaces.
His main rivals included ten or so drivers all capable of targeting victory, including last year's winner Nicolas Vouilloz, the 2002 Junior World Champion Dani Sola, the works Abarth drivers Basso and Alen, and Belgium's Freddy Loix (Peugeot). However, all five were to suffer a variety of misfortunes and off-stage excursions...
Saturday morning saw Nicolas Vouilloz (Peugeot) profit from a favourable running order to take an early lead over stages that had been swept clean by competitors running ahead of him on the road. He then dropped 45 seconds and fell back to fourth after picking up a puncture on SS5. The Frenchman completed the opening day in third place behind the quick and consistent Rossetti – who notched up six top-three times out of nine on Day 1 – and Spain's Dani Sola (Abarth).
At that point, the top five overall were covered by a little more than a minute and there was still very much everything to play for. The second leg on Sunday employed some of the tracks used the previous day in the opposite direction, which meant there was an increased chance of puncturing, while rain also put in an appearance towards the end. Indeed, it was a puncture that saw Dani Sola slip back to sixth spot after the day's first stage.
Meanwhile, despite claiming five of the day's six stages, Nicolas Vouilloz was unable to bridge the gap with Rossetti and was consequently forced to settle for second place, 22.9 seconds behind the Italian. A strong final run enabled Finland's Anton Alen (Abarth) to ease past Renato Travaglia (Abarth) to steal third spot and save the honour of the factory Abarth squad.
The next round of the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge will take competitors to southern Portugal at the beginning of May for further gravel action on stages that should be less hard-wearing on tyres.
Marc Van Dalen, Team Manager, Kronos Racing:
"We scored the highest number of fastest times over the weekend, including several one- twos, and Nicolas succeeded in finishing on the podium, although Freddy was less fortunate. Even so, we were competitive and our BFGoodrich-shod cars were on the pace. We suffered punctures but the tyres weren't to blame. I believe Team Kronos will be a force to be reckoned with this season and, in Portugal, we will be running a third car within the framework of the BFGoodrich Drivers Team."
Jacques Morelli, IRC Programme Manager, BFGoodrich:
"Although the stages were the same as those run in 2007, this year's rally was tougher on tyres than our last visit. The heavy rain that fell in the days before the start led the organisers to fill in the ruts with stones which became increasingly exposed as the event progressed. All the tyre manufacturers reported punctures, and we noted five 'true' flats resulting from cut sidewalls. All the others were the result of impact damage, including smashed rims. Once again, the battle was very close at the sharp end and it's just a pity that Basso was eliminated from the running by an early mistake."
Source: BFGoodrich Rally