''We learned a lot'' in Ypres
Franz Wittmann and co-driver Bernhard Ettel retired on SS9 at last weekend's Rally Ypres, the Belgian round of the IRC. The Interwetten Racing Team crew held 12th place at the time.
The retirement can be explained by a lack of tyres,
their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX having suffered two earlier punctures in addition to a broken driveshaft.
Wittmann and Ettel nevertheless draw a positive balance from their first assignment in Belgium. What remains from the event are many kilometres of learning experience and the satisfaction of a provisional 12th place that lay way above the expectations of reaching a top 15 result at this classic event.
A time correction took place late in the night from Friday to Saturday at the rally headquarters in Ypres; it affected SS5 which had been aborted due to an accident, thereby also affecting the time of the Interwetten team car. Thus the two Austrians suddenly found themselves not in 10th but rather in 11th place in the overall rankings.
The rally's seventh stage offered a close call to Wittmann as he brought his car too fast into a left turn: "We got off the road and damaged a tyre and the oil cooler during our ride through a ditch. We only changed the tyre after the SS. All in all, we lost a little over 30 seconds which cost us one place (from 11th to 12th)."
On the following run Wittmann couldn't keep up the speed due to vibrations coming from his tyres, but nevertheless managed to keep his 12th overall place and and completed the stage as the third-best non-S2000 car.
Then the next stage, SS9, proved to be the last kilometres of the rally: "After we had gotten to terms with the vibrations on SS8 on our own, we were on a good way on SS9. But then we had another tyre damage, front right. Since we didn't have a second spare tyre we drove on until the tyre had completely dissolved. Thereby the driveshaft also broke."
"This finally meant an early retirement at this great rally," stated an obviously very disappointed Franz Wittmann.
The Austrian nonetheless drew a positive balance from the Interwetten Racing Team's efforts in Belgium.
"We took up the race despite knowing that we wouldn't stand much chance against 19 superior S2000 cars and several Mitsubishi Evo Xs at this 100-percent tarmac classic rally," he pointed out. "But we can be a little bit proud that we managed to be in eleventh intermediate place as second-best non-S2000 car after six completed special stages."
"In any case, we learned a lot here," Wittmann assessed. "I hope that I can put these experiences into action at further starts in Belgium in the future."
The next assignment for Franz Wittmann and Bernhard Ettel will take place at the Intercontinental Rally Challenge's next event: Rally Russia, from July 9th to 11th.