Carlos Sainz (VW/BFGoodrich) takes victory Spain's Carlos Sainz has won the first running of the Central Europe Rally ahead of Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi / BFGoodrich) after a final day of suspense. With six victories in seven legs, the...
Carlos Sainz (VW/BFGoodrich) takes victory
Spain's Carlos Sainz has won the first running of the Central Europe Rally ahead of Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi / BFGoodrich) after a final day of suspense. With six victories in seven legs, the Volkswagen / BFGoodrich team has dominated the event. The German, Dieter Depping (VW / BFGoodrich) finished third to make it a 100% BFGoodrich podium.
After the cancellation of the Dakar last January, the works and private Rally-Raid teams finally got the off-road season under way with the Central Europe Rally, run between Hungary and Romania, which also launched the Dakar Series.
The winner of the 2007 FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, Carlos Sainz, has had an eventful rally. Overall leader on Sunday, the Spaniard then conceded more than eight minutes during the two Romanian stages run in the Carpathians. But since Wednesday, with the return of the rally to the Hungarian plains, on wider and faster roads, "El Matador" has flown at the wheel of his VW Race Touareg fitted with BFGoodrich tyres.
So much so that at the start of the final stage of the event this morning, on the shores of Lake Balaton, Sainz had an 18-second advantage over the Mitsubishi Pajero / BFGoodrich of Stephane Peterhansel, who had been leading since Monday .
On this last 157km-long stage, which the car competitors were tackling for the third time, the double World Rally Champion steadily widened the gap on the Mitsubishi driver, who in turn stopped after the first checkpoint (CP1) after a navigational error.
The pace of the Central Europe Rally was more akin to that of a WRC rally, with the fight for victory coming down to mere seconds, as indeed did the battle for third place overall. This particular duel was between the German Dieter Depping (VW / BFGoodrich), a triple German Rally Champion, but a "rookie" in Rally-Raids, and Luc Alphand (Mitsubishi / BFGoodrich). In the end, it was the Volkswagen driver that again took the honours.
The unforgiving pace was the reason for the elimination of a number of pre-event favourites during the hectic week: USA's Mark Miller (VW / BFGoodrich) and the South African, Giniel de Villiers (VW / BFGoodrich) made costly errors, while Nani Roma (Mitsubishi / BFGoodrich) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (BMW / BFGoodrich) suffered mechanical woes. The return of Bruno Saby was enough to help the BMW X-Raid/BFGoodrich team come away with a face-saving sixth place finish.
Carlos Sainz (VW / BFGoodrich)
"We were at 100% all the time, despite the surfaces being difficult on some stages, with mud and a lot of changes of grip, and some that were covered in loose gravel. In this context, you really had to have complete confidence in your tyres and I am very satisfied with my BFGoodrich Rock T/As. As well as their performance, I have to salute them for their toughness, because I have not had a single problem or puncture all week."
Dominique Bravy, BFGoodrich Rally Raid Technician:
"The significant snowfall before the start of the rally forced the organisers to change the route in Romania and left us fearing the worst. In the end, we had good weather all week, although most of the tracks were still wet and even muddy in places. Apart from the one Romanian stage which was run four times, which was rocky and hard for tyres, the other legs were hardly wearing on tyres at all. Among the official teams, the BFGoodrich Rock T/A tyre performed perfectly, especially given the incredible pace set by the drivers. And, despite the risks they were taking and their aggressive driving styles, we have only seen a very small number of punctures. Some were caused by small off-track excursions, while others were the fault of neither the driver nor the tyre, like the one suffered by Stephane Peterhansel whose Pajero drove over a piece of scrap metal on Thursday. With ten stage wins out of twelve, BFGoodrich tyres have once again shown good performance and versatility.