Here's Robb Pritchard with a recap of the second day of Ultra4 action in Italy.
The inaugural ULTRA4 Europe King of Italy kicked off in style today with some of Europe’s fastest and most capable 4x4s blasting off through the forests, ravines and hills of northern Italy.
Thanks to his stellar qualifying performance yesterday Italy’s Roberto Caini was first away but two minutes on the road behind, with a noticeably much smoother application of the power pedal, was Dodge City’s Levi Shirley in his beautiful Euro Fighter.
It was close behind too, although no one knew the exact times, but Stephane Zosso in his ZZ Kustoms buggy, Montatdor in his WSR and Rob Butler in the other Euro Fighter were all within a few minutes of each other.
A long lunch break was had for everyone to bask in the sun before lining up for the second loop. I had so much fun off-roading with Spidertrax’s Thom Kingston amazing Smart Car through the fields that we drove it over the hill into the next valley, much to the bemusement of a couple of marshals in a Jeep.
Rob Butler would have been a lot faster if Montador hadn’t held him up for a few kilometres. “We had the horn on the whole time and in the end just had to push him out of the way. But we’re only a couple of minutes behind 3rd so we will be trying for a podium tomorrow.”
Jaap Betsema the Frisian Fire Ant driver had a hard morning and an even worse afternoon. “The brakes failed near the end of the stage so I had to slow down with the automatic gears.” But it went very wrong on the next lap. “We had a struggle with changing a tyre so we were a bit behind but then we came over a little hill at full throttle and BANG, there was a car stuck in a hole. We could do nothing so hit it really hard, we actually ended up on top of it… And after that we had no brakes again so it was very hard on the gearbox to get to the finish.”
On my way around the campsite with notebook in hand I met the friendly Emanuel Costa, last year’s King of Portugal winner. “We couldn’t race here because we have no sponsors,” he lamented, “It’s a pity because we would love to drive on this course. But we’ll be waiting for all these teams in Portugal!”
But it’s the battle at the top that’s the talking point of the event. Despite braking off the rear anti sway bar Ciani was only 30 seconds slower than Shirley. “He drives fast and his car is good, no doubt, but we are going to see how the car is tomorrow morning and if everything feels right we will attack. It’s a completely new car, but a win is possible, so we’ll see this time tomorrow night!”
The weather forecast for tonight is for thunder storms which will make it a totally different race! Two more laps of the gorgeous 25km track stand behind a great come-back win for Shirley after his disappointing King of the Glaens run or a sensational victory for Ciani in a brand new and untested car. Or maybe someone else win snatch first. Check back tomorrow for the final story.
And in a few days we’ll give you the link of the video that my World4x4 magazine partner Vitor is putting together.