A single point in it in both points tables and five wins from five for BFGoodrich Abarth/BFGoodrich pull a point clear of Peugeot/BFGoodrich in the Manufacturers' standings Enrique Garcia Ojeda closes the gap to Navarra to a single point in...
A single point in it in both points tables and five wins from five for BFGoodrich
Abarth/BFGoodrich pull a point clear of Peugeot/BFGoodrich in the Manufacturers' standings
Enrique Garcia Ojeda closes the gap to Navarra to a single point in the Drivers' championship
Another all-BFGoodrich podium and a fifth consecutive IRC win for the American tyre brand despite difficult weather conditions
A second consecutive Intercontinental Rally Challenge win for an Abarth Grande Punto S2000/BFGoodrich has taken the Italian squad clear at the top of the Manufacturers' points table, although Peugeot continues to be a real threat thanks to the points picked up by Portugal's Bruno Magalhaes (2nd) and Spaniard Enrique Garcia Ojeda (3rd). Meanwhile, in the Drivers' standings, just one point splits Andrea Navarra who failed to finish this weekend and Garcia Ojeda. IRC action resumes at the end of August with another asphalt fixture, the Barum Rally in the Czech Republic.
The joker card played by the Abarth team this weekend, namely the entry of Giandomenico Basso winner in Madeira in 2006 and an Abarth driver in the Italian Championship as a last-minute stand-in for his countryman Umberto Scandola, ended up paying dividends. Entrusted with the mission of picking up Manufacturers' points for his team. Basso met his objective in style by securing his second win in as many years on the Portuguese island which was exposed to some pretty impressive Atlantic storms during the early part of the event.
Tyre choice consequently proved decisive, as did local knowledge and it was two former winners Basso and Renato Travaglia (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) who emerged in front after the first three stages in the mountains high above the island's capital, Funchal. There were mixed feelings within the Abarth camp at this point, however, since although Basso was leading, the engine of the Abarth Grande Punto S2000 of series leader Andrea Navarra had failed to fire up in the start parc ferme.
Another title challenger was eliminated from the fight for top honours early on when France's Nicolas Vouilloz, winner in Turkey, dropped two minutes with clutch trouble. After falling back to 51st position, the Peugeot Espana driver managed to fight his way back to 10th at the flag but his efforts were insufficient to earn him the slightest point. Other Day 1 victims included Belgium's Freddy Loix (Abarth Grande Punto S2000/BFGoodrich), who was stopped by differential failure on SS3, and Portugal's Vitor Sa (Abarth Grande Punto S2000/BFGoodrich), who went off.
On the drying asphalt of the second loop, Giandomenico Basso lost no time pulling clear of Travaglia and, despite a problem with his gearbox (which was changed in 12 minutes by his team's mechanics), the Abarth driver completed the first day with a handy cushion of almost 30 seconds. The two Italians were joined on the podium by Enrique Garcia Ojeda (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) who was already more than a minute adrift and only 13s clear of Peugeot Portugal's Bruno Magalhaes who had been delayed by an engine problem.
The second leg featured 133km of stages but proved much easier in terms of tyre choice since the sun was now shining brightly over the island of Madeira. This time it was Garcia Ojeda's turn to suffer gearbox problems as he homed in on Travaglia. The Spaniard's 'box was also changed at service but the incident enabled Magalhaes to gain a place in the overall standings. With four stages to go, the top-five order seemed to be set in concrete, but a mighty battle was still raging for 6th spot between Belgium's Bernd Casier (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) and Italian Corrado Fontana (Peugeot/BFGoodrich).
The latter took the upperhand after the penultimate test but it was finally Casier who had the last word as he pipped his rival at the post by a margin of just 3.3s! The exclusion of Renato Travaglia after the finish (illegal turbo) saw both Bruno Magalhaes and Enrique Garcia Ojeda finish on the podium for ahead of the Abarth Grande Punto of Jose Fontes (4th). In addition to winning the two-wheel drive category, Simon Jean-Joseph (Citroen C2/BFGoodrich) finished seventh overall.
Tyres used: g-Force Profiler (customer competition specification) @Dry weather tyres: A01 (soft) @Wet weather tyres: W00 (S2000 and GpN), MB2 (S1600) @Size: 225/40x18 (S2000 and GpN), 200/50x17 (S1600) @Re-cutting of tread patterns authorised to adapt the tyres to the prevailing conditions.
Quotes from Madeira:
Giandomenico Basso (Abarth Grande Punto S2000)
"This victory was far from easy. We had some very difficult tyre calls to make on Day 1 and the pace was extremely fast. We succeeded in finishing the first leg on top and that enabled us to go into the second day with a freer mind."