No peace treaty in the North Atlantic With Abarth and Peugeot level pegging at the top of the provisional Manufacturers' standings and with Italy's Andrea Navarra just seven points clear of Spain's Enrique Garcia Ojeda in the ...
No peace treaty in the North Atlantic
With Abarth and Peugeot level pegging at the top of the provisional Manufacturers' standings and with Italy's Andrea Navarra just seven points clear of Spain's Enrique Garcia Ojeda in the Drivers' championship, the pace of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge promises to pick up a notch on this weekend's Rali Vinho da Madeira. An 80-strong entry . including last year's victor Giandemenico Basso (Abarth/BFGoodrich) from Italy . will be on the principal island of the Portuguese-owned archipelago for this all-asphalt fixture which also counts towards the 2007 European Rally Championship.
The Portuguese, who have always been passionate about their motor sport, have had plenty of international action to fire their enthusiasm since the start of the year. After hosting the start of January's Dakar, then a round of the WRC in March, not to mention the Cross-Country Rally World Cup qualifying Rali Transiberico in June, this weekend sees the country receive a visit from the 2007 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
The fifth round of the IRC takes crews to the volcanic island of Madeira for the Rali Vinho da Madeira which is also a longstanding ERC qualifying round. The highly specific sealed surface event features twisty, mountain stages which call for maximum concentration and precision from start to finish of all 19 tests.
At the season's midpoint, the situation in both the Drivers and Manufacturers' standings is pretty much undecided: four rounds into the series, the Abarth team is level on points with Peugeot Spain (two wins apiece) and will be playing a joker card this weekend with the presence in its ranks of 2006 Madeira winner Giandomenico Basso who takes the place of Umberto Scandola. The combination of Basso and provisional championship leader Andrea Navarra could well play into the Italian outfit's hands over the island's narrow roads, especially since the list of Grande Punto drivers also includes former WRC works driver Freddy Loix, plus Portugal's Vitor Sa, winner of the 2004 Madeira Rally, whose BFGoodrich-shod car will be run by the French team Barroso.
Meanwhile, the Peugeot flag will be flown by Portugal's Bruno Magalhaes (Peugeot Total), Belgian Bernd Casier (Peugeot Belgium/Kronos), who fleetingly led in Ypres before going off, and of course the two Team Peugeot Espana drivers, Enrique Garcia Ojeda and Nicolas Vouilloz, who both boosted their title chances recently by finishing on the podium in Russia.
Once again, BFGoodrich runners promise to be in their element and most of the favourites will be competing on the American brand's products, with the exception of Italy's Renato Travaglia (Mitsubishi Lancer), another former Madeira winner.
"As in Ypres, our partners will have two types of pattern at their disposal: a dry weather tyre and an alternative for rain. They will also be able to choose from three different compounds: two for the dry and one for the wet," says BFGoodrich's Customer Competition Technician Jacques Morelli. "Our Customer Competition tyres are suited to a broader spectrum of conditions than our socalled 'reactive' competition tyres. They give our partners a competitive range without them having to worry unduly about choice and, above all, without the concern of spiralling costs."