Fiat Auto UK has returned to the World Rally Championship with enthusiasm and excellent times, with the drivers exceeding even their own expectations. The Super Special on Thursday 16 September started off promisingly for the three Fiat...
Fiat Auto UK has returned to the World Rally Championship with enthusiasm and excellent times, with the drivers exceeding even their own expectations.
The Super Special on Thursday 16 September started off promisingly for the three Fiat Stilos, with competitive times set by both local drivers, Leon Pesticcio (22 Bridgend) and Chris Davies (19 Abergavenny) and Italian Andrea Perego (23).
The near production standard 187bhp Fiat Stilo mixed well with the considerably more powerful Super 1600 cars, as well as the larger four wheel drive machines with their obvious advantages in the inclement conditions during the first three days of the rally.
These conditions ultimately proved too much for the Stilos, designed for the friendlier conditions of the British Rally Championship. Competing against a field largely comprising world rally cars, the three Fiat Stilos ran towards the end of the field, meaning the front runners had severely churned and rutted most of the stages.
In an attempt to benefit from better weather conditions, the rally has moved to September, but the result was not as desired, with extremely heavy rain causing further deterioration of the stages with the resultant road conditions causing problems for many of the competitors throughout the weekend.
Rising to the challenge, Pesticcio and Davies set scintillating times over the first four stages on Thursday and Friday before the conditions cut short the World Rally Championship debut of the Stilo. Perego surprised everyone, including himself, with some exceptional stage times in the Welsh forests, a terrain unfamiliar to him, having never competed outside of Italy. The rocky roads curtailed his British debut, when a damaged pipe caused his engine to lose its coolant.
To increase the show for the spectators, new regulations, known as Superally, allow cars to be restarted the following day after being recovered and repaired. Both Pesticcio and Davies took advantage of this, departing with refreshed enthusiasm from a saturated Felindre on Saturday morning.
"We got off to a fantastic start on the Super Special on Thursday night and then followed that up with some good runs on Friday morning," said Pesticcio.
"However, Superally gave us another chance to show what the Stilo really can do and go back onto the stages to put on a good spectacle for the homes fans."
Pesticcio's team-mate, Davies, was similarly thrilled about having the potential to follow up some impressive stage times posted before his retirement:
"Friday started really well for me. I was determined to set off steadily and gradually gather pace throughout the event; we'd been putting in some quick times and the Stilo was running well before we went out."
Unable to re-start, Perego was philosophical:
"Running behind so many four wheel drive cars is tough. The wet conditions meant the stage surfaces quickly changed and at the back, we had the worst of it.
'I was still really enjoying myself and to be part of this rally is a fantastic experience. I look forward to returning next year."
Returning to the stages on Saturday morning Pesticcio and Davies continued to drive competitively, posting excellent times. However, the conditions continued to deteriorate following rutting from the leading cars and poor overnight weather conditions.
Despite his best efforts in the tough conditions of Saturday, Pesticcio rally ended early when a rock punctured the fuel tank. The leak was only discovered at the refuelling zone before the Super Special stage when the decision was made not to continue.
Said Davies, "The conditions this weekend in Wales have been extreme. Following damage to the brakes on Saturday, I returned to the stages on Sunday before the car jammed in first gear. I've had a fantastic weekend and it's been great to get the experience, learning Wales Rally GB.