Intercontinental Rally Challenge Rally Russia (Round 4 of 9) Anton Alen makes a name for himself Finland's Anton Alen (Abarth/BFGoodrich) takes his first win in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, 32 years after the maiden world...
Intercontinental Rally Challenge
Rally Russia (Round 4 of 9)
Anton Alen makes a name for himself
Finland's Anton Alen (Abarth/BFGoodrich) takes his first win in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, 32 years after the maiden world class success of his father Markku. Russia's first international motor sport event since 1914.
At the season's halfway point, Andrea Navarra tops the Drivers' points table, while two BFGoodrich partners Abarth and Peugeot share the lead in the Manufacturers' standings.
Thirty-two years after his father, Markku, Finland's Anton Alen today collected the first major win of his career. And like dad, he was driving a Fiat-Abarth. Russia, which hadn't organised an international motor sport event for 93 years, played host to the fourth round of the 2007 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, Rally Russia. The two Peugeot Spain drivers, Enrique Garcia Ojeda and Nicolas Vouilloz, joined Alen on the podium, while the other factory Abarth driver, Andrea Navarra, remains on top of the provisional Drivers' standings. The next round will take IRC contestants to the asphalt of the island of Madeira in three weeks' time.
After Thursday evening's ceremonial start in the streets of Saint Petersburg, the 47 crews entered for the 2007 Rally Russia moved on to the town of Vyborg, 150km north of the City of the Tsars and some 30km distant from the border with Finland. The factory Abarth youngster Anton Alen was practically on home ground and, although the event was new to him, the weekend's stages were very similar to those to which he is accustomed in Finland, namely fast, and even very fast in places. Indeed, the organisers were forced to cancel the second visit to the Drujnosel'e test on Saturday morning after it was completed at an average of 136.74kph first time through!
The inaugural Rally Russia kicked off at a blistering pace with Anton Alèn/Timo Alanne (Abarth Grande Punto/BFGoodrich) rapidly emerging amongst the front-runners. After the opening loop of four stages, the Finnish pair was 2nd overall, just 4 seconds behind Russia's 17-year old Evgeny Nivikov (Subaru/BFGoodrich), who was extremely quick on home soil, while Sweden's Jimmy Joge (Peugeot 207/BFGoodrich) followed Alen by a few tenths of a second. This trio had already pulled some 20 seconds clear of Nicolas Vouilloz (Peugeot 207/BFGoodrich) and his Spanish team-mate Enrique Garcia Ojeda. As in Turkey, the provisional Drivers' championship leader Andrea Navarra (Abarth Grande Punto/BFGoodrich) was first on the road and consequently forced to sweep a clear line through the loose top-coating for his rivals following further down the start order.
Anton, the son of the famous Markku Alen (20 world class wins and a Fiat-Abarth driver from 1974 to 1981), took a decisive step towards his maiden international success on the second loop by claiming the longest test of the event (SS5/29km) to move into the lead as his principle IRC rivals lost ground. Nicolas Vouilloz lost a minute-and- a-half after collecting a puncture early in the stage, while his team-mate Enrique Garcia Ojeda, who finished 2nd in Ypres last month, also dropped time because of a puncture. The two Peugeot Spain-entered drivers nonetheless succeeded in finishing on the podium when Peugeot Sweden's Jimmy Joge was sidelined following suspension failure. Other top names on the retirements list included Italy's Renato Travaglia (Mitsubishi/suspension) and the impressive Nivikov (engine).
Sunday's short run of three stages saw Anton Alen hold on to his lead to make sure of his first international success after his two Group N wins in the WRC. His team-mate Andrea Navarra (Abarth Grande Punto/BFGoodrich) finished 4th to stay on top of the Drivers' standings going into the second, principally asphalt half of the season. The two-wheel drive category was won by Simon Jean-Joseph (Citroen C2-R2/BFGoodrich), but neither Sola nor Betti (both Honda Civic R3) reached the finish after promising early starts.
Tyres employed: g-Force Gravel (catalogue version)
BFGoodrich runners had two types of compound available this weekend: 'soft' (for wet weather) and 'hard' (for dry conditions). They all used the hard compound on Saturday morning before switching to the softer option, with the exception of Navarro. Mousse run-flat systems were not permitted, so crews were allowed to carry two spares wheels. No maximum tyre quotas per driver.
Quotes from Russia...
Anton Alen (Abarth Grande Punto/BFGoodrich)
"This is my first overall win and, as such, it is clearly a very special moment for me. Today's leg might have been short but I found it extremely long! It was difficult to control from in front and stay concentrated all the way to the finish. I like the stages and there was plenty of variety. I didn't feel entirely confident in my notes initially but it was better second time round. My car went very well and we got all our tyre choices right."
Jacques Morelli, BFGoodrich Customer Competition Manager
"The conditions were quite difficult this weekend with very fast, narrow stages and damp ground as a result of the changeable weather. Only the first loop was entirely dry. Our products were well suited to the terrain in all the types of condition encountered. Around 90% of the entry here was competing on Michelin Group tyres. The only down side to the weekend was the punctures suffered by the Peugeot Spain drivers. Vouilloz hit a rock along a straight while Ojeda punctured a rear tyre on the same stage. Andrea Navarra made a poor tyre choice on Saturday afternoon when he opted for hard rubber despite the damp conditions."