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Sata Rally Azores (Azores, Portugal) - 07-09 May 09

Posted: May 12, 2009 8:36 PM - 8026 Hits

Round 4 - 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC)

  • Meeke/Nagle win in Azores and take the lead in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge

Photo: Intercontinental Rally Challenge

Franz Wittmann/ Bernhard Ettel crown an excellent performance with sixth overall place

Posted: May 12, 2009 8:36 PM

At the IRC-series “SATA Azores Rally” the two Austrians Franz Wittmann/Bernhard Ettel in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX reached an excellent sixth overall place and crossed the finishing line in Ponta Delgada as second-best non-S2000-car. Especially joyous: for the first time within the IRC the Interwetten Racing driver scored points – at his only second assignment in the learning year – and thereby produced the best result of an Austrian in the history of the IRC.

Even though this sixth place actually dangled on a string. The weather conditions on Saturday morning were playing topsy-turvy. Storm, rain and fog demanded everything of the teams. During a spin off the road on SS 13 the left side of Wittmann’s car had been damaged. But the team of Stohl-Racing was able to exchange the front and back transverse control arm, as well as the left rear suspension in the alloted time.

Thus the Interwetten Racing driver entered stages 14 to 16 and reached 10th, 8th and 11th place. This meant seventh overall place prior to the last special stage, SS 17 – for SS 18 had been cancelled due to adverse road conditions. His lead on Conrad Rautenbach (Peugeot S2000) added up to only 2,6 seconds and to eight seconds on Portuguese Ricardo Moura (Mitsubishi Evo IX). The makings of a classic showdown.

Which, alas, didn’t happen. Following a rollover of Anton Alen (Fin/Fiat) the following teams stopped and subsequently merely ambled along on the road. At this moment Wittmann was still at the start. When it was his time to take up the stage, though, spectators were already walking from the special stage in the dense fog in the opposite direction of traffic.

Starting became impossible. The stewarts neutralised the stage – and for Wittmann sixth overall place became joyful reality.

Wittmann: “In a way it is a pity that it didn’t come to a sportive heart-stopping finish. I was motivated to a fault. But in the end it would have been too dangerous. My balance is definitely positive even though there were many ups and downs. It was a most difficult rally and Bernhard did a brilliant job. I’d like to thank the whole team that had a lot of work to do following my slips. Thanks must also go to my sponsors Interwetten and Bezirksjournal, who gave me the opportunity for this success.”

And co-driver Bernhard Ettel adds: “It was a wonderful rally. And I am really glad about this result, especially since this event was completely unchartered territory for us. Naturally, I would also like to thank the team and our sponsors.”

Peugeot UK Podcast

Posted: May 11, 2009 5:58 PM

Peugeot UK and Kris Meeke win the Azores Rally

Posted: May 11, 2009 5:55 PM

Having dominated the first day Peugeot UK and Kris Meeke continued their winning ways with overall victory in this year's SATA Rallye Azores.
Day two of the SATA Rallye Azores kicked off in dreadful conditions with driving rain and strong winds welcoming Kris and Paul as they entered SS 11 Ribeira Grande.

Have finished the previous day in first position, Kris and Paul were, therefore, the first car on the road. With the torrential raining beating down on the stage Kris said" the cobbled surface in the stage was very similar to driving on the slippery roads of Monte Carlo". Even in these conditions Kris's Peugeot 207 S2000 powered its way to yet another fastest stage time, confirming the dominate performance of Peugeot UK's dynamic duo.

This helped Kris and Paul extended their lead by 3.8s, given them a lead of 44s over team mate Nicolas Vouilloz, who was only able to set the fourth fastest stage time.

After SS11 the crews tackled the longest stage of the rally so far, the 21.78 km Graminhais stage, SS 12. This stage saw Kris and Paul set yet another fastest stage time as the other crews had no answer to the lightening speed of the Peugeot UK duo. SS 12 also saw Jan Kopecky in the Skoda Fabia S2000 move into second place as Nicolas Vouilloz again lost time, setting the fifth fastest time, 15.2s slower than Jan Kopecky.

SS 12 was also the final resting point of Giandomenico Basso's Fiat Grande Punto which had experienced an earlier impact on SS 11 resulting in terminal suspension failure in the stage, moving Fernando Peres in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX into sixth place.

The next stage, the longest stage of the rally at 22.37 km SS 13 Tronqueira was three out of three for Kris and Paul, as they powered to yet another fastest stage time. Nicolas Vouilloz was second fastest in the stage and 6.8s faster than Jan Kopecky so moved to within 1.2 seconds of reclaiming second place.

With the rain still falling the crews returned to the Service Park at Porta Delgada for a well earned pause in the action and to let their teams check over the cars before the next set of stages.

The first stage after the break was Marques SS 14, the second run through this stage, but now conditions were not the dry conditions of yesterday. The change in conditions saw Kris pass through the stage in 8m 43.7s, 22.3s slower than the previous day.

Setting only the seventh fastest time in the stage his lead over Jan Kopecky reduce by 14.6s, to 51.3s. With the rain getting lighter the next stage SS 15 the 7.02 km of Coroa Da Mata, was again the second run through the stage during the rally. Kris this time set the third fastest time, losing a further 4.1s to Jan Kopecky.

After SS 15 it was back to the super special stage at Grupo Marques SS16 but this time the cars ran individually. Jan Kopecky set the fastest time in his Skoda with Kris setting the seventh fastest time.

Kris now led the rally by 44.5s and with only two stages to go.

As the cars set off for the second run through Graminhais SS 17 they were informed the final stage SS 18 had been cancelled due to standing water in the stage.

Therefore, Kris only had one stage between him and his second IRC victory. To confirm his dominance of the rally he set the fastest time in the stage and took overall victory by 53.1s from Jan Kopecky.

MEEKE/NAGLE TAKE DOMINANT VICTORY ON SATA RALLYE ACORES

Posted: May 11, 2009 5:51 PM

Peugeot UK driver Kris Meeke delivered a string of fastest stage times on the closing day of the Sata Rallye Acores, round four of the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, to take victory and the overall championship points lead. Over the course of seven stages, the 29-year-old Ulsterman, who took the lead on SS2 yesterday morning, resisted a strong performance from Czech ace Jan Kopecky in his Skoda Fabia while remaining largely untroubled by his championship rivals.

In wet and blustery conditions on the island of Sao Miguel, set in the heart of the Azores achipelago some 1500km off the Portuguese coast in the Atlantic Ocean, the 37 cars to have survived the opening day's action set out westward for a gruelling day on the extremely challenging gravel stages. Meeke held an overnight lead of 40 seconds from defending champion Nicolas Vouilloz in a similar Peugeot 207, stretching his advantage through the first stage of the day while the Frenchman came under attack from a flying Kopecky.

Behind the three leaders, young Finnish star Anton Alen gamely carried the hopes of the Abarth squad with a fine performance in his Grande Punto in fourth place after his team mate Giandomenico Basso was forced out with suspension damage on the second stage of the day. Alen enjoyed a day-long battle for fourth place with former WRC frontrunner Freddy Loix in another Peugeot 207, but spun on the penultimate stage and dropped 12 minutes to finish 18th after encountering a problem in getting the Grande Punto going again.

Local hero Fernando Peres powered to fifth in his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, ahead of the similar car of IRC regular Franz Wittmann of Austria. The battle for the final two points positions was between Conrad Rautenbach, making his IRC debut in another Peugeot 207, and another Portuguese specialist in a Mitsubishi, Ricardo Moura.

The local man managed to overhaul the South African shortly after the service halt but Rautenbach came back to clinch seventh place on the final few stages. In the IRC 2WD Cup, Frenchman Denis Millet took a comfortable victory in his new Peugeot 207 RC Rallye, which features an innovative 1600cc turbocharged engine, from Italy's Manuel Villa in his Fiat Punto Super 1600.

The gruelling surface and ever-changing weather conditions conspired to force a total of 17 cars into retirement from the 50 starters. Principal among these was the flying Finn Juho Hanninen who led Skoda's early charge on the opening day, only to twice come to grief on the Pinhal da Paz stage, wrecking his wheel against some rocks on SS4 before suffering a bigger accident on the field's return for stage 10 yesterday.

Photos:

Posted: May 11, 2009 5:49 PM

Results

Posted: May 11, 2009 5:48 PM

1 Meeke / Nagle Peugeot 207 S2000 2hrs 36m 48.3s
2 Kopecky / Stary Skoda Fabia S2000 +53.1s
3 Vouilloz / Klinger Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m 4.8s
4 Loix / Miclotte Peugeot 207 S2000 +2m 15.2s
5 Peres / Silva Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +4m 45.2s
6 Wittmann / Ettel Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +5m 33.2s
7 Rautenbach / Barritt Peugeot 207 S2000 +5m 35.8s
8 Moura / Eiro Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +5m 41.3s
9 Magalhaes/Magalhaes Peugeot 207 S2000 +7m03.5s
10 Sousa/Carvalho Abarth Grande Punto S2000 +8m13.8s

SATA RALLYE ACORES PREVIEW

Posted: May 6, 2009 2:37 PM

The challenge...
The fourth round of this year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge takes the competitors to the Azores for the first time, as the Sata Rallye Acores - previously an IRC Supporter Event - makes its debut on the full championship. Although it is new to the IRC, the Sata Rallye Acores has a long and illustrious history behind it in the European Championship, with legends of the sport such as Juha Kankkunnen amongst the former rally winners. Other drivers to have competed on the event include Alister McRae, Bruno Thiry and Gregoire de Mevius.

Nonetheless, for the vast majority of the regular IRC drivers - who will all be present this weekend - the Azores will represent a big leap into the unknown: just one of the factors that will make it such a fascinating event. The Sata Rallye Acores is held on a wide variety of sinuous gravel roads with predominantly soft surfaces, featuring some stages that are not dissimilar to the rollercoaster roads found on the Rally New Zealand. The mid-Atlantic climate also makes for variable weather conditions, which will have a profound effect on tyre choice. The key to success on the Sata Rallye Acores will be to establish a fluid rhythm from the outset. The stages are not expected to be overly rough, meaning that the drivers should be able to make full use of the roads without too much risk of a puncture.

Many of the roads are quite wide and fast, with steep cambers that should lead to a reasonably high average speed on the stages. The driving style required to succeed on these quick stages is neat and precise, in order to establish a good flow between corners. With the rally being brand new to all the IRC competitors, it will be essential to make a good set of pace notes from the very start. The Sata Rallye Acores gets underway with a ceremonial start from the Portas da Cidade in Ponta Delgada, the capital of San Miguel island where the event is based, at 17:30 on Thursday 7 May. The real action begins on Friday morning with the first of 18 special stages totalling 229.86 competitive kilometres. The centralised service park is located in Ponta Delgada, with the rally finish scheduled for Saturday 9 May back in Ponta Delgada at 20:05.

The competitors...
The Sata Rallye Acores is an event that could favour the local crews, with the top Portuguese driver being Bruno Magalhaes - a previous podium finisher on the IRC and last year's winner in the Azores - starting as car four in his Peugeot Portugal 207 S2000. In total, an impressive line-up of 49 crews will contest the first International Rally Challenge event to be held on the Azores islands. Of the registered drivers, 12 will compete in Super 2000 machinery, including Freddy Loix, who heads the IRC drivers' standings after three events. Loix will have a new co-driver for the Azores event, with Frederic Miclotte replacing Isidoor Smets.

One of the highlights of the event will be the return of Skoda, which made an impressive IRC debut on the Monte Carlo Rally.

Juho Hanninen, who led the opening IRC event of the season in Monte Carlo, will carry number one on the side of his factory Skoda Fabia S2000. Hanninen's team-mate Jan Kopecky is also entered for the event, which marks the second appearance of the season by the Czech manufacturer.

Anton Alen and Giandomenico Basso will represent Abarth in two factory Grande Puntos, while Bernardo Sousa from Portugal will appear in a semi-works machine.

Freddy Loix, Bruno Magalhaes, Kris Meeke, Vitor Pascoal, Nicolas Vouilloz and newcomer Conrad Rautenbach will drive the six Peugeot 207 S2000s on the entry. Rautenbach, a World Rally Championship regular, will be getting his first taste of Super 2000 machinery on the Azores.

Portuguese drivers Ricardo Moura and Fernando Peres will lead the Mitsubishi Ralliart effort in a pair of Lancer Evo IXs. The talented Austrian Franz Wittmann Jr will also be at the wheel of a Lancer as part of his extensive IRC programme this year.

Julien Maurin will drive the sole Volkswagen Polo S2000 on the entry, while category leader Manuel Villa returns to the IRC 2WD Cup in a Fiat Punto S1600 where he will compete against Denis Millet in a Peugeot 207 RC Rallye. The top local driver in the category will be Sergio Silva, who starts as car number 20 in a Peugeot 206 GTI. For the complete entry list, please visit www.satarallyeacores.com and click on the 'entry list' button.

The expectations...
"For me, the objective in the Azores will be to maintain my position as championship leader in the IRC. But this won't be easy. I think there will be lots of fast drivers out there: Juho Hanninen, my team mate Nicolas Vouilloz, Kris Meeke and Bruno Magalhaes. The route of the rally is very varied, with lots of uphill and downhill sections and some bits of asphalt as well. The start order I think will be quite important as there will be a lot of loose gravel. In Brazil, I was first on the road as I was the IRC leader. But in the Azores, the FIA 'A' and 'B' priority drivers will be first on the road. I should have a road position of about sixth, which should be ideal."
Freddy Loix, Peugeot Belgium.

"This is a new event for me, so I'm looking forward to it a lot. I'm sure that the conditions are going to be quite tricky, and the weather could play an important part. We've not had so much luck up to now this season, but when things go well we have the speed, so it's a question of once more doing our best and hoping for a clean run. I'm sure it's going to be a very exciting weekend."
Anton Alen, factory Abarth driver

"We've been doing some more tests with the car since Monte Carlo and it feels good but there are still quite a lot of question marks that need to be answered. In particular, it is the first time for us on a rally with this car on gravel, so we will need to see how it performs relative to everyone else. From my point of view I am happy though as gravel is definitely the surface that I am more used to. Our pace in Monte Carlo was a very pleasant surprise, so my idea is to start this rally with the objective of finishing on the podium. If we have no problems I think it should be possible. We have a short test before the rally and hopefully that will answer a few questions for us. I'm quite sure that all our rivals will be very strong though."
Juho Hanninen, factory Skoda driver

Franz Wittmann is looking forward to the challenge of the second IRC run

Posted: May 5, 2009 12:42 PM

The long wait has finally come to an end for Franz Wittmann. Following the IRC kick-off at the end of January in Monte Carlo the Interwetten-driver had kept himself in shape as advance driver at the Lavanttal Rally. But that was hardly enough for a full-blooded motor sports athlete. The bigger therefore the joy that things will get hot once more next weekend at the “Sata Rallye Acores”. The fourth run to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, in short IRC, will take place on San Miguel, the biggest isle of the Azores, from May 7 to 9. Together with co-driver Bernhard Ettel and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX Franz Wittmann is looking forward to taking up this challenge.

Wittmann: „It is a bit exotic, indeed. So far I’ve only known the Azores from the weather forecast – the anti-cyclone over the Azores. But I am sure that it will be a highly attractive and spectacular rally. Fortunately it is an absolute gravel rally which will make it easier for me to find my rhythm. And this surface also offers me the chance to make up the power disadvantage as compared to the S2000 cars with a lot of fighting spirit.“

But the Azores also offer Franz Wittmann the chance to confirm his sensational performance from Monte Carlo. Even though he had had to retire due to technical problems just short of the finishing line back then, he did so as best non-S2000-driver. This time around, of course, all effort will be taken to prevent such a retirement. And chances are good that one can once again be the best Mitsubishi-, respectively Subaru-driver in spite of strong competitors like, for instance, Portuguese drivers Ricardo Moura and Adruzilo Lopes. The top ten in the overall ranking seem like a possible goal. For twelve teams with S2000 cars will be competing.

“The main focus, of course, will once again be on getting to know the courses and to slowly approach the top competitors. But if we see the opportunity for a top result we will take it. We are highly motivated. In Monte even 17 S2000 were competing and we were in ninth place until our retirement. Now we are hoping for a problem-free recce. For then we will surely be a little wiser as to the conditions”, explains Wittmann.

And anyone who knows Franz Wittmann also knows that he, together with the Interwetten Racing Team, leaves nothing to chance. One week prior to the departure extensive testing was done in the Waldviertel. Nine turns were completed on a seven kilometres long course.

Wittmann: “This testing was very important to us in order to find our rhythm once more. The course in the Waldviertel is not unlike the stages on the Azores. We also used this testing to tune the Interwetten Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX for gravel surface.”

The eighth run in which Franz Wittmann will take part this year within the IRC, was also fixed. Beside the kick-off in Monte Carlo, which has already taken place, and the Rally Acores (Portugal) these are the Ypres Rally (Belgium), the Barum Rally (Czech Republic), the Rally Asturias (Spain), the Rally Sanremo (Italy), the season’s finale in Scotland and now also the Rally Russia.

“The decision for Russia was due to the fact that it is a gravel-rally. In Madeira one competes on tarmac. And that doesn’t suit the Mitsubishi that much”, explains the 25-year-old Lower Austrian.

The „44th Sata Rallye Acores“ will commence on May 7 at 17.30 in Ponta Delgada. Until the crossing of the finishing line on May 9 at 20.05, 18 special stages with a length of 229,86 kilometres are scheduled. The two super stages on Thursday (7.5.) at 18.20 and on Saturday (9.5.) at 14.52 will be the highlights of the rally (all times are local times).

Peugeot UK and Kris Meeke head for the Azores for the next round of the IRC

Posted: May 5, 2009 12:28 PM

Peugeot UK with Kris Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle will contest the fourth round of the IRC, the Sata Rally in the Portuguese Azores between the 7- 9th May.

Having not contested the last round of the IRC in Kenya, Peugeot UK's winning duo now head to the Azores for the fourth round of the IRC.

The volcanic islands of the Azores are situated in the Atlantic Ocean, 930 miles south of Lisbon and 2,422 miles from the east coast of North America. The rally will take place on Sao Miguel, the largest of the Azores islands.

Having won the Brazilian round of the IRC, being faced with another gravel round should enable Kris and Paul to exploit their obvious speed on this type of surface. The entry list for the rally, however, will include no fewer than twelve S2000 cars, including six Peugeot 207 S2000s. Last year's winner Bruno Magalhaes will also be hoping to repeat his achievement in the Peugeot Total entered Peugeot 207 S2000.

Trying to break the Peugeot dominance on this year's IRC will be two factory Grande Puntos, driven by Anton Alen and Giandomenico Basso and a private entered Grande Punto driven by Bernardo Sousa. Team Skoda Motorsport will also be back after missing both the Brazilian and Kenya rounds with two Skoda Fabias, driven by Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky. The final S2000 runner will be Julien Maurin in the sole Volkswagen Polo S2000.

The rally begins with a super special stage on Thursday evening May 7th and finishes on Saturday May 9th. The competitors will complete a total of 18 stages with a total distance of 229.86 kilometres.

Kris and Paul started their preparation for the Azores four weeks ago with a two-day gravel test in France. Having not contested the Kenyan round of the IRC, it gave the duo the chance to get back in the car and experiment with suspension settings in readiness for their Azores outing. During the test they completed a total of 400 km and Kris was very pleased with the results. "It's very difficult to make improvements when the car is so competitive and closely matched but we've been able to make a few changes for the Azores and I am very pleased with what we achieved because it was a very good test.," said Kris.

PODIUM FINISH WILL DO FOR CHAMPION VOUILLOZ

Posted: May 5, 2009 12:28 PM

Nicolas Vouilloz is confident he will still be able to successfully defend his Intercontinental Rally Challenge title this year even if he doesn't win Sata Rally Azores, which runs from May 7-9.

Vouilloz, the IRC champion in 2008, has yet to register a win this season and is currently five points behind championship leader and team-mate Freddy Loix.

After failing to score points on the Monte Carlo Rally in January, Vouilloz is currently a distant sixth in the drivers' standings. But he insists a podium finish will be a satisfactory result and will be enough to keep his season on track.

"There is still a long way to go in the championship so I do not have to win," said Vouilloz, 33. "Besides it will not be easy because you have to consider the road position might not be good for me and there also some very quick drivers who will be hard to beat."

Vouilloz continued: "If I have the feeling in the car then I will try, of course. We had a good test on gravel and I am confident with the car. But as long as I am the top-three places then I will be happy."

HANNINEN HAS HIGH HOPES DESPITE STARTING ORDER

Posted: May 5, 2009 12:27 PM

Factory Skoda driver Juho Hanninen believes he can fight for a podium finish on Sata Rally Azores next week, even though he is set to run first on the road on the island-based event.

Hanninen, who led the opening round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in Monte Carlo in January before crashing out, is scheduled to be the first of 49 drivers to tackle the 18-stage event in his Skoda Fabia S2000.

Road position, especially on gravel events, can have a huge bearing on the final result of a rally. That's because it takes approximately two or three cars to clear away the loose surface gravel on a stage, which means the drivers running higher up the starting order are left at a disadvantage because of the reduced levels of grip under braking and traction entering and exiting corners.

"It's not going to be so easy in my position," said the 27-year-old from Finland. "But I don't believe it will be such a big problem either. Yes my car will be sideways more but it is a very good car and I am very confident I can get a good result."

Hanninen and team-mate Jan Kopecky, from Czech Republic, are due to test in the Azores on Monday, May 4, when they will fine-tune the set-up of their Fabia S2000s.

STRONG ENTRY ASSEMBLED FOR SATA RALLY AZORES

Posted: April 28, 2009 4:42 PM

An impressive line-up of 49 crews will contest the first International Rally Challenge event to be held on the Azores islands.

Sata Rally Azores, which takes place from May 7-9, is the fourth round of the IRC. Of the registered drivers, 12 will compete in Super 2000 machinery, including Freddy Loix, who heads the IRC drivers' standings after three events.

Juho Hanninen, who led the opening IRC event of the season in Monte Carlo, will carry number one on the side of his factory Skoda Fabia S2000 although he will start further down the order when the competitors are allocated their seeded positions based on their performances in the IRC this year and other results.

Hanninen's team-mate Jan Kopecky is also entered for the event, which marks the second appearance of the season by the Czech manufacturer.

Anton Alen and Giandomenico Basso will represent Abarth in two factory Grande Puntos, while Bernardo Sousa will appear in a semi-works machine.

Freddy Loix, Bruno Magalhaes, Kris Meeke, Vitor Pascoal, Nicolas Vouilloz and newcomer Conrad Rautenbach will drive the six Peugeot 207 S2000s on the entry. Magalhaes won Rally Azores last season.

Portuguese drivers Ricardo Moura and Fernando Peres will lead the Ralliart effort in a pair of Lancer Evo IXs. The talented Austrian Franz Wittmann Jr will also be at the wheel of a Lancer.

Julien Maurin will drive the sole Volkswagen Polo S2000 on the entry, while Manuel Villa returns to the 2WD Cup in a Fiat Punto S1600 where he will compete against Denis Millet in a Peugeot 207 RC Rallye.

The event begins with a superspecial stage on the evening of Thursday May 7. The final stage is due to start on the evening of Saturday May 9. There will be a total of 18 stages with a combined competitive distance of 229.86 kilometres.

MEEKE SATISFIED AFTER FRENCH TEST

Posted: April 28, 2009 4:37 PM

Kris Meeke continued his preparations for Sata Rally Azores by completing a two-day test in a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 development car in France recently.

The Peugeot UK driver, who won the second round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in Brazil last month, covered approximately 400 kilometres during the test in France, near the town of Vie in the centre of the country.

"It's impossible to make improvements when these cars are so competitive and so closely matched but we've been able to make a few changes for the Azores and I am very pleased with what we achieved because it was a very good test," said Meeke, who is from Northern Ireland.

French Peugeot drivers Stephane Sarrazin and Nicolas Vouilloz also took part in the test, which was designed to experiment with suspension settings for the gravel-based Rally Azores, which takes place from May 7-9

Entry List

Posted: April 28, 2009 4:33 PM

WORLD RALLY STAR RAUTENBACH TO STAR IN AZORES

Posted: April 17, 2009 11:04 AM

Conrad Rautenbach will make his Intercontinental Rally Challenge debut on Sata Rally Azores on May 7-9.

Rautenbach, who drives for the Citroen Junior Team in the FIA World Rally Championship, will compete at the wheel of a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 run by the French PH Sport operation.

The Zimbabwean, a former FIA African rally champion, is keen to expand his experience of driving Super 2000 machinery. British co-driver Daniel Barritt will partner him.

"I've never competed in one of these cars before so I'm really looking forward to having a go in one," said Rautenbach. "I've seen the guys driving Super 2000 cars on rounds of the world championship earlier this year and they sound awesome. Obviously it's going to take a while to get used to the lack of torque which we have from a turbocharged engine in a World Rally Car, but having come from a Junior car [1600cc non-turbo], a few years ago, I'm used to revving engines to get the most out of them."

The 24-year-old's agreement to compete in the IRC is currently for the Azores event only although he could enter further rounds later in the season.

"The immediate future of the World Rally Championship is going to be based on this type of car, so the chance to get in one and drive it now is invaluable - nothing compares with putting competitive miles on the clock when you're learning a new car," Rautenbach said. "At the moment, it's a deal for the Azores, but I'm hoping I can do some more rallies beyond this one. Let's see how this first one goes."

Rautenbach added: "I'm really grateful to everybody at PH Sport who has helped to put this deal together - and I'm really looking forward to getting into the competition in the IRC. I've watched with interest this year how competitive the Monte Carlo and Curitiba rallies were, so the chance to get in there and mix it with those boys is great for me."

Event Website / Details

Posted: January 1, 2009 12:01 AM






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