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Rallye Sanremo (Italy) - 23-25 Sep 10

Posted: September 28, 2010 11:09 AM - 5235 Hits

Round 10 - 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC)

The Citroën DS3 R3 continues its programme

Posted: September 28, 2010 11:09 AM

As expected, the 52nd Rally Sanremo was fast and furious. The 114 competing crews did battle on tricky and narrow roads under changeable weather conditions. The two DS3 R3s that were entered proved to be competitive on territory that was completely different from the previous rallies they had known.

The competitors took the start last Friday to embark on 220 competitive kilometres of action in the heart of the Italian province of Liguria. From the very opening stages, the two DS3 R3s, driven by Elwis Chentre and the young Matthieu Arzeno, were among the frontrunners – setting competitive times that allowed the Italian driver to slot into second place in class.
“It’s the first time that I’m driving the Citroën DS3 R3 in competitive conditions and I already feel very comfortable,” he said. “It’s a very efficient car and very easy to drive.”

The weather, which had been extremely menacing up to the end of the first loop of stages, then stepped in to complicate things so competitors embarked on the second loop in wet conditions. Mathieu Arzeno’s DS3 R3 shone in the rain. He moved up to second place in the overall two- wheel drive category, while the second Citroën rounded off the top five.

Things changed when Mathieu Arzeno picked up a 50-second penalty for checking out of service late, due to accidentally setting off the in-car fire extinguisher. He was more motivated than ever to make up the time lost, and his DS3 R3 set the fourth-fastest time in class on the fearsome 44- kilometre ‘Ronde’ night stage, where reliability and endurance were the keys to success.

The second day on Saturday, consisting of two 30-kilometre loops of stages, took place in bright sunshine. Mathieu Arzeno’s DS R3 set another fastest stage time, allowing the French crew to move back up the leaderboard and regain fourth place in the two-wheel drive category before an electrical problem on a road section forced their retirement.

The Citroën DS3 R3 driven by the Italian Elwis Chentre no longer had a chance of victory, having lost nine minutes on the opening day.
Nonetheless, the car staged an excellent fightback and made the finish after climbing back up the overall classification.
Jean-François Liénéré, in charge of Citroën Racing’s customer competition programme, commented:
“After two Group R victories in Ireland and France, we can draw two conclusions from our trip to Italy. First of all, the Citroën DS3 R3 has proved to be competitive on yet another type of road. Secondly, we still need to continue our work to refine the car."

The Citroën DS3 R3’s next outing will be on the Rallye des Cardabelles in France from 09-10 October. There, Citroën’s new challenger will face gravel for the first time in the hands of Marc Amourette.


Posted: September 28, 2010 10:20 AM

After starting Day 2 of the Sanremo Rally with high hopes of a strong finish, the Škoda UK Motorsport crew of Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh retired part way into SS7, Cappio 1, after hitting a wall in their Fabia S2000 Facelift. Both crew members were unhurt in the accident, but the car was too badly damaged for them to continue.

Škoda drivers occupied two of the podium spots in Sanremo, with Juho Hänninen virtually guaranteeing himself this year’s Drivers’ title with second place, just 4.4 seconds behind Paolo Andreucci (Peugeot 207 S2000), and Freddy Loix finishing third after recording the fastest time on the final stage of the event. Škoda arrived in Sanremo having already secured the IRC Manufacturers’ title.

With a solid 12th place at the end of Day 1, Guy was looking forward to fighting for positions in the sunny mountains above Sanremo. After taking a gamble on set-up for the “monster” 44 km (27.34 mile) Ronde stage (SS6) in the Friday night damp and darkness, Guy reverted to his original settings for the second day’s competition on Round 10 of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Attacking the first stage of Saturday, the 29-year driver from Darlington in Co. Durham was going well, but hit a low wall on a tricky corner near the Vignai junction, damaging the rear left corner and forcing his retirement.

Guy Wilks:
“We're really disappointed. The car locked up under braking on a slippery section and the rear nudged a wall; it was pretty low speed, but at an angle that the rear upright broke. The team worked really hard and put a lot effort into preparing a good car. Now we're focussing on Rally of Scotland, home event for Škoda UK.”

Škoda UK Motorsport’s next competition will be RACMSA Rally of Scotland, 15-17 October. Guy won Škoda UK’s home event in 2009 and is looking forward to defending his crown.

Panizzi completes Sanremo for PROTON

Posted: September 26, 2010 8:32 PM

Gilles Panizzi made his debut with the PROTON R3 Rally Team on this week's Rallye Sanremo, bringing the Satria Neo S2000 to the finish of the classic Italian event, the 10th round of this year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Panizzi joined the team earlier this month, with PROTON only deciding to contest the asphalt event three weeks ago after Rally Indonesia was cancelled. The Frenchman's return to competition after a two-year lay-off was always taken with an eye to the future. Having tested the Satria Neo S2000 for two days ahead of Rallye Sanremo, Panizzi always talked of the event itself - one which he has won three times before - as being an extension to the test. Panizzi spent the 11 stages learning more and more about the PROTON on roads he knows well.

Panizzi ended the event in 20th position (which would have been 19th had it not been for a minute's penalty for a timing error) but he stressed that this rally was not about the result, it was about the value of the seat time for him to get to know the Satria. With that done, the seven-time world rally winner and the British-based PROTON R3 Rally Team look ahead to the future.

Niall McShea was driving the sister Satria to Panizzi's car in Sanremo. Running with the team for the second IRC event in succession, the power steering pump in McShea's car seized ahead of SS1. The team has already begun a detailed analysis into the issue.

Quotes: Gilles Panizzi said:
"I said before I started this event that I wanted to drive and to get to feel with the car. I have done that. This was not the competition for me, really, this was a longer time to test the car. We have made some changes from the start of the event and it felt better and better for me. This car has been born well, it's nice to drive, it has a nice balance and a good feeling. I feel I would like to be involved with the team and with the car. Under the right conditions, we can have a good future together for PROTON and Panizzi. After some time away from driving, it took me a while to get back into the rhythm of the rally. When Niall stopped so early, it was also difficult. We had to make sure we make the finish with one car, and our car ran without any technical problems. So, now, the time is here to sit down and talk about what we can do. This was a test event for us, it was not an event to judge the car or the possible new partnership. We know each other better now and we can talk more for the future."

Niall McShea said:
"As a driver, I don't think there can be anything more disappointing than not getting to the first stage, it was a terrible feeling. This was a big event for me, I really wanted to make it all happen in Italy. My co-driver and I had worked really hard in the recce and we had complete confidence in the notes and everything, the test before the event had gone well; okay, it had been in the dry and the event started in mixed conditions, but we were ready to adapt the car to that. It's a real shame, the car has huge potential. It was great to get the opportunity to work with Gilles in the team, though - he does have a lot of good ideas which can really take things forward."

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
"There's no getting away from the fact that this was a tough event for the team and for me on a personal level; I had to leave before the rally had begun for family reasons. Gilles achieved what he set out to, he drove the car for two days in what was, essentially, an extended test session. It was great to have him in the car and good for us to hear his views. He has given us a new direction for the car and we're ready to sit down and talk about the future. What was a real shame was that Niall didn't get into the event. His pre-event test had gone really well and he was full of confidence. Obviously, once we were down to one car, there was even more pressure on Gilles to get to the finish. Sanremo was not an event we were expecting to compete on, it was only slotted in after Indonesia was cancelled three weeks earlier, but we came here with a definite agenda for Gilles and we've gathered very valuable information for the future. "


Posted: September 26, 2010 8:31 PM

Pierre Campana has experienced several highs during his hugely promising rallying career, a podium finish on the Junior World Rally Championship section of the Tour de Corse and class victory on the recent Rally d'Alpi Orientali being two examples. However, on Rallye Sanremo, which finished in the city of flowers on Saturday afternoon, he suffered a rare bout of misfortune when he was forced to retire from the demanding asphalt rally.

Driving his Ellip6-backed Renault Clio R3, the 25-year-old rising star from Corsica was chasing his second consecutive victory in the Italian Trofeo Clio R3 when his car suffered an engine sensor problem on the 44-kilometre Ronde stage, which took place in changeable weather conditions late on Friday night, and ground to a halt.

Campana was able to continue after he and co-driver Sabrina de Castelli made frantic repairs, only for the problem to recur, which forced them to complete the stage with no working headlights after the car stopped for a second time.

"It was very disappointing," said Campana. "Unfortunately these things can happen although we were actually very lucky to be able to complete the stage because when we stopped for the second time we almost did not restart."

Sadly for Campana his challenge ended for good on Saturday's opening test, the 29.56-kilometre Ceppo stage, when he suffered a spin on a tight corner under a bridge. Although contact was only slight, it was enough to damage his car's radiator, which caused the engine to overheat. With no alternative, Campana was forced to retire.

"It's a great shame the rally ended so early because it's a great event and a fantastic challenge," said Campana. "I want to thank my sponsor, Ellip6, for giving me this excellent opportunity and I hope I can repay their faith in me when I take part on my next event."

Campana is due to return to action when he contests the penultimate round of the Clio R3 European Trophy on Rallye International du Valais in Switzerland at the end of October. After four events, he is firmly in contention for the coveted one-make title.


Posted: September 26, 2010 8:30 PM

After winning in Monte Carlo at the start of the year, Pirelli has also won the prestigious Rallye Sanremo, round 10 of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Paolo Andreucci, driving a Peugeot 207 Super 2000, triumphed today on the demanding asphalt event, held on narrow and twisty mountain roads in Italy's Imperia province from September 24-25.

In addition to the testing terrain, Andreucci and Pirelli also had to master changeable weather conditions. While the rally finished in bright sunshine, rain fell over the rally route on Friday afternoon and again prior to the gruelling 44-kilometre Ronde stage, which took place under the cover of darkness on Friday night and is one of the longest used in international rallying.

Armed with a supply of Pirelli's PZero tyres, Andreucci had little trouble negotiating the slippery mountain passes as he flew to victory alongside co-driver Anna Andreussi. A total of 32 Super 2000 cars were entered on the event: a record for Rallye Sanremo.

"Our Pirelli tyres performed faultlessly in a hugely wide range of conditions," said Andreucci. "Whether it was damp or dry asphalt, we managed to have a consistent level of traction and grip, which was a key to victory. The flexibility of the Pirelli rubber meant that even when our tyre choice was not perfect, we were able to perform at our best. This goes to show the effectiveness of Pirelli's products under all circumstances. Everyone at Pirelli has worked very hard to refine the tyre specification, and this is the well-deserved result."

Andreucci and Andreussi have reinforced their lead of the Italian Rally Championship with this latest victory and they are now in a position to lift the title on the next round, the Costa Smeralda Rally, in October.

Unlike the World Rally Championship, which Pirelli supplies on an exclusive basis under a three-year agreement with the FIA, world motorsport's world governing body, IRC regulations permit open tyre competition. It means Pirelli is able to test its products against other rival manufacturers. And for the second time this season, Pirelli has beaten the opposition to follow up its victory on Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo in January when Mikko Hirvonen took victory in a Pirelli-shod Ford Fiesta S2000.

Pirelli also claimed two more Italian titles with a round to spare: the Italian Junior Rally Championship with Albertini-Fenoli (Renault Clio R3) and the Italian Production Car Championship with Perego-Pizzutti in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli's Motorsport Product Manager, concluded: "It's been another excellent performance from Pirelli in conditions that were far from easy. The opposition was stronger than it has ever been and conditions were extremely variable, but once again Paolo made the right choices to ensure yet more success for Pirelli."

SANREMO IRC GLORY FOR ACE ANDREUCCI / Hanninen closes on IRC drivers' title with second place

Posted: September 26, 2010 8:28 PM

Paolo Andreucci has claimed his first victory in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge after defeating fellow Italian Giandomenico Basso in a close fight on Rallye Sanremo, which took place on the testing mountain roads of northern Italy's Imperia province on Friday and Saturday (September 24-25).

Driving a Peugeot Italia-backed 207 Super 2000, the 45-year-old took a lead he would never relinquish on Saturday's opening stage.

Basso, at the wheel of a factory Abarth Grande Punto, had put Andreucci under intense pressure and began the final loop of three stages 0.9s behind his countryman. However, a differential fault on stage 10 dropped Basso to an eventual seventh place and allowed Andreucci to cruise home in first place. The result also enabled Andreucci to strengthen his grip on the Italian championship, which he is on course to win for a third time.

After Luca Rossetti, in the second works Grande Punto, lost time with a slow front-right puncture on the penultimate stage and fell to fifth overall, Juho Hanninen inherited second place in his Skoda Motorsport Fabia S2000. It was the ninth time this season that the 29-year-old Finn had finished on the podium although the result wasn't quite enough for Hanninen to be crowned the 2010 IRC drivers' champion.

With two events left in Scotland and Cyprus, Hanninen's Skoda team-mate Jan Kopecky can still theoretically snatch the crown if he wins the last two rallies and Hanninen doesn't finish second in either of them under the dropped-score system. However, Skoda's plans for the remaining two rounds of the series have yet to be finalised.

Hanninen's drive to second place meant he was chosen as the latest recipient of the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy by a judging panel consisting of Colin's father Jim McRae, Eurosport's Gilbert Roy and Jean-Pierre Nicolas, the IRC's Motorsport Development Manager. They agreed Hanninen's spectacular performance, which included two outright stage victories, had best embodied the spirit of the rallying legend, who was victorious in Sanremo on two occasions during his career.

Peugeot UK's Kris Meeke, the outgoing IRC champion and last year's Sanremo winner, thought he'd done enough for third place only for Freddy Loix, in the third factory Fabia, to beat his time on the final stage and take third place by 4.2 seconds.

Bryan Bouffier dropped out of fifth place when he picked up a front-left puncture on stage eight and lost more than three minutes after initially attempting to drive through the test with the flat tyre before stopping to change. He eventually made it home in 12th.

Guy Wilks started day two in 12th overall after losing time on Friday's final test by selecting a wet weather tyre in the mistaken belief that the road would be damper than it was. However, the Skoda UK Motorsport driver's challenge ended after seven kilometres of Saturday's first stage when he slid into a low wall and damaged the left-rear corner of his Fabia S2000 to the extent he was unable to continue.

Behind the unfortunate Basso, Thierry Neuville landed the final IRC drivers' point in his Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg 207 following a mature drive, which culminated in him demoting Italian veteran Gianfranco Cunico on the final stage. Cunico won in Sanremo in 1993 and admitted he is still acclimatising to his 207, which he was using for a second time.

Peugeot Sport Portugal's Bruno Magalahes completed the top 10 on his return to the IRC after missing the last round in Czech Republic. With limited experience of the various tyre compounds available to him, it was a strong performance by the 30-year-old.

Local hero Sandro Sottile won the IRC 2WD Cup in his Honda Civic Type-R, while Briton Harry Hunt bagged his second points of the season in seventh place in his Fiesta R2.

Paolo Andreucci (Italy), Peugeot 207 S2000, first overall:
"This is a great result for me and I am very happy. The most important thing this weekend was the Italian championship but to win overall and claim top points in the IRC is a very special feeling. The car and my Pirelli tyres have been perfect all rally."

Juho Hanninen (Finland), Skoda Fabia S2000, second overall:
"I have to say this was probably my best drive on Tarmac. I pushed really hard without taking any big risks and my times were very good. The conditions were not easy at times but maybe they suited me."

Freddy Loix (Belgium), Skoda Fabia S2000, third overall:
"I did not have the best feeling with my car like I had on the other rallies and the poor road position I was given for the first five stages made it very difficult. To take third is a good achievement."


Posted: September 26, 2010 8:26 PM

1 Paolo Andreucci/Anna Andreussi (Peugeot 207 S2000) 2h35m32.7s
2 Juho Hanninen/Mikko Markkula (Skoda Fabia S2000) +4.4s
3 Freddy Loix/Frederic Miclotte (Skoda Fabia S2000) +34.1s
4 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Peugeot 207 S2000) +38.3s
5 Luca Rossetti/Matteo Chiarcossi (Abarth Grande Punto S2000) +1m21.0s
6 Jan Kopecky/Petr Stary (Skoda Fabia S2000) +1m59.9s
7 Giandomenico Basso/Mitia Dotta (Abarth Grande Punto S2000) +2m17.9s
8 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Klinger (Peugeot 207 S2000) +2m35.0s
9 Gianfranco Cunico/Rudy Pollet (Peugeot 207 S2000) +2m42.8s
10 Bruno Magalhaes/Carlos Magalhaes (Peugeot 207 S2000) +2m43.9s

Leading IRC 2WD Cup finishers:
Sandro Sottile/Luca Constantini (Honda Civic Type-R)


Posted: September 24, 2010 2:32 PM

There will be a monster in the moonlit Liguria mountain range next weekend – and unusually for a Škoda story, we’re not talking about Yeti. This monster is what Škoda UK Motorsport driver Guy Wilks describes as the 44km (27.34 mile) special stage, which he says will hold the key to success on this year’s Sanremo Rally (24-25 September).

The said challenging Italian Ronde stage, which is the second longest in the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (eclipsed only by the 45.17km/28.06 mile St. Pierreville – Antraigues stage on Rallye Monte Carlo), is the giant test in a colossal event which will see Guy and co-driver Phil Pugh complete 220kms (136.7 miles) of high-speed cliff-top competition in their Škoda Fabia S2000 Facelift.

Rallies are normally run over three days, but this year’s Sanremo Rally lasts just 26 hours and yet still features a full and gruelling format of 11 switchback mountain asphalt stages.

Guy predicts the 44km stage will take, depending on weather conditions, in the region of 27 minutes to complete. Attempted at night and with no straight longer than 200 metres, such a sporting challenge demands enormous concentration and fitness on the part of Guy and Phil, whilst it will be one of rally’s most extreme tests for the IRC title winning Škoda Fabia S2000 Facelift and BF Goodrich tyres.

It’s a mouth-watering challenge for the 29-year-old driver from Darlington in Co. Durham, for Guy knows that the Ronde stage could be make or break in this year’s event, and hopes that a consistently fast and trouble-free run through it will help guide him to his aim of a strong championship points-scoring finish.

Guy knows the Sanremo Rally stages quite well, having recced them twice (in 2001 and ’02) before doing the rally for the first time in 2003, when contesting the FIA Junior World Rally Championship. He contested the event again last year, finishing 13th overall. Driving a Škoda in Sanremo for the first time, Guy hopes for a much less troublesome event and in only his second rally after his accident in Sardinia, is aiming for a top five finish.

That will be far from easy, for the event has attracted a quality 90 car entry which includes the Škoda Motorsport trio of Juho Hänninen, Jan Kopecký and Freddy Loix – drivers who are 1-2-3 in the IRC standings. Kris Meeke, Paolo Andreucci, Bryan Bouffier and Bruno Magalhães will be contenders in their Peugeot 207s, Giandomenico Basso and Luca Rossetti head the Abarth challenge and Andreas Mikkelsen and Andrea Navarra will pilot Ford Fiesta S2000s.

Sanremo is also a round of the Italian Rally Championship and Škoda Rally Team Italia will enter a Fabia S2000 for former kart champion and rising rally star Marco Signor.

Guy Wilks:
“I’ve reasonable experience of Sanremo, and having done the recce four times and the rally twice, I have a good feeling for the region and the character of the roads. This year’s event is a very different format to other rallies. It starts at lunchtime on Friday and after five decent length stages to warm you up it’s into the monster 44 kilometre stage at night. That is a long way to go on mountainous terrain and it will require high concentration from myself and Phil. I enjoy driving at night and I’m really looking forward to it – plus the atmosphere in the mountains with all the spectators will be fantastic.

“On a long stage there is more opportunity to make up time on rivals, but there is also more chance of a momentary lapse of concentration which can cost you dear. Experience counts, and I’ve done stages as long as 53 kilometres before. It’s a great challenge though, because in 44 kilometres the road surface and terrain changes a lot and there is never a straight piece of road that’s more than 200 metres long. It’s usually corner after corner, up and over mountain passes, down the other side and along the mountain floor, then up the side of another mountain. Ronde is a stage you can really get your teeth in to. All other stages, particularly on the Saturday, are challenging too, but the 44 kilometre monster, the last stage on the Friday night, could be the key to the entire event.”

The 52nd Sanremo Rally starts at 13.00 on Friday 24 September. Day 1 contains five stages before the 44km Ronde test, which begins at 22.09. Service in Sanremo and a short overnight halt follow, before Day 2 gets underway at 07.50 on Saturday 25 September. Crews head straight into a 29.56km (18.36 mile) and 29.03km (18.03 mile) stage, both of which are repeated in the afternoon. After 11 stages totalling 220kms (136.7 miles), Round 10 of the 2010 IRC finishes back in Sanremo at 15.37 on Saturday afternoon.


Posted: September 24, 2010 2:31 PM

The glamorous Italian Riviera town of Sanremo will become the venue for the last tarmac rally of this year’s 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC).

It was twelve months ago that the twisty and testing mountain roads of Sanremo provided the stage for Peugeot UK’s Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle to secure the 2009 IRC Drivers’ Championship. This year, with a mathematical chance of retaining the title, Kris and Paul will be back with one aim only, to repeat last year’s victory.

With no fewer than 32 S2000 cars entered into the rally the competition will be fierce. Contained in the entry are also all the past winners since 2004 as well as a number of local specialists.

The Sanremo rally will also see five of the latest Peugeot 207 S2000 Evolutions go head-to-head with the revised Skoda Fabria S2000, introduced earlier in the year. The 207 Evolution model benefits from a number of performance enhancements including a new 300 bhp engine, new front suspension, optimised gearbox and transmission, upgraded brakes and suspension dampers. These modifications will ensure the Peugeot 207 S2000 remains the reference vehicle for the category.

The rally will be contested over eleven special stages with a total distance of 220.03 kilometres, including the 44 km Ronde stage in the dark on Friday night. Careful management of tyres and brakes will be vital for success in this year’s rally and the “Evolution” revisions to the Peugeot 207 S2000 will give the Peugeot drivers an added advantage.

The rally starts on Friday 24th and finishes on Saturday 25th September.


Posted: September 23, 2010 9:35 AM

Pierre Campana will be aiming to ensure that history repeats itself when he contests Rallye Sanremo from September 23-25.

The 25-year-old rising star was the top Clio R3 European Trophy finisher on the Italian asphalt event last season, his first time competing outside of his native France.

Although the event is no longer part of the European Clio series, it does form part of the Italian Clio equivalent. On the last round, the Rally d'Alpi Orientali, Campana swept to victory alongside co-driver Sabrina de Castelli.

"I can't wait for the rally to start," said the Corsican. "It's a tough rally with a 44-kilometre stage run at night among the many challenges. It's also not easy on the cars with uphill and downhill sections. But I am very confident in my Munaretto team, which does a great job preparing my Ellip6 Clio R3 to the highest standards."

As well as being a counting round of the Italian Clio series, Rallye Sanremo is part of the Italian Rally Championship. Although he's not in contention for overall honours against the massed ranks of Super 2000 and Group N4 machines, Campana is well-placed in both the junior and two-wheel drive rankings, despite not contesting all rounds of the series this season.

Rallye Sanremo, which is based in the Italian Riviera town of the same name, runs from September 23-25. The 11 Tarmac stages run over the narrow and technically demanding mountain passes overlooking Sanremo. In total crews will tackle 220.03 competitive kilometres, including the 44.00-kilometre Ronde stage, which runs under the cover of darkness on Friday evening.

Campana and de Castelli are the third-highest seeded Clio R3 crew on the event and will run as number 54.

Quick Q+A with Pierre Campana

How important is your experience from competing last year going to be?
"It's very important. Sanremo is a very difficult rally and very specialised. You need to be very committed but always very concentrated because the roads are narrow with lots of blind corners. With so many climbs and descents you also have to work very hard to maintain your speed without putting too much strain on your car. The weather can also change quite quickly so you really have to be prepared for the unexpected."

Following your victory on Rally d'Alpi Orientali you must be very confident...
"It was a great result for me and Sabrina, but also for my sponsor Ellip6. I really wanted to deliver a good result for them to show how much I appreciate their support so to have got the victory was very satisfying."

Seeded Entry List

Posted: September 22, 2010 2:47 PM


Posted: September 20, 2010 9:40 AM

Three-time Rallye Sanremo winner Gilles Panizzi has been encouraged by his first taste of the PROTON Satria Neo S2000 at a test on roads similar to those on which round 10 of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge will take place later this week.

Panizzi, who will make his debut for PROTON on the two-day Italian event, used the test to acquaint himself with the car and adjust some initial settings. His team-mate will be former Production Car World Champion Niall McShea, who also took part in the pre-event session.

The test took place in two locations on Sunday and will continue today (Monday), taking in both fast sections as well as slower and more technical sections, which are very representative of the conditions that the drivers will face when they start the rally on Friday. Conditions were dry and warm, enabling the PROTON team to carry out some useful preparation work as they attempt the legendary Rallye Sanremo for the second consecutive year.

Panizzi, who won in Sanremo between 2000 and 2002, started some initial set-up work while concentrating on familiarising himself with PROTON's S2000 challenger for the first time.
"The base of the car seems very good," said the French asphalt ace. "It feels really compact, with good dimensions, and the balance of the car is very nice. I can see that there is really a lot of potential there and this has been a very pleasant surprise for me. Now we start work on making the set-up properly suited to me, which is the goal on Monday. I think I'm going to find something that suits me quite quickly."

The 45-year-old Frenchman, who celebrated his birthday with PROTON on Sunday night, will drive in Sanremo to give his detailed feedback on the car with a view to closer collaboration in the future.

"I'm not sure what my pace will be like on the rally as I've not driven for two years," said Panizzi. "We're not going to be able to make drastic adjustments to the car before the start of the rally, so it's something that we're going to have to play ourselves into on the event. But I really hope to use my experience to benefit the PROTON team and develop the car for the future."

Team principal Chris Mellors commented:
"Even after just one day together so far, it's clear to see what a driver of Gilles' calibre and experience brings to the team. With the timescale that we are operating on before the rally, we obviously can't expect overnight miracles, but together with Gilles, we are working to put together a solid base for the future that will lead to the consistent improvement that we need, especially on such a competitive surface like asphalt."

McShea, who drove for PROTON on the recent Barum Czech Rally Zlin, was also pleased with the way that the pre-event test went.
"We've found a development direction that could be useful for us," said the Northern Irishman. "I'm feeling more and more confident with the car, and from my point of view too it's great to have Gilles in the team. I'm confident that we can have a really good run and I'm feeling more motivated than ever to get the job done."

Rallye Sanremo gets underway on Friday afternoon with the first of 11 all-asphalt special stages, totalling 220 competitive kilometres. The rally finishes on Saturday afternoon.

An Italian escapade for the Citroën DS3 R3

Posted: September 17, 2010 5:51 PM

Having swept to victory in Ireland and France, the Citroën DS3 R3 now moves to Italy from September 24-25 for the 52nd Rallye Sanremo. The Italian event is more than just a legendary rally: it is also a brand new challenge for the DS3, which will meet some fierce opposition on specialised territory. The car will be entrusted to the expert hands of local star Elwis Chentre, with the firm aim of winning its class once more on its first appearance on Italian soil.

Again it will be a tough task for Citroën’s new baby, which will have to demonstrate its adaptability in the face of new territory and a new type of event. The Rallye Sanremo has always been reputed as a particularly challenging event where the crews face narrow roads and a seemingly unending sequence of corners. It can be considered a genuine finishing school for drivers and teams in the pursuit of perfection. The 102 competitors will set off for 220 competitive kilometres of stages, including the classic night stage on Monte Bignone. This fearsome stage, which is 44 kilometres long, pushes machinery to the limit, while uncertain weather is another factor that frequently spices up the show. The DS3 R3 is now looking forward to the next chapter in the history of its development. It will be able to rely upon the experience of Elwis Chentre and his co-driver Erica Pogliano to recreate the success of its first two outings, which resulted in Group R victory.

Jean-François Liénéré, in charge of Citroën Racing’s customer competition department, commented:
“We’re delighted to give the car to an Italian crew that have proved their capabilities already in the Citroën C2. The Sanremo Rally constitutes a new challenge for the DS3 R3, which will be confronted with its direct rival under unfamiliar circumstances. The objective will remain the same: to try and win the two-wheel drive category while refining the car set-up.”

The rally will get underway in a week’s time, in the ‘City of flowers’. The crews will leave Sanremo at 1300 en route for Coldirodi, the first stage of the Sanremo Rally. Several stages later they will end the day on the mammoth ‘Ronde’ test, run at night.

Three questions to... Elwis Chentre

You’ve not taken part in the development of the DS3 R3 so the car will be all-new to you on the Sanremo Rally. How are you going to tackle the event?
“The DS3 R3 has already got off to a good start, and having driven both the C2 S1600 and the C2-R2 Max, I know that these are easy cars to drive, whatever your driving style. I think we’ll quickly get a good feeling with the DS3, which will allow us to get into the thick of the action straight away.”

You know the rally well, having taken part in it five times. What are its characteristics?
“Sanremo is a key event for any driver. It’s a very difficult rally, both mentally and physically, where you can encounter all sorts of different conditions. The roads are very narrow with lots of corners and grip changes. It’s also one of those rare events that include a long night stage. Finally, the weather is a crucial element when it comes to tyre choice. The service park is by the seaside so conditions are often completely different high up in the surrounding mountains. More than ever, the car and the set-up are decisive factors if you are aiming for victory.”

You’ve always driven Citroens: from the C2 S1600 to the Xsara WRC as well as the C2-R2 and the C2-R2 Max. What has motivated your choice?
“I would say without a doubt that it’s the reliability and the enjoyment of driving the cars. We’ve taken so many victories with Citroën and as far as I can remember we’ve not had any mechanical problems. Also, the cars have a truly adaptable approach to all sorts of different terrain thanks to the huge range of available set-ups. There is also constant support from Citroën Racing, which allows us to always make the best choices and become increasingly competitive.”


Posted: September 17, 2010 2:00 PM

Friday 24 September
22:00hrs-22:30hrs Day one highlights (Eurosport and Eurosport Asia-Pacific)

Saturday 25 September
07:35hrs-08:00hrs Day one highlights repeated (Eurosport)
12:00hrs-13:00hrs LIVE SS9 Bajardo (RAI Sport)
21:30hrs-22:00hrs Day one highlights repeated (Eurosport Asia-Pacific)
22:00hrs-22:30hrs Day two highlights (Eurosport and Eurosport Asia-Pacific)

Sunday 26 September
07:00hrs-07:30hrs Day two highlights repeated (Eurosport 2)
23:00hrs-23:30hrs Rally review (Eurosport and Eurosport Asia-Pacific)

Monday 27 September
02:30hrs-03:00hrs Rally review repeated (Eurosport Asia-Pacific)
12:00hrs-12:30hrs Rally review repeated (Eurosport 2)
17:30hrs-18:00hrs Rally review repeated (Eurosport 2)
18:30hrs-19:00hrs Rally review repeated (Eurosport Asia-Pacific)

Tuesday 28 September
15:15hrs-15:45hrs Rally review repeated (Eurosport 2)

Friday 1 October
12:00hrs-12:30hrs Rally review repeated (Eurosport 2)

Sunday 3 October
09:00hrs-09:30hrs Rally review repeated (Eurosport 2)

All Times Irish/UK


Posted: September 17, 2010 1:57 PM

A record-breaking entry of 30 Super 2000 cars from Abarth, Skoda, Peugeot, PROTON and M-Sport will contest the last all-asphalt event of the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge season in Sanremo next week as the battle for the prestigious drivers' title reaches a crucial point on the testing mountain roads of Italy's Imperia province.

The event, which is running for a 52nd time this year, is one of the most famous on the international rallying calendar and also the most demanding, thanks to its blend of night stages run over narrow and undulating passes. The competitive action is contained within a 23-hour window, which traditionally puts a huge strain on car and crew.

Indeed, competitors get little opportunity to savour the delights of the glamorous Italian Riviera town, with its restaurants, bars and casino such is the intensity of competition.

After leaving the permanent service park located in the grounds of the town's old railway station overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on Friday afternoon, drivers tackle two stages, Coldirodi and Bignone before returning to service in Sanremo.

The Coldirodi and Bignone runs are then repeated, albeit split by the Apricale stage. Following a regroup and service halt in Sanremo, crews face the daunting Ronde stage, a 44-kilometre monster, which combines the three stages that form the second loop and gets underway after dark at 22:09hrs local time.

A short overnight halt later and competition resumes with the final five stages split by service in Sanremo. The tests are not for the faint-hearted either with just the 1.73-kilometre Bajardo stage less than 22 kilometres in length.

The stages feature fast and flowing sections, frequent changes of rhythm and blind and open corners with rapid climbs and descents commonplace. The ability to find the optimum 'racing' line and maintain a high level of speed are essential for recording competitive stage times. The road surface is predominantly smooth, albeit with some sections of broken asphalt. The tests on day two are known for providing better grip than on day one, particularly following recent resurfacing work on part of the route.

As with all mountain-based rallies, the weather is changeable and unpredictable and that can make tyre choice a lottery. In 2006, when Sanremo hosted the last of four IRC pilot events, torrential rain forced organisers to cancel the opening leg. Conversely, last year's rally was held in bright sunshine. However, even if there is no rain, the sections under tree cover can be notoriously slippery due to the sap being dragged out of the trees.

The undulating nature of the roads places a great strain on the cars with the engine, transmission and brakes all being subjected to a heavy pounding.

As well as counting as round 10 of the 12-round IRC, Rallye Sanremo forms part of the prestigious and highly-competitive Italian Rally Championship.

Rallye Sanremo marks the fourth time this year that the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy will be presented. The award is handed to the most spectacular driver who best embodies the spirit of the rallying legend on rounds of the IRC. Its recipient is chosen by a panel consisting of IRC's Motorsport Development Manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Gilbert Roy, the Director of Editorial and Programme Development at Eurosport Events, and Jim McRae, Colin's father.

Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky may well be team-mates at Skoda Motorsport but the Fabia-mounted drivers are locked in a close title battle. Hanninen, from Finland, is in the driving seat following Kopecky's crash on the previous round, last month's Barum Czech Rally Zlin, which means that Kopecky must win in Italy to maintain his bid for top championship honours.

Hanninen, 29, has upped his pace on asphalt significantly in 2010, but Kopecky still has the edge when it comes to driving on sealed-surfaces and starts as one of the favourites for victory.

As well as contesting the IRC this year, the Czech has been tackling the Italian championship, thereby giving him a greater knowledge of the terrain but also the fearsome competition the local drivers will provide.

Most notable of these is veteran Paolo Andreucci, who finished second on June's Rally d'Italia-Sardegna in his Peugeot 207 S2000 and was a winner in Sanremo in 2006. He heads a rejuvenated Peugeot assault, which includes Kris Meeke, the IRC champion and last year's Sanremo winner, Frenchman Bryan Bouffier, Belgian talent Thierry Neuville and Portugal's Bruno Magalhaes, who returns to the IRC after skipping the last round.

The Abarth line-up of Giandomenico Basso and Luca Rossetti is packed with experience and potency. The pair, both IRC event winners in the past, will have the wide-track suspension Grande Punto at their disposal and are set to shine. Basso missed last year's event to contest a clashing European championship round so will be anxious to add to his 2008 Sanremo victory. Former IRC 2WD Cup frontrunner Manuel Villa and the experienced Renato Travaglia are two other Abarth runners in Sanremo.

When it comes to experience few drivers in the field possess as much knowledge of the Ligurian roads as Gilles Panizzi, who returns to frontline rallying in a works PROTON Satria Neo. The 44-year-old from France has won in Sanremo on three occasions and will be hoping his renowned pace and expertise on asphalt will provide a change of fortune for the Malaysian firm, not to mention a huge buzz for the thousands of fans lining the route. Capable Northern Irishman Niall McShea will continue in the second car.

Like Panizzi, Freddy Loix also has extensive knowledge of the Sanremo stages and will be anxious to maintain his staggering 100 per cent winning record in the third factory Fabia on what is likely to be his fourth and final outing of the IRC season. The Belgian prepared for Sanremo by finishing second on his domestic championship Omloop van Vlaanderen rally recently. Other Fabia drivers on the entry include Skoda UK Motorsport's Guy Wilks, a three-time podium finisher this season and Skoda Italia's young gun Marco Signor.

Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen is the lead M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver and is highly rated. Fellow Fiesta youngster Umberto Scandola, from Italy, also has potential, while Andrea Navarra has won in the IRC in the past. Andrea Perego is the highest-seeded Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer driver. However, for the first time on the IRC this year there will be no Subaru Imprezas in action.

Some of the names to watch out for in the IRC 2WD Cup include Honda Civic drivers Sandro Sottile and Laszlo Vizin, former class champion Marco Cavigioli and M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2 runner Harry Hunt, who claimed IRC two-wheel drive glory during the visit to Sardinia in June.

Paolo Andreucci (Italy), Peugeot 207 S2000:
"We have some unfinished business following Sardinia where we had a chance of winning only for a small mechanical set-up problem to drop us back. I'm very optimistic because we proved competitive in Sardinia against a strong field and have a very competitive package with my car and the Pirelli tyres."

Giandomenico Basso (Italy), Abarth Grande Punto S2000:
"Sanremo is a very tricky rally, with lots of corners and few straights. We will have the wide-track Abarth Grande Punto, which is an improvement on the previous car, especially in the dry. First and foremost I will be looking at my rivals in the Italian championship but I think it will be very close with the regular IRC guys as well."

Kris Meeke (United Kingdom), Peugeot 207 S2000:
"It's a monumental event, the biggest challenge in the IRC and one of the most prestigious. Winning it last year was definitely one of the highlights of my season. Day one is about staying out of trouble but day two is when you make up time although you need to find the right rhythm and be so concentrated."

Panizzi joins PROTON for Rallye Sanremo bid

Posted: September 17, 2010 12:35 PM

The PROTON R3 Rally Team will include one of the most successful drivers in the history of the Sanremo Rally when it starts the legendary Italian asphalt event next week. Three-time Sanremo winner Gilles Panizzi, who shares this distinction with Miki Biasion and Didier Auriol, will form part of a two-car line-up with Niall McShea on the 10th round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

The 44-year-old Panizzi has a wealth of experience both in Super 2000, where he has developed one of the most successful cars in the category, and on the World Rally Championship, where he triumphed on seven WRC events between 2000 and 2003. The Frenchman will be co-driven by Freddy Delorme.

Panizzi is joining the PROTON R3 Team in Sanremo in order to give the squad the benefit of his experience on a rally that he has made his own, and to highlight areas where the Satria Neo S2000 can benefit from further development. During the course of the two-day event, Panizzi and PROTON will evaluate the possibility of a longer-term collaboration to help propel the Malaysian manufacturer to the pinnacle of the sport.

Sanremo is characterised by slippery asphalt, changeable weather, and tight corners, which all test power, traction and grip. The event formed part of the World Rally Championship from 1973 to 2003, before being adopted by the IRC from 2006. The challenge however has never changed: making Sanremo one of the most specialised asphalt rallies of them all, where local experts traditionally dominate.

Quotes: Gilles Panizzi said:
"I never expected to be here: in my head I was done with driving competitively a few years ago. But then the opportunity came up to be part of something completely new and use my experience to benefit a manufacturer trying to come up in the sport. We are both using this event to get to know each other, and if we each feel that the conditions are right at the end of it, then we will look at a longer-term collaboration. I'm considering this rally more as a test than a competitive event: it's been two years since I've driven so it's not realistic to expect to be on the pace straight away and I'm going to be surrounded by drivers who are a lot younger, hungrier and match-fit than me! What I can do is make a few suggestions to develop the car in the long run. I drove the PROTON very briefly in Britain and it felt like a very good car, a good base. Now we have a test, but this is just before the start of the rally, so there will not be the possibility of making any dramatic changes before we begin. We are just going to take each stage as it comes, as it's impossible to predict how we might get on. If we can see an improvement in the car and the times over the course of the rally, and if we get to the finish, then it will be a good achievement. I love coming to Sanremo as it's a fantastic rally that brings back many happy memories but there's certainly going to be no pressure this time, as we have no particular expectations. I always give a hundred percent and I've got a serious job to do but I'm also going to enjoy myself: it's always a huge pleasure to drive a rally car on these roads, particularly when you were not expecting to!"

Niall McShea said:
"It's great to be back in Sanremo. I have done this event twice before and always enjoyed it. And, of course, it's great to be back in the PROTON. The development in the car since I drove it last year and then on the Barum Rally in the summer is just amazing. Being in a team with Gilles Panizzi is obviously something completely new for me, he's a legend, everybody knows about Gilles' record in the World Rally Championship, so I'm hoping I can learn a little bit more from watching the way he sets the car up. It's going to be an incredible weekend."

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
"The opportunity to contest the Sanremo Rally only came up when the Indonesian Rally was cancelled. We put everything together very quickly and we're now looking forward to seeing what we can do against the IRC cars. The opportunity to work with Gilles was something we had first thought about at the beginning of the season. We looked at various possibilities, but it was only when Sanremo came up that we really started to get things moving. What can you say about Gilles Panizzi? He's an exceptional driver and one we're delighted to have on board. We got on very well when he came to see us in Britain this week and we're looking forward to establishing a long-term relationship off the back of Sanremo. Like Gilles says, we're not expecting a huge result here, this is a chance for him to acquaint himself with the car in order to take it forward next season. We know about the development roles Gilles has played in the past, not to mention the seven WRC rounds he's won, and that's why we are very happy to have him involved with PROTON. At the same time, it's great to have Niall in the other Satria Neo S2000. Niall's shown plenty of pace in the testing he's done recently. He's been to Sanremo before and he likes the event, so we're all excited about the rally ahead."

Anticipation grows ahead of Rallye Sanremo

Posted: September 16, 2010 2:10 PM

The prospects for Rallye Sanremo, round 10 of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, are mouth-watering after entries for the Italian event peaked at more than 90 cars.

In addition to the Skoda Motorsport trio of Juho Hanninen, Jan Kopecky and Freddy Loix, Skoda UK Motorsport will enter a Fabia S2000 for Guy Wilks, while Skoda Italia will be represented by Marco Signor.

The Peugeot challenge will be led by defending IRC champion and last year's Rallye Sanremo winner Kris Meeke. Italian ace Paolo Andreucci, runner-up to Hanninen on Rally d'Italia-Sardegna in June, and Frenchman Bryan Bouffier will also be at the wheel of a 207 S2000s as will Bruno Magalhaes, who returns to IRC action after skipping last month's Barum Czech Rally Zlin.

Giandomenico Basso heads the Abarth line-up, which also includes four-time IRC event winner Luca Rossetti. PROTON will field Niall McShea in one of its Satria Neo S2000s and will reveal the identity of its second driver tomorrow (Friday).

Several M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000s will also be in action with Andreas Mikkelsen and former IRC regular Andrea Navarra among those driving the new-for-2010 cars.

Magalhaes gets extra IRC outing

Posted: August 19, 2010 2:48 PM

Bruno Magalhaes was able to take some consolation from his disappointing outing on Rali Vinho Madeira earlier this month when he learned his Peugeot Sport Portugal team would be entering him on Rallye Sanremo in September.

Magalhaes had feared that the island rally would be his last in the IRC this year due to a shortage of funding. However, such has been the success of Peugeot Portugal's inaugural IRC campaign that company chiefs have agreed to extend the 30-year-old driver's programme from eight to nine events.

"The IRC programme has brought good success, not only in terms of the results of the races but also the projection of the Peugeot brand in Portugal," said a Peugeot Sport Portugal spokesperson. "It is for these reasons that we enter Bruno in Sanremo as well."

Magalhaes started Rali Vinho Madeira on a high after winning Sata Rallye Acores in July, his maiden victory in the IRC. After dropping out of contention with a puncture on stage two in Madeira, a heavy crash on the very next stage resulted in his first retirement of the season.

More Rallye Sanremo details emerge

Posted: August 13, 2010 11:48 AM

Organisers of Rallye Sanremo, round 10 of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, have revealed further details of their event, which runs in Italy from 23-25 September.

The event will be divided into two legs and will consist of 220 competitive kilometres over 11 all-asphalt special stages.

Leg one, which gets underway on the afternoon of Friday 24 September, will feature five special stages. The second leg, which is made up of six special stages, starts on the morning of Saturday 25 September and finishes later that afternoon.

Once again, the service park and event headquarters will be located on Sanremo's picturesque seafront.

Event Website / Details

Posted: January 1, 2010 12:01 AM

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