The factory Abarth team is hoping the luck that has deserted it so far this year will return on Rally Russia, round six of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, later this month.
Abarths lead drivers Anton Alen and Giandomenico Basso are both experts on gravel and are looking forward to delivering a stronger showing in Russia.
They hope the gravel event, which is based in Vyborg from July 9-11, will bring about a change of fortune.
Nicola Gullino, the Abarth team principal, said: We have had a bad start to the championship despite making lots of technical improvements to the car. We have been trying our best but we have not had the luck. Even in Ypres, when we were not in the top three, the final result did not reflect our performance.
Abarth will be heartened by the fact Alen won the inaugural Rally Russia in 2007 at the wheel of one of the Italian firms Grande Punto Super 2000s.
Anton is very quick in Russia but the road surface is a big factor there, Gullino continued. In 2007 the road was very smooth, almost like Finland, but the restoration of the roads last year following a tough winter was not so good and that made the road conditions quite bad in some places.
HANNINEN HOPES RUSSIAN GRAVEL WILL GIVE SKODA ITS FIRST WIN
Juho Hanninen believes he can secure Skodas first win in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge when the series resumes on Rally Russia. Finn Hanninen, who won the event last season driving a Kronos Racing Peugeot 207 Super 2000, believes he will be able to make the most of his reputation as a gravel specialist by claiming overall honours.
I am looking forward to Russia because I certainly prefer gravel to Tarmac, said Hanninen following the recent Belgium Ypres Rally. It is a surface I have performed well on in the past and I am sure I will be able to do so again. I gained a lot of experience on the [asphalt-based] Ypres Rally, which wasnt exactly ideally suited to me, and I wish to thank all members of the team for their support and for the excellent preparation of my car.
Hanninen held third place on the Belgium Ypres Rally heading into the final stage only for a punctured tyre to drop him to fifth overall in the final standings.
I am glad to have got to the finish of this difficult rally, he added. I consider fifth place in the overall rankings to be positive.
PROMISING YPRES SHOWING GIVES WITTMANN A BOOST FOR RUSSIA
Franz Wittmann Jr believes the experience gained on the Belgium Ypres Rally in June will be highly advantageous when the Intercontinental Rally Challenge resumes in Russia later this month.
Austrian Wittmann will tackle the gravel event based in Vyborg in a Mitsubishi Lancer E9 following a strong showing on the asphalt lanes of Ypres recently. There he was challenging for a top-ten finish until a puncture caused a driveshaft to failure and led to his retirement from the event.
If Wittmann can maintain his impressive start to the season in Russia then it will help the Mitsubishi-blessed Ralliart operation to maintain its second position in the IRC manufacturers standings.
We entered the Ypres Rally knowing that we wouldnt stand much chance against 19 superior Super 2000 cars and several [of the latest] Mitsubishi Lancer Evo Xs on a 100 per cent Tarmac rally, said Wittmann. But we can be a little bit proud that we managed to be 11th in the intermediate classification as second-best non-Super 2000 car after six stages. In any case we learned a lot in Belgium and I hope that I can put these experiences into action in the future.
Wittmann is the only driver from Austria regularly competing in the series. He is currently 19th in the drivers table.