The all-action Intercontinental Rally Challenge just got better with the release of the entry list for the penultimate round, Rallye Sanremo, which gets underway with shakedown later today.
Rallye Sanremo has been a mainstay of the series since its inception and traditionally attracts an entry full of quality and quantity. This year is no exception with five IRC event winners in action on the demanding asphalt stages in the hills looking over the Italian Riviera town.
Topping the list is 2010 IRC champion Juho Hänninen, who is joined in the factory KODA team by Jan Kopecký. Multiple Italian title winner Paolo Andreucci (Peugeot) and Giandomencio Basso (M-Sport), who has claimed five IRC victories over the years, will also be in action, as will Umberto Scandola (KODA) and Peugeot talents Craig Breen and Pierre Campana.
Subaru runner Marco Tempestini will battle Renaults Robert Consani (pictured) for IRC Production Cup honours. Consani is also eligible for the IRC 2WD Cup where Bryan Bouffier will be one to watch as he makes the competition debut in Peugeots 208 R2.
The action begins on Friday afternoon with the first of 10 special stages. The longest, Ronde, covers 44 kilometres and takes place under the cover of darkness. The finish is scheduled for early Saturday evening.
Basso secures IRC return just in time
Giandomenico Basso has left it late to secure his return to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge on Rallye Sanremo this week.
Basso, from Italy, had always intended to contest the asphalt event in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta RRC but his preparations have been far from straightforward after another driver crashed the car he will use in Sanremo during an event in Poland last month.
We had a little bit of doubt before the start as another driver crashed the car at a rally recently and we weren’t sure if it was possible to get it rebuilt, with enough spare parts, on time, said Basso, a five-time winner in the IRC.
Basso will be one of the favourites for victory in Sanremo alongside co-driver Mitia Dotta.
KODAs safety mission accomplished
Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler successfully performed the role of safety car crew on the Příbram Rally in their native Czech Republic last weekend.
The Intercontinental Rally Challenge regulars won this seasons Czech title after winning five events in a row. With the championship title secured, they switched from their usual KODA Fabia Super 2000 to a Fabia Monte Carlo to help with the smooth and safe running of the Czech championship finale.
FAS (Automobile Sports Federation) Media Officer Josef Pátl said: Jan and Pavel did a very useful job their recommendations were the basis for making several changes to the route and its safety zones. Cooperation with professional drivers is a step in the right direction.
Kopecký, the Czech ambassador for the FIAs Action for Road Safety campaign, said: Pavel and I really appreciated the opportunity to be involved in this project. We have enough experience at various events home and abroad, and we were pleased to share this experience.
New co-driver for S2000 graduate Hunt
Harry Hunt will get a new co-driver when he competes on a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in a Super 2000 car for the first time.
With regular navigator Robbie Durant recovering from a back injury sustained during a crash on the last IRC round in Bulgaria, Hunt will link up with Australian Dale Moscatt for Rallye Sanremo.
Obviously Im disappointed not to have Robbie beside me in the car but Im pleased to hear that he is making a speedy recovery, said Hunt. He has now returned home from Bulgaria and hes been resting his back over the past few days.
Dale will be the perfect replacement, Hunt continued. He has been with us for a test in Sanremo over the weekend and is very professional. He is also very experienced, which is very important when youre hurtling through twisty mountain passes at over 130kph!
Hunt is stepping up from the IRC 2WD Cup for this weeks trip to Sanremo, driving a Peugeot 207 S2000 for the respected Kronos Racing operation from Belgium.
Three questions to: Umberto Scandola
KODA Italia Motorsports young star on Rallye Sanremo
The IRC is back in Italy for Rallye Sanremo. What do you think of this event?
Sanremo is actually one of the rallies I know best: Ive been doing it since I started rallying and in the past we have shown some encouraging speed there, although I am learning all the time. The thing that really distinguishes Sanremo for me is the fact that there are long stages there, at night as well, which can make a big difference if you push hard. I want to take a calm approach to this rally but we will certainly push in the places we feel confident.
How good is the Ronde night stage, at the end of the opening day of the rally?
The night stage is good to us, so this is one we can target. Theres a great atmosphere to the whole rally in Sanremo and some brilliant fans, even when its cold and dark. Its certainly one of my favourite events of the year.
Whats your target for the event?
My focus this year is on the Italian championship, so while Id like to push as hard as I can and target an overall result, there is no point in me chasing the IRC competitors and taking risks, when my rivals are really the people who are doing the Italian championship.
In the spotlight: Pierre Campana
A former frontrunner in the IRC 2WD Cup, Corsican rising star Pierre Campana stepped up to Super 2000 technology last season before the French motorsport federation took note and funded two world championship rallies in a works-supported MINI World Rally Car. Campana also represented the make on this years WRC season opener before he returned to the IRC with a podium finish on Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse in May. Rallye Sanremo marks his second appearance in this years series in a Munaretto-run Peugeot 207 S2000.