Bettega best after first day

Bettega best after first day

24.05.2006: Bettega best after first day

Alessandro Bettega ended the first day of Rally d'Italia Sardegna ahead of his rivals after a day of six gruelling gravel stages in the third round of the Fiesta SportingTrophy International (FSTi).

Bettega fought back from fifth in the standings at the end of the first loop and drove at a pace designed to get him to the end of the day, a plan which worked to perfection with as he ended the day two minutes ahead of his nearest rival. The Italian put much of the credit for ending the day so well at the feet of his co-driver Simone Scattolin for his constant reminders to drive at a steady pace.

The first loop had seen Scot Barry Clark lead by over a minute and a half, but five kilometres from the end of the first stage of the afternoon a driveshaft came out meaning he could not complete the stage and his car was towed back to the Service Park to return to the rally, with penalties, for the second day in fifth place.

Second behind Clark at the end of the first loop was series points leader Mathieu Biasion who was another driver to suffer misfortune in the afternoon. The stages were a rerun of the morning's but they were even more cut up as the WRC cars had been over them for a second time ahead of the Fiesta STs.

Biasion suffered a break of his front left wishbone with the end of SS4 in sight and, like Clark, had his car recovered to the Service Park to return to the rally with penalties for the second day. With his penalties added Biasion sits in sixth place.

Finn Kalle Keskinen and Russian Evgeny Vertunov both had short days with Keskinen suffering power steering fluid loss and then pump failure in the morning and Vertunov losing a wheel. Keskinen will start the second day with his penalties in seventh in the standings whilst Evgeny will start in eighth, the last of the Fiesta STs.

Lambros Athanassoulas suffered a puncture on the first stage of the afternoon, but worked his way back up the order to end the first loop with himself and co-driver Nikos Mouzakis in fourth place in the standings.

With an approach designed to ensure he finishes the rally, Tom Curtis completed his first full day's rallying in his Fiesta ST pleased with the progress which saw him in third place in the standings at the end of the first loop and at the end of the day too.

Despite never having driven a wheel on gravel before, Luxembourg driver Gilles Schammel with Belgian Jamoul Renaud were delighted to be in second place overnight. Schammel had sat with Keskinen on the shakedown on Thursday, and immediately gained 5secs a kilometre, a lesson which was paying dividends.

So, with all to play for tomorrow, the Italian team are set to keep their grip on their home rally. Continues overleaf…

Alessandro Bettega #102

It's very, very, very rough. Even without our problems in the morning we would not have been going fast, we're just taking it steady. We are going at about 60-70% and even less on the rough places because you hit a lot of stones, you go in the ruts and the sump guard hits the ground but you have to keep on going like this. You can't go flat out here.

Gilles Schammel #105

For my first rally on gravel it's not so bad, we are not setting times that far from the quickest cars. It's really fun running on gravel but the second time through was too hard, there were big rocks. This time we have a chance as the car is very good now.

Tom Curtis #107

We're driving around all the rocks. We caught a car on SS2 and lost about 30secs, we had to stop in places it was that bad being behind. There are some really big ruts out there. We went into the second loop and saw two Fiestas stranded. It's my first time in the car using my own pace notes and that seems to be going well. It's been eventful and it's really good to get to the end of the first day.

Lambros Athanassoulas #103

It's the worst thing ever! There's rocks and ruts everywhere. The whole car is shaking so hard over the stages. They say the Acropolis Rally is rough, but this is not a rally it's a Baja event for big 4x4 vehicles. You have to be lucky to get to the end, if I see a problem ahead I'm driving right off the road to avoid it. I didn't expect it to be so hard.

Barry Clark #53

It's very hot, the hottest rally I've done. We had two overshoots on the first stage on a slippery tarmac section, I was put off by a spectator in the middle of the road and got distracted with my braking. The second stage didn't flow at all, it was very slow and twisty. On the third stage we caught the car in front, it was hard to concentrate on the pace notes with all the dust. The driveshaft braking in the fourth stage was more my bad luck than anything, we weren't really going that quick!

Mathieu Biasion #101

We got stuck behind a car in the first stage for over 10km, there was nothing we could do about it. The car is perfect but the rally is difficult. We are driving slowly because the result is important and Barry has a long lead in the front which we won't make back.

- Andy Stobart-
photos copyright Fiesta Sporting Trophy


24.05.2006 / MaP

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