Fiesta STs blast the military ranges OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland

Fiesta STs blast the military ranges OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland

13.08.2006: Fiesta STs blast the military ranges OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland

Fiesta SportingTrophy International, round 4/6

Greek driver Lambros Athanassoulas snatched the lead of the fourth round of the Fiesta SportingTrophy International (FSTi) on OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland when drama stuck the then rally leader, Alessandro Bettega, right at the entrance to final service.

Bettega had completed the second leg with a lead of 37.9 seconds on stage times but eight kilometres from the end of SS14 Bosenberg 2 Bettega felt his power steering fail. He struggled through the remainder of the stage with his co-driver operating the handbrake for him. The short Super Special St Wendel stage caused them no issues but on the road section the water pump belt snapped causing the engine to overheat.

Using the drinking bottles that were in the car they kept topping up the engine fluids but were five minutes late in arriving at the Service IN Control. The fifty seconds of penalties dropped them 12.1 seconds behind Athanassoulas, who has maintained his steady pace throughout and his tactic is now paying dividends.

Earlier in the day in the two runs over the longest stage, the 30km Panzerplatte, Bettega made his biggest gain taking 19 seconds from second placed Athanassoulas on the first run. On the repeat run, three hours later he was again faster by 13 seconds, something he credited to amending his pace notes on the first run through making certain corners faster.

Athanassoulas promised at the last service on Friday night that he would not be attacking on Saturday and the most important thing to him was to finish in his current position. Yet on the first stage of the morning he took the lead by 3.1 seconds and caught Bettega by surprise. The lead was short lived as he dropped time on the very next stage as his intermediate tyres overheated in the drying conditions.

The man on a charge setting fastest time on the first three stages of the day was Barry Clark. Although they remained in third position the gap to second spot had been slashed from over two minutes to 1min 24secs after SS11 only for cruel fate to intervene by way of a gearbox failure losing them almost a minute in SS12. Their service crew did an amazing job of changing the gearbox in 38 minutes and getting Clark back out without losing a place and he rewarded them with another fastest time on the very next stage.

The challenge of Panzerplatte also caught out Evgeny Vertunov on the first run when he broke a driveshaft just past the halfway mark of the stage. Continuing with only one wheel drive he dropped 1 minute 30 seconds to Biasion who was continuing his struggle to get confidence in his brake pedal that had worried him all day on Friday.

Gilles Schammel was seen at Service looking for someone to massage his shoulders after competing most of the 30km stage without power steering. In fact it was such a struggle for him he let his co-driver, Renaud Jamoul drive the road section back to the service park to give his arms a rest. At the end of the leg the pains in his shoulders had been forgotten about as he set his first FSTi fastest stage time on SS14.

Kiwi Emma Gilmour is still looking to get a clean run over a whole stage in this her first tarmac rally. Her times have been improving throughout the day culminating in a fourth fastest time on the second run over the longest stage. Even then she hit a bank and had an overshoot in the earlier stage, but she was still smiling as she entered service.

The unluckiest driver from Friday, Kalle Keskinen was aiming to stay out of trouble and finish todayís stages with no problems, but Panzerplatte had different ideas when he burst a driveshaft on the second passing costing him a further two minutes in his pursuit to catch the others. Once this was repaired he continually set top three stage times.

The challenge of Rallye Deutschland does not diminish with four stages still to face the eight Fiesta SportingTrophy International competitors on Sunday. The 68 kilometres of competitive distance will witness a titanic battle as Bettega and Athanassoulas fight out who will win this round of the Fiesta SportingTrophy International (FSTi).

Alessandro Bettega #85 I took it too cautiously on the first stage this morning, but I didnít want to make a mistake as it was damp and I was on slicks. It was cleaner in the second stage and so I was faster, but still I concentrate as I need to get the points. My shoulders are sore with driving the car with no power steering. Simone had to help me with the handbrake on the second last stage. The engine got so hot I had to start it on the key and get it up to 5th gear, then switch it off to try and get air into it to cool. The mechanics will fix it tonight, but the penalties mean I have lost my lead.

Lambros Athanassoulas #88 I said I would take it easy last night to get to the finish and I have been. The time on the first stage was due to my tyres (intermediate) as I drove the same on the second stage, but apart from the last two to three kilometres where it was damp I had understeer. I have had so many problems like Alessandro is suffering tonight at other rounds, but this is not the way that I would have liked to be leading, but that is the way it goes. I offered to help Alessandro, but he waved me on.

Barry Clark #53 Folk say we had a good morning, but weíve had no brakes since early in the first stage. I meant to bed them in going to Trier last night, but didnít do it properly and they cooked this morning. The pedal has been going to the floor; Iíve been banging down the gears to slow down. We were about half way through the 30km stage when the driveshaft failed from that point on we were running with one-wheel drive. It made it especially difficult under braking as thereís no engine assistance so you get thrown about. We were having moments everywhere. If we hadnít suffered the break we would have been right up there.

Gilles Schammel #87 It has been very good. Although it is easier for Biasion and Bettega and the roads are wider here. It means that they can take the lines and I am just learning. On the second run through the long stage the power steering failed and it was oh so hard to drive. My shoulders are really sore. Renaud had to drive the road section back here as I had had enough.

I am so pleased to have set my first Fiesta ST fastest time. It was the first chance we really had to push.

Emma Gilmour #91 We got a rear puncture with 20kms to go, so we had to stop to change it. The jack was so slow to go back down that we couldnít get it back into the car for ages. We should have been on slicks on that one, but we ran out of time to be able to change them after the Re-Fuel section.

On the third stage of the day I overshot a junction under braking, then on the long one we set a good time, but it could have been quicker as I hit a bank. Iím still to get a clean run on any stage, then I can go faster.

Kalle Keskinen #89 Friday was unbelievable and today I have promised the Team Manager that we will finish. Iím just driving round, we are not going fast, just enough to get back here tonight in one piece. On Sunday, though Iím going to go flat out. I think it is a broken driveshaft 10kms into Stage 12. I didnít hit anything, I donít know what it is. My times this last loop have been good and I want to repeat them tomorrow.


-Andy Stobart-
photos Marc Hilger


13.08.2006 / MaP

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