Bettega wins at home and takes championship lead

Bettega wins at home and takes championship lead

24.05.2006: Bettega wins at home and takes championship lead

Alessandro Bettega scored a class and Fiesta victory in his home rally and moved into the drivers' points lead in the Fiesta SportingTrophy International (FSTi), the series for GpN Ford Fiesta STs which runs alongside rounds of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship.

Bettega and co-driver Simone Scattolin played a tactical game in Rally d'Italia Sardenga and tempering their speed, well aware of the tough nature of the rock-strewn gravel stages which claimed many of their rivals including FSTi points leader coming into this event, Mathieu Biasion.

The Italian crew not only won the FSTi series they also took victory in the Group N3 class of the gruelling event, the seventh round on the calendar of the FIA World Rally Championship. Bettega's victory puts him into the head of the drivers' points standings with a lead of seven points over Biasion.

Luxembourg driver Gilles Schammel, in his first ever rally on gravel, was quickly up to pace and drove steadily and with impressive stage times, although he reckoned he would be faster with more experience of the surface. Schammel and co-driver Jamoul Renaud ended the rally second of the Fiesta STs meaning Schammel moved up to third in the drivers' standings.

Brit Tom Curtis approached the event determined to get to the end, but he allowed himself off the leash on occasion, setting the fastest time on the last stage of the rally. He achieved his aim of finishing and, better than that, was also on the podium too as he finished third with co-driver Andrew Bargery.

The Russian crew of Evgeny Vertunov and Georgy Troshkin were the lead Fiesta to come home after returning to the event under SupeRally regulations. Despite reckoning he had worn out his brake discs during the event it was a solid run from the pairing, whose car had barely a scratch on it at the end of the three-day event.

Scot Barry Clark and Brit Scott Martin were classified fifth in the FSTi after a strong run after ending their first day early and taking penalties. On the final day they set three fastest stage times and they also came home second of the J-WRC Rookies thanks to their entry in that championship.

The Greek crew of Lambros Athanassoulas and Nikos Mouzakis did lead the Fiesta STs briefly on Saturday and they started the final day in a strong second place. However a wishbone breaking on SS14 meant no more stages were completed by the crew who were classified sixth at the end of the rally.

Finns Kalle Keskinen and Juha Koljonen were in sight of the finish of the final two days of the rally when damage forced them to early baths. On a surface well suited to Keskinen, two fastest stage times pointed to the potential he will have when he competes in the fifth round of the series.

It was a terrible rally for the title aspirations of the French crew of Mathieu Biasion and Cedric Beynet with rally-long power steering problems and a wishbone break on the second day compounded by having to complete the final day with only fourth gear to be classified eighth.

The Fiesta SportingTrophy International now has a twelve week break before the next event, OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland, the last tarmac event of the season, taking place on August 11-13 set around the historic city of Trier.

Alessandro Bettega #102

"We have won. It was a tough rally because we had to use more the head than the foot. On the first leg we went really slow. On the second after the puncture we were faster. Then on Sunday we were a bit slower because Lambros had a problem leaving service this morning then he had a problem with his car so for the last three stages we were driving at 70%. This has been the toughest rally of the season so far and the toughest of my career as well."

Gilles Schammel #105

"The first loop on Sunday we didn't attack, the second loop we did as the notes were better. I'm really happy to finish second as it's my first rally on gravel and it's good that we finished. I have enjoyed driving on gravel and I will do some more rallies on gravel in France before we go to Finland."

Tom Curtis #107

"The last stages weren't as rough as I thought we had a bit more speed and we got to the end. It feels really good to get to the end of the rally. It's been a nice run through the times were good. It's my first time on my own notes and I don't quite have full confidence in them yet."

Evgeny Vertunov #106

"Today was better than the previous days. One of the stages today was very good, the shortest one was the best. The longest stage had a lot of stones and a lot of hairpin turns, and the other one was between the two. I need to practice a little on tarmac before Germany."

Barry Clark #53

"We had a rear puncture and then a front puncture on the last stage. The steering arm's bent, the rear beam's bent, the car's had such a pounding over the weekend but it's not really a surprise when you look at the stages. But, it's got us here and we've set most of the fastest times today. Keskinen had a couple of quick stage times which is a bit worrying as they were on the stages which are typical of Finland so I think he'll be quick there."

Lambros Athanassoulas #103

"We were set to settle for second but we broke a wishbone. That is rallying and these things happen. I am very disappointed as we were looking set for a good result. I said the winner of this rally would be the one with the most luck and Alessandro had that today."

Kalle Keskinen #104

"Sunday was good for us, we went fastest on two stages today. We had a problem with a wheel bearing so we didn't drive the last stage. I can't wait until we are rallying in Finland but I have my rock and race festival in July to keep me busy before that."

Mathieu Biasion #101

"Today we had only fourth gear and there was play in the steering rack. Today I have only had problems. From the first stage we had the problem with the gearbox and it's very difficult to drive like this and I'm very unhappy because for the championship it is not a good result."

-Andy Stobart -
photos copyrright Fiesta Trophy


24.05.2006 / MaP

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