Abarth's rallyplannen voor 2010 nog onduidelijk

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Abarth's rallyplannen voor 2010 nog onduidelijk

Berichtdoor Sportiva-Italia » Ma Dec 14, 2009 20:00

Bron: Italiaspeed.com

Abarth's rallyplannen voor 2010 nog onduidelijk
12-12-2009

Abarth zal binnen enkele dagen een beslissing nemen over de te varen koers voor wat betreft de rally afdeling. Om budgettaire redenen moest Abarth al bezuinigen en door ook nog verkeerde beslissingen te nemen op momenten dat zelfs een beginnend rallyrijder zou weten wat te doen, zal Abarth volgend jaar mogelijk niet meer als zelfstandig fabrieksteam in het IRC meedoen. Abarth maakte afgelopen seizoen veel slechte en vage beslissingen, zoals alsmaar wisselen van rijders, verkeerde bandenkeuze en moet daar nu de prijs voor betalen. Abarth heeft een groot deel van het team afgelopen seizoen uitgeleend aan het Griffone privé-team en mogelijk wordt alles in 2010 naar dat team overgeheveld. Als laatste is er nog de auto zelf; de Grande Punto is èèn van de oudste modellen in zijn klasse en zal in 2010 de strijd aan moeten gaan met de nieuwe Ford Fiesta S2000, waardoor de kansen op een overwinning nog kleiner worden:

Abarth is currently making a decision on whether to continue in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) next year, having replaced outgoing Team Principal Nic Gullino with Gabrielle Palmitesta, with a decision expected in the next few days. If the green light is given to continuing next year, Giandomenico Basso, Luca Rossetti and Umberto Scandola will be seen on the starting ramp for next month’s prestigious Rallye Monte Carlo, but the go-ahead still depends on budget considerations. Anton Alen, who is under contract for 2010, does not at the moment feature in next year’s plans. This year much of the running of the Scorpion team was outsourced to Grifone and the private Italian outfit is set to take an even greater role next year.
Last month Abarth parted company with Gullino after a very difficult season that saw the team unable to mount an effective challenge on the IRC and miss out on the Italian title by a whisker. Palmitesta's appointment will be expected to immediately address one of the key problems the team suffered this year with strategic mistakes being made at senior management level, and Gullino’s departure last month was not unexpected. A source within the team told Autosport magazine: “This is not really a surprise to anybody. It’s been a hard season for us this year, we didn’t win so many rallies that we wanted to win.”

Afbeelding

After winning the inaugural IRC title in 2006 the Italian team has been unable to compete with the highly-funded Peugeot steamroller and this year new S2000 entrant Skoda has also bypassed the Italian team. The Abarth Grande Punto has won two Italian Rally Championship titles in 2006 and 2007 and the factory team missed out by the slimmest of margins to claim the title this year. The team’s star driver Giandomenico Basso, did win the prestigious FIA European Rally Championship title this year, his second, with both crowns coming at the wheel of the Super 2000 car (his first win in 2006 came when it was branded as a Fiat) so the cupboard wasn’t bare although the team managed just one win in the IRC, on the Rali Vinho Madeira.
While the team did suffer from some bad luck in both the IRC and CIR, a number of strategic decisions baffled rally insiders. A prime example was on the very first competitive stage of the year, on the Rallye Monte Carlo, when the team gambled on tyre choices even the most inexperienced of rally watchers found unfathomable. This wild gamble, at a point when caution was the watchword on a rally that only rewards those that offer it utter respect, predictably failed to pay dividends – Luca Rossetti crashed out on the first stage, and the team’s challenge to win the most prestigious rally in the world, and a rally where some of the Fiat Group’s most legendary cars have etched their name in the roll call of honours over the years, was already in tatters. Matters hardly improved on the second round in Brazil, when a decision to help refuel a rival competitor left seasoned rally observers with the view that the team simply didn’t possess senior management with the ruthless competitive edge that is needed to win at the top level in motorsport.

In the Italian championship, the Scorpion fared a bit better, and in the end Rossetti just missed out on the title by a solitary point. There was a surprise, though, when the team chose to continue with youngster Umberto Scandola for a full season in Italy, when his appearances for the team during the last three years suggested a lack of preparedness to play an important support role in a factory team. The team also failed to bring in support for Rossetti during the final round of the year, the Rally Como, when the Italian’s title bid was finely poised and the star qualities of Basso were available. Technically the Abarth Grande Punto is the oldest of the new breed of Super 2000 cars and it has seen the pace of development held back this year due to budgetary considerations. The engine in particular, drawn from the Alfa 156 Super Tourer programme, cannot match the power of its rivals, and the arrival of the new Ford Fiesta S2000 – which will debut on the Rallye Monte Carlo – is expected to raise the Super 2000 bar further. The Abarth Grande Punto works best on smooth, medium-speed asphalt, its performances on rallies such as Madeira, Asturias and Sanremo bearing testament to this, but on other surfaces – especially bumpy asphalt and gravel – it has struggled.
Even if a factory program is not approved, however, the Scorpion may still be present in Monte Carlo. Former WRC driver Toni Gardemeister is looking to return to the mountains above Monte Carlo in January with an Astra Racing Grande Punto. The experienced Finn turned in an excellent showing last year, putting himself in contention for a podium slot on the final leg before disaster on the Col de Turini shattered his chances.

Keith Cronin, the reigning British Rally Champion, is also expected to feature on the stages of the IRC next year, with one of the senior principals of the Italian Procar squad this week saying he wanted the Irishman to continue with his team. Daniele Pelliccioni said this week he wanted to continue with Abarth in the Italian Championship, “and also try to do something in the IRC – there is a possibility we can do this and perhaps with Keith.” Cronin contested last month’s Rally of Scotland in a Procar Abarth, and although he crashed out of the event, he impressed observers with his immediate pace on his first outing in an S2000 car.
This year much of the IRC programme was subcontracted to the private Grifone team, including the supply of personnel, and it is expected that if a 2010 programme is given the green light Grifone will play a greater role. Abarth has also considered putting its star drivers behind the wheel of the new 500 R3T in selected events next year. At the moment, it remains unclear what Abarth’s long-term rally plans are, and the vast number of fans around the world who have welcomed Fiat Group’s return to rallying wait with baited breath for a positive decision.
I ragazzi strani che romani!
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Berichtdoor Sportiva-Italia » Zo Feb 14, 2010 20:02

Update 12-02-2010:

Abarth heeft zich definitief teruggetrokken uit het veeleisende IRC en gaat in het CIR (Italiaanse Rally kampioenschap) verder met Basso en Rossetti:

Although Abarth has backed away from the demanding challenge of the IRC this year, rally fans will be delighted that Luca Rossetti and reigning FIA European Rally Champion Giandomenico Basso will chase the Italian Rally Championship (CIR) title in a pair of Abarth Grande Punto S2000s. Creating what is arguably the strongest lineup fielded by Abarth on the CIR for some years, the two pilots will embark on the challenge with their usual co-drivers, Matteo Chiarcossi and Mitia Dotta, sitting alongside.
Both drivers will feel the hand of history, having experienced considerable previous success in this championship. Basso won the title in 2007 at the wheel of a factory Abarth Grande Punto S2000, while Rossetti claimed top honours a year later with a Racing Lions-run Peugeot 207 S2000. In 2009, factory efforts on the IRC trail were entrusted to the private Grifone team, while fellow Italian team Procar was responsible for Abarth’s CIR campaign. This year, however, operations have been entrusted to another experienced private outfit, Trico Motor Sport.

Finding the budget to put the two-car programme together for the CIR has taken some time, an official announcement only coming on Friday. Notably, the highly-rated Basso turned down several offers from front-running teams, including seats in the CIR with Skoda Italia and Ford Italia, in order to remain with Abarth. If additional budget can be found, Basso is also looking to take part in a limited IRC program, while Abarth is also considering an ERC program for Rossetti to build on last year’s title success. The team's young protégé, Umberto Scandola who has been part of the S2000 project since its inception in 2006, has meanwhile been released and is being linked with Ford Italia alongside another former Abarth exponent, Renato Travaglia.
Indeed, the 2010 CIR is set to prove extremely competitive, with Abarth’s lineup going head-to-head with last year’s title winners Paolo Andreucci and Anna Andreussi, once again campaigning the factory-backed Racing Lions Peugeot 207 S2000. Piero Longhi, meanwhile, has split with Skoda Italia and signed to drive a 207 prepared by Twister Corse, while Luca Cantamessa will also be present in a privateer Peugeot.
"We have a winning team, made up of two of the best drivers, and the team is motivated to bring home the title to our marque," said Ing. Domenico Bagnasco, Abarth’s head of Engineering and Manufacturing Operations. On the subject of Scandola, he added: “We regret having to terminate our relationship with Umberto Scandola – a very good pilot who always gave his best also as a test driver. Umberto, we wish you success in 2010.”

Afbeelding Afbeelding

Finally, Bagnasco added a word about the contribution of everyone involved with the Abarth rally effort over the past couple of years. “I want to personally thank, on behalf of all at Abarth, the teams of technicians and mechanics at Grifone and Procar who over the last two years have actively worked with us, both in the Italian championship and the IRC.” Abarth’s factory-backed lineup will be further supplemented throughout the season by a privateer Grande Punto Abarth, campaigned by former CIR title winner Gianfranco Cunico. Perhaps best-known for his win on the 1993 Rally Sanremo in a private Ford Escort RS Cosworth, breaking Lancia’s run of seven consecutive wins on home turf, Cunico claimed three CIR titles between 1994 and 1996 in a Jolly Club-run Escort. The decision marks Cunico’s return to Fiat Group products after a long break, having previously briefly campaigned a Lancia Delta HF 4WD in 1987. His Abarth Grande Punto will be run by the D'Ambra team.
Eight rallies will count towards the 2010 Italian Championship Rally (CIR): Rally 1000 Miglia (April 23-25), Rally Adriatico (May 22-23), Rally Salento (June 18-20), Rally San Marino (July 2-4), Rally Friuli de Alpi Orientali (September 3-5), Rally Sanremo (September 24-26), Rally Costa Smeralda (October 8-10) and Rally di Como (October 22-24). This last round will also see a third factory-backed Abarth Grande Punto S2000 joining the fray, driven by the best placed under-25 pilot in the inaugural Trofeo Abarth 500 Rally, a new Scorpion promotional championship which will make its debut at the 1000 Miglia. The eight rounds of the CIR are split between gravel and asphalt, with three on the former (Adriatico, San Marino and Costa Smeralda), while the latter five are on sealed surfaces.
I ragazzi strani che romani!

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