Argentijns Rally Kampioenschap begint slecht voor de Maxi's
Het leek zo mooi: het Argentijnse Rally Kampioenschap met voor het eerst de Maxi klasse: nieuwe wagens, die er een spectaculair kampioenschap van zouden maken. Helaas bleek de start niet over rozen te gaan! Hevige regenval deed de wegen overspoelen, waardoor een aantal proeven afgelast moesten worden. Zodoende kon ook Fiat met de nieuwe Maxi klasse Punto niet voluit gaan. Juist in de categorie waar de N-klasse Mitsubishi Evo's en Subaru's domineerden, werd het tijd voor wat tegengas. Of dat zal lukken, zal de tijd moeten leren:
A brand new era kicked off as the new 'Maxi' class made its eagerly anticipated debut on the opening round of the 2011 Argentine Rally Championship at the weekend, and for Fiat Argentina it also signalled the start of a new era as it attacks the series with two factory Punto Maxi Rally machines. After a decade and a half during which the Group N Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru Impreza have dominated the rallying landscape in Argentina, the arrival of the potentially exciting new breed of 'Maxi Rally' class machines has seen a string of important car manufacturers throwing their hats into the ring and, as well as Fiat, last weekend the start ramp of the championship's opening round, the Rally de Areco, Capitán Sarmiento y Baradero, saw Chevrolet, Volkswagen and Ford, Peugeot and KIA all turn up with new cars. After their debut year in Argentina the new generation of 'Maxi Rally' cars are set to spread out across Latin America. However, the first round turned out to be far from the great showdown that had been forecast prior to the last weekend. The presentation of the brand new 'Maxi Rally' cars hogged the spotlight in the service area, and the shakedown stage held last Friday immediately boosted the enthusiasm of thousands of fans eager to see how the action would develop. However, all the expectations quickly fell flat when it was the rain that instead played the leading role. The Rally de Areco, Capitán Sarmiento y Baradero could barely be run due to a deluge that struck heavily in all areas being used by the race and flooded most of the roads. In the end the result was just five stages completed and less than a hundred timed kilometres tackled. With two of the new Fiat Punto Maxi Rally cars being run by EZD Competicion for Claudio Menzi/Diego Cagnotti and Cristian Confetti/Luis Allende, the factory Scuderia Fiat outfit went into the Rally de Areco, Capitán Sarmiento y Baradero, held in the province of Buenos Aires, on the back of promising tests for both drivers last month in the new machines. Fiat would be facing stiff competition from other brands which have also thrown their weight behind the new "Maxi Rally" generation of cars. Last year the Baretec team was the first in introduced a Maxi Rally car in Argentina, a VW Gol Trend driven by the now-Scuderia Fiat pilot, Menzi. This season, however, the Barattero brothers are lining-up no less than four cars for last year's championship runner-up Gabriel Pozzo, two-time South American Champion Raúl Martínez, the young and promising Miguel Baldoni and Sebastián Abramian. Meanwhile, Chevrolet and Ford are having their own cars run by the Tango and VRS teams respectively on the eleven round 2011 series. The former is entering one of the Agile models for Marcos Ligato while for the latter, the VRS team headed by the Villagra brothers, is entering a Fiesta driven by the reigning champion Federico Villagra. Finally Alejandro Cancio is running a private Peugeot 207 while Paraguayan Diego Domínguez is at the wheel of a Kia Rio. It's expected that more drivers will make their appearance at the wheel of a 'Maxi Rally' class car before the mid season.
The rally headquarters were in San Antonio de Areco, 120 kilometers from the capital city with the 'ceremonial start' taking place outside the Argentine Automobile Club in the busy area of the Del Libertador Avenue. The first showdown of the year was set to feature soft surfaces and high speed roads, making an ideal venue for the teams running the six new brands of car to check out their "Maxi Rally" steeds before tackling the first event in the mountains. The rally was scheduled to cover 145.44 km of competitive distance distributed in 12 special stages. However with rain decimating the itinerary the opening day was reduced to just four tests, with the other four having to be cancelled. The reduction in mileage and the terrible conditions meant that Scuderia Fiat lost the opportunity to gain invaluable testing experience as its crews focused on survival and at the end of the opening four stages Luciano Bernardi (Mitsubishi) led the cars over the finish ramp while Confetti went into overnight parc ferme in tenth place overall with team mate Menzi three places further back. Both drivers had suffered problems but a sign of the potential of the Punto Maxi Rally came on the final short test of the day, the second running of the 3.79 km long "Monte Duranzo", where they posted the sixth and ninth fastest times respectively. The second and final day got underway with SS9, the 33.57 km long "SS Areco-Baradero" and again rain made the mammoth test a lottery. There was to be mixed fortunes for Fiat as its Italian driver Confetti dropped out with overheating problems a third of the way into the stage, while Menzi, despite continuing gearbox problems, posted the eighth quickest time to vault up to eighth place overall. "We had gearbox complications again," noted Menzi after the stage, "which made us jump the changes and that hurt us, from the middle of the stage it rained hard and by the end it was almost impossible due to the mud that had formed," he added. "We had temperature problem, but I don't know if it was the radiator or the engine," explained his team mate Confetti, "but it stopped us continuing; we were doing well until then having covered the first 10 kilometres. Anyway we have a competitive car and I hope I can make a competitive showing on the next round."
The second two tests were then cancelled one after another as the conditions were too treacherous at which point the organisers abandoned the rally with two final stages remaining. Menzi was subsequently hit with a 30 second penalty which dropped him down to tenth place overall. Team boss Juan Manuel Solís was however satisfied that the Punto Maxi Rally can be a competitive proposition but was disappointed at the lack of testing mileage with the decimation of the timed sections. At the front of the field, on Saturday Luciano Bernardi (Tango Mitsubishi) took an early lead after setting three consecutive fastest times. Behind him Alejandro Levy (VRS Mitsubishi) and Juan Marchetto (VRS Mitsubishi) settled into the podium positions taking advantage of the boost given by the turbochargers on the classic N4 cars over the normal aspirated new 'Maxi Rally' cars. However in a sign pointing towards the future, the remaining stage was won by Baldoni (VW Gol) followed by just a few tenths adrift by his team-mate Pozzo. The 2010 championship runner-up thus finished the day in a solid fourth position with Baldoni just behind. For the second day the weather was even worse and forced the stewards to cancelled four special stages with only one being in a good enough condition to be run. It was in that decisive stage where Marchetto steamrollered his opponents while at the same time he capitalised on engine failure for Bernardi and an off road excursion by Levy. Virtually, the leader of the race, Marchetto pushed harder than ever to secure the first victory of his career leaving Pozzo and Baldoni more than 30 seconds adrift. Eventually, after final scrutineering, history turned out to be a bit different since it became apparent that Marchetto had built his incredible advantage after missing out a chicane in the stage and he received a 30 second penalty which, however, still allowed him to claim the win by the slenderest of margins: 1.9 seconds over Pozzo. For reigning champion Federico Villagra his debut at the wheel of the new Fiesta was as chaotic as the race. After completing the first stage on Saturday, a fuel pipe broke leaving "Coyote" out of gasoline in the liaison section. Sunday was no better for him and this time the Fiesta was hit by gearbox troubles.
2011 Argentine Rally Championship, Rd 1 - Rally de Areco, Capitán Sarmiento y Baradero
1. Juan Marchetto/José Díaz (Mitsubishi)
2. Gabriel Pozzo/Daniel Stillo (Volkswagen)
3. Miguel Baldoni/Gustavo Franchello (Volkswagen)
4. Raúl Martínez/Fernando Mussano (Volkswagen)
= Diego Domínguez/Edgardo Galindo (Kia)
6. Gerónimo Padilla/Richard Kember (Mitsubishi)
7. José Cantón/Rodolfo Amelio Ortiz (Mitsubishi)
8. Claudio Menzi/Diego Cagnotti (Fiat)
Nieuws, uitslagen e.d. m.b.t. rally's.
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