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GP Week : Issue 10
L UCA Rossetti, virtually unknown 12 months again, outpaced an immensely strong field of other Super 2000 cars to win the Rally of Portugal. It was his fourth successive win in the IRC championship, only his third rally outside his native Italy and his Peugeot 207 S2000 headed an impressive domination of these lightweight normally- aspirated cars. Super 2000s cars completely overwhelmed the orthodox Group N opposition. At one point, they held the top ten positions! In the end Juho Hanninen brought his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX into fifth place. Rossetti’s win was not easy: “On the first day I lost time, baulked by the dust of Andreas Aigner’s Mitsubishi, delayed after suffering a puncture. On day two I wrongly adjusted the suspension and lost a quarter of a minute”. He had a long and hard battle with Nicola Vouilloz before the Frenchman punctured, then the Belgian Francois Duval on his first gravel rally in an S2000 almost caught Rossetti before retiring with wheel bearing failure. While miracles from Rossetti are becoming commonplace in European rallying, what was not expected in Portugal was an astonishing run by the 1994 world champion Didier Auriol, making his first serious rally entry for five years. At the wheel of an S2000 for the first time on a rally, he gradually adjusted his driving style to suit, rising to third place overall before withdrawing with handling problems shortly before the finish. In second place was the Czech driver Jan Kopecky. Vouilloz, finally, was third. Success for the Fiat Abarth team is usually expected but was elusive his time. Giandomenico Basso wrecked his Grande Punto in pre-event testing, and another car had to be brought from Italy and reprepared ready to run. He then lost time changing a wheel mid-stage and finished fourth, while teammate Anton Alen retired on both the first and the second day with transmission failures. The Rally of Portugal was invited into the IRC on a one-off basis, this being the Portuguese event’s ‘gap-year’ from the world series. The promoters invited many top name drivers, even luring Marcus Gronholm out of retirement to drive the zero safety car. Rossetti now leads the IRC series, on 20 points, ahead of Vouilloz on 14 and Kopecky on 12. Four in a Row for Rossetti 46