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GP Week : Issue 37
SPECIAL StAGES n 2003 FIA World Junior Champion Brice Tirabassi won the first round of the Spanish gravel championship, the Rally Tierre de Palma del Rio, in a Subaru, by just 2.9 seconds from the reigning champion Xavier Pons. n Johnny Gemmell won the Tour Natal, opening round of the Total South Africa Rally Championship, at the wheel of a Toyota Super 2000, ahead of Charl Wilken’s Subaru Group N and two VW Super 2000s. The event was run in the Scottburgh region. n Hermann Gassner Junior, son of the reigning German champion Hermann Senior, won his first DRM championship event at the ADAC Bayern Rallye Oberland in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. His codriver was 20 year old Kathi Wustenhagen. n The organisers of Rally New Zealand have agreed to help their country's Pirelli Star Driver competitor Mark Tapper contest Argentina and Australia. These events are part of Mark's secondary quest to tackle the FIA Production Car WRC, four rounds of which are already part of the PSD prize. Single tyre a success in Cy The revolutionary decision to force four-wheel-drive cars to run gravel tyres on the asphalt stages at Rally Cyprus turned out to be a success. Pirelli’s rally tyre manager Mario Isola said: “The tyres performed very well, but obviously the level of performance was lower than tarmac tyres on tarmac. On the matter of tyre wear, consistency and integrity of the tyre we did not have any problems – it was all a successful experiment. “We don’t want to encourage this concept, but this was a very special situation. We tried to find a solution that was good for the manufacturers, acceptable for the FIA and the organisers, and which did not change the character of the rally. “I think mixed surface rallying is interesting, something coming back from the past, but we prefer to have the right tyre on the right surface. “We think there were no tyre failures on the four- wheel drive cars, maybe just one puncture all day. We had more problems with the Juniors, who were allowed to use tarmac tyres, because the tarmac stages were littered by sharp stones. Tarmac tyres are less stiff and not so reinforced. “I am happy with the way things went generally, however.” One unexpected factor relating to tyres came into play. This was when Sebastien Loeb left for the stages with already used tyres, which came as a surprise to many. Isola, “The FIA’s rules say you must have fitted new tyres when you leave the service park only when you are using tarmac tyres. On this occasion, of course, they were using gravel tyres! Therefore nobody was obliged to start with new tyres. “It was interesting to see the different strategies the various crews adopted. Some people started with new tyres, some took up the offer to fit new tyres at the refuelling halts, some people drove the full loop with just four tyres, like Sebastien Loeb did.” Contrast: the near-intact gravel tyres on Sebastien Loeb’s car (top) after three tarmac stages; right, the Suzukis were less forgiving... Spectacular Argentinian view to be lost Adios Santa Rosa A condensed route for Rally Argentina in 2009 means that drivers will no longer have the pleasure of seeing Santa Rosa de Calamuchita. Santa Rosa is a small town south of Cordoba, where there is a network of special stages that have frequently been featured on the World 16 Championship rally, but which also entails long and tiring road sections for the crews. The loss of the stages in the Santa Rosa region will serve as a break from the traditions of this rally – it was near Santa Rosa that Ari Vatanen suffered his near-fatal accident in 1985; then the Skoda team were eliminated by a bizarre accident when a heavily- laden truck crashed into their cars in 2001. It was also the highly- emotive place where Juha Kankkunen scored his penultimate career victory after an argument about team orders in 1999.