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GP Week : Issue 151
OPINION Basso winning the Mille Miglia in his Ford Fiesta S2000 RRC. 19 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The 1.6 litre turbos have now really arrived! Power units of this specification have recently become a global standard for motor manufacturers, a fact noted by the FIA as they seek to make rally sport as attractive to car makers as possible. Cars with a 1.6 litre turbo engine are now being used in different categories and, when fitted with direct injection, they are the basis for the latest generation World Rally Cars and S2000 cars. In a growing number of other areas in rally sport 1.6 turbo cars have started to become prominent, particularly in national level events, and in Super 2000 which is currently the sport’s second level activity. In the two-wheel-drive categories, a variety of different cars vie with each other but always the Citroen DS3 cars, with their 1.6 turbos, are competitive. Compared with cars like the 2-litre normally aspirated Renault Clio R3, the Class 5 DS3s with their 29mm turbo restrictor are less powerful and slower on fast roads but they are quicker on more technical stages. In the FIA’s S2000 Class 2 category, the 1.6 turbo engines use 30mm restrictors and are still less powerful than the alternative 2-litre normally- aspirated S2000 cars ... but more driveable. Successes for 30mm 1.6 turbo S2000s came early, but only in specific situations, like April last year when Andrea Navarra won the Adriatico Rally in Italy in a Mini. Then at the end of January this year Mads Ostberg won the national Nor wegian Elverum Rally in a Fiesta. As more 1.6 turbo S2000s arrived on the international rally scene, so the picture began to widen. In mid-April little known Qatari driver Khalid Al Suwaidi took advantage of Nasser Al Attiyah’s misfortune and the soft prevailing conditions to score the first 1.6 turbo victory in an FIA regional championship rally, on the Kuwait Rally. One week later it was High Noon – a four-way confrontation between Giandomenico Basso in a Ford Fiesta RRC, the latest version Peugeot 207s of Paulo Andreucci and Alessandro Perico and Juho Hanninen’s works Skoda Fabias at the ERC Mille Miglia Rally. As Basso gradually learned the art of Fiesta driving, as well as handling 1.6 turbo characteristics, he took an early lead, pulling away from the five times winner Andreucci to win by more than a minute. The 1.6 turbo S2000s, after a slow start to their career, are here to stay and their significance is clear. Under well-intentioned concepts, the interchangeability between new-generation S2000s and World Rally Cars means in reality that the new generation (1.6 turbo) S2000s are nothing like the old generation 2-litre cars. They are in fact World Rally Cars with minor differences in specification, costing the same. Basso’s Mille Miglia Fiesta was built last year for World Rally Car use and had already scored two podium results in the WRC last year in the hands of Jari-Matti Latvala. The 1.6 turbo new generation S2000 cars are not simply re-engined 2-litre cars. These cars have been designed from scratch to much higher competition requirements – old version cars cannot be uprated to the new version and the price differential is obvious. The elevated cost of these 1.6 cars is such that the popular S2000 sector of the sport is now threatened. By allowing these new version cars to become more than competitive against the old cars, the whole S2000 formula is about to become unbalanced. That was surely never the way it was intended to be? Or was it? The FIA is eternally conscious of the long-term harm caused by excessive costs, and this is the reason why they are preparing to make the new R4T category (now officially called R5) the global second-level formula beneath World Rally Cars. Is the situation that the old 2-litre S2000 cars are being priced out of the market such a disappointment to the FIA? Is this the impetus the FIA wanted to hasten the move to R5? The current S2000 formula took a long time to get off the ground, and the original S2000 movement began far away from Europe, down in South Africa. It became a great success in Europe, allowing teams at national importer level to afford to compete in international competition. Maybe introducing the 1.6 turbo S2000s is the FIA’s way of saying it is time for change. OPINION MARTIN HOLMES Rally Editor INSIDE THE ALL-ENCOMPASSING1.6 RALLY REVOLUTION