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GP Week : Issue 157
40 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: RALLY >>> PREVIEW Round 5 of the IRC this year has moved. Originally it was to have been held on the asphalt roads around Pecs in Southern Hungary on the Mecsek Rally last weekend, but at short notice it was delayed two weeks and moved to the Mediterranean island of Sicily this weekend (June 14-16). The event is the Targa Florio, being held for its 96th time, this year as a rally. From 1906 till 1977, the Targa Florio was a legendary road race, before the changes in the world caught up and most relevantly, a motor way was built which cut through the circuit. From 1978 to date it was run as a rally, using stretches of road which wind in and out of the valleys and hills of northern Sicily, but always using as a stage a stretch of the old course through the mountains. The form may have changed but the event remains without debate the oldest running motor sport event in the world. The connection between the Targa Florio race and rallying was never far away. Compared with other road races of the day, the Targa Florio was traditionally one of the slowest courses, notwithstanding a long flat-out stretch alongside the nprthern coastline of the island. Established rally drivers, such as Gerard Larrousse and Sandro Munari won the event, as did the British race and rally driver Vic Elford. Elford tells the tale that rallying was his key to Targa success: “It was hard to remember the specially hazardous parts of the course. Most drivers used to go round the course with pots of paint and daub trees or rocks as marker points. This was not a safe thing to do. On race days spectators unwittingly parked their cars or stood in front of the marker points and were surprised when cars used to crash in front of them. “My trick was to use rally methods, like pretend I was on a special stage and memorise a series of situations, and read them out to myself as we passed.” Vic, who in his day won rallies such as Monte Carlo and was the only British driver to win the European rally championship, shared driving the Targa winning Porsche 907 in 1968. There is another significant race and rally connection centred on Targa Florio. In 1981, a Ferrari 308GTB driven by Jean-Claude Andruet (pictured) won the event, after losing time early in the event with a spin, beating off a hoard of challenging Opel Ascona 400s and Fiat Abarth 131s. This was the first time a Ferrari had won a major international special stage rally, but one year later Antonio Tognana had moved from Fiat to drive a Ferrari and score a second Targa Ferrari win . It was an age when sports cars were in vogue on the sport, in the short period before four-wheel-drive cars suddenly became unbeatable. The change of date however has brought stress for the IRC competiors and promoters, as the Ypres Rally in Belgium, one of the fundamental IRC fixtures. is to take place on the following weekend over 1000 miles away on the European mainland. Few drivers expect to tackle both events but among those who will are Craig Breen (who will use a 207 run by HRT in Sicily and then another 207 run by Sainteloc in Ypres), Sepp Wiegand, Andreas Mikkelsen, Harry Hunt and Martin Kangur. Success, even for hardened IRC contenders, will not come easily in Sicily, on account of the fierce anticipated Italian national championship (CIR) competition. This challenge will be headed by Giandomenico Basso (Fiesta RRC), Paolo Andreucci (Peugeot) and Umberto Scandola (Skoda). It has been two years since the IRC drivers last met the CIR brigade head-on, at Sanremo in 2010. On that occasion the local driver, in the form of Andreucci, won. The opportunity for a major rally in Sicily to become available for the IRC series followed the sudden reversal of policy of the Italian federation. Originally it was announced that the 2012 Italian world championship event would be held in Sicily, but finally this decision was reversed and the event was to be held once more in Sardinia. HISTORIC TARGA FLORIO