Monday 11 July 2011

Sata Rallye Açores (14-16 July 2011) : The IRC returns to gravel

Sata Rallye Açores (14-16 July 2011) : The IRC returns to gravel

image The 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) features three gravel rallies, the first of which will take teams and drivers to the Azores (July 14-16) where a 207 S2000 took the top prize in 2010 in the hands of Bruno Magalhaès. This time round, the entry includes three Peugeot crews who will be keen to repeat last year's success.

Unique scenery

It was two years ago that the first Sata Rallye Açores to count towards the IRC caught fans' imagination thanks to stunning helicopter TV footage of the Sete Cidades stage. For several kilometres, the cars followed a narrow, twisty trail which followed the rim of an impressive volcano crater. Competitors were only protected from steep drops to either side by a small verge. The Azores is an archipelago of volcanic islands in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, and the rally visits the biggest of them: San Miguel, which has a population of 130,000 (plus 200,000 cows). image

Bruno Magalhaès – the outgoing winner

"The island's dirt stages are very varied. They range from extremely twisty to very fast, but they are generally narrow, and slippery in the wet," notes Bruno Magalhaès who will be sharing his Peugeot Portugal-entered 207 S2000 with Paulo Grave. "This event is special for me because it brought me my first IRC win. I was very proud of that performance because I had to push from start to finish, while at the same time keeping my driving very smooth. I had to take risks without making any mistakes. My aim is to win again this year. That will require another faultless run. Thanks to Peugeot Sport, I was able to benefit from two days of testing which helped me find my marks again on the loose. That helped boost my confidence so I should be able to hit the ground running." image

Bryan Bouffier makes the trip to the mid-Atlantic

Thanks to his win on January's Rallye Monte-Carlo, plus runner-up finishes on the Yalta and Ypres Rallies, Bryan Bouffier provisionally figures in second place – and best-placed Peugeot representative – in the IRC Drivers' standings. Along with his faithful co-driver, Xavier Panseri, the Peugeot France driver is making the trip to the Azores determined to harvest another top result to help his 2011 IRC title bid. "More than anything else, I'm delighted to be driving the 207 S2000 on gravel again," says Bryan. "I enjoy competing on the loose, although I've got far more experience of asphalt competition, of course. On top of that, I've never been to the Azores before, while some of my rivals have good knowledge of the stages, but that won't stop me from giving it everything I can. I will try to make good pace notes and then push hard, but without losing sight of the fact that I need to reach the finish in order to score big points, both for the Manufacturers' and Drivers' championships. My entry was made quite late. Thankfully, I took part in a gravel test with the 207 S2000 a month-and-a-half ago, so that will be a big help…" image

Guy Wilks looking to fight back

Guy Wilks, who has been less fortunate than Bryan Bouffier, finished the last two rounds of the IRC in fifth place after being troubled by a spate of punctures. "Quite often, I don't even know where I pick them up," comments the Peugeot UK driver. "That makes it difficult to know what I need to do to take corrective action. I'm convinced that bad luck has got something to do with it and I hope the run will soon come to a halt." Guy and his co-driver Phil Pugh are both Azores rookies. "All I know about the Azores is its famous 'depression' which spells good weather back home in the UK. On the event itself, I am told that showers are very frequent and that the conditions can change as quickly as they do in Ireland, so that promises to be fun! This will be my first gravel event with the 207 S2000, but I feel ready thanks to two days of testing that enabled me to familiarise myself with the car on the loose and adapt its set-up to the way I drive. We did some good work, especially on the damping. I feel quite confident." image

Three 207 Super 2000s

The long journey out to the Azores explains why the 42-strong entry list only includes eight Super 2000 cars, three of which are 207s. "That won't prevent the Peugeot runners from setting their sights high," underlines Frédéric Bertrand, the manager of Peugeot Sport's Customer Competition department. "They tend to be the outsiders, but that's a role that actually suits them, especially since the 207 S2000 won here in 2010. It promises to be a very competitive weekend and I have every confidence in the ability of the three Peugeot drivers to clock up top results." image

Peugeot in Portugal

The first half of the year saw Peugeot secure second place in a falling market. In a difficult situation, it is one of the brands that have resisted the best, since its market share of 9.2 percent is up 0.6 percent over the same period in 2010. The 207 and 206+ top their segment, while the 3008 and RCZ are second in their respective segments. Following its launch in March, the 508 is its segment's second-best selling model to be marketed by a volume manufacturer. In a total market representing 109,178 vehicles (passenger cars and LCVs), Peugeot Portugal's 100 outlets totalled 10,059 vehicle sales during the first half of 2011. image

See the timetable and the standings : Click here

Peugeot Sport/ Acreditated Media Press.

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