SUPERGARA

19.10.2006 THE LATEST FIAT RALLY ROCKET - THE 157 BHP PANDA RALLY EVOLUZIONE

Specially developed by Supergara, the motorsport preparation outfit who build and run the machines that contest the Fiat Panda Cup, the new 157 bhp Panda Rally "Evoluzione" made its official debut on the recent 48th Rallye Sanremo where it mixed it up with the bigger Class N3 cars, the little car helped by its distinct weight advantage.

Supergara, under the leadership of its Sporting Director Mauro Scanavino, have been developing rally cars for entry-level Fiat-supported championships since 1993, and their most recent efforts have focused around developing and preparing the identical-specification rally machines that contest the Fiat Panda Cup, a series designed to give prospective young drivers a cost-effective means of grabbing a foothold in the rally world. Using the Panda Cup machine as a basis, Supergara have now developed a higher-specification Panda, dubbed the "Panda Evoluizione". The project which has taken eight months to complete has been carried out under the direction of Valter Ballestrero, with legendary Fiat engineer Sergio Limone acting as a consultant. The results are truly impressive, the Panda Rally Evoluzione puts out 157 bhp from its 1388c 4-cylinder engine, its lightweight giving it a chance to punch above its weight and mix it up with the Class N3 runners.

The chance to prove itself came on the recent 48th Rally Sanremo, the ninth round of the 2006 Italian Rally Championship (CIR), an event that saw the new Panda Rally Evoluzione's bigger sister, the Super2000 Grande Punto Rally, taking charge at the front. The car - which was reportedly running in a format well below its maximum performance capacity - was entrusted to Gianni Barbati, the 2005 Fiat Panda Cup champion, to drive. Fabio Cadore was in the co-driver's seat. The white car was finished in the red, yellow and blue Abarth colours with eye-catching scorpions down either side and prominent Fiat logos.

The early stages of the 48th Rallye Sanremo were cancelled due treacherous weather conditions, however, the curtailed event still gave the new Panda Rally Evoluzione ample chance to shine. Barbati, running at #86, was in competitive mode, and a taste of the car's competitiveness was seen on the first stage, SS5 Garfano 1, when it was classified 37th (out of 87 cars that finished the opening stage), right in amongst the horde of Class N3 cars, namely the Peugeot 206 N3 and Renault Clio Sport, machines which are powered by engines that offer more than 30 bhp more more than the small-cube engine of in the Panda, as well as finishing nine places, and 23 seconds, ahead of the fastest of the Panda Cup cars. The next stage (SS6, Fresia 1) saw the crew posting the 39th fastest time overall, again mixing it up with the Super1600 and GpN crews, and this time going 14 seconds faster than the quickest of the Panda Cup entries. SS7 Gerano and Barbateri was 35th overall, moving the #86 Panda Cup Evoluzione up three places on the leaderboard and into 35th place. The next test, the second running of Garfano, saw it 32nd, and up to 33rd overall. The penultimate stage, SS8 Fresia 2, and the crew were 40th overall, losing two positions, to head into the final stage in 35th place.
 

FIAT PANDA RALLY EVOLUZIONE

The early stages of the 48th Rallye Sanremo were cancelled due treacherous weather conditions, however, the curtailed event still gave the new Panda Rally Evoluzione ample chance to shine. Photo: Supergara.

FIAT PANDA RALLY EVOLUZIONE

The chance to prove itself came on the recent 48th Rally Sanremo, the ninth round of the 2006 Italian Rally Championship (CIR), an event that saw the new Panda Rally Evoluzione's bigger sister, the Super2000 Grande Punto Rally, taking charge at the front. Photo: Supergara.


The last test, the short, televised "Eurosport" stage had the car finishing in 33rd place, which moved it up into 34th position in the final classification, with 69 cars finishing the shortened rally. The final timesheets revealed that it finished in 1 hour and 21 minutes and 10.9 seconds putting the Panda Rally Evoluzione 8 minutes and 59 seconds behind the overall rally winning factory-entered Super2000 category Fiat Grande Punto Rally of Paolo Andreucci and Anna Andreussi. The winning Panda Cup entry, driven by Diego Fornaciari (Etruria) was classified 39th, 2 minutes and 4 seconds behind the #86 Panda Evoluzione. Third place for Alessio Pisi (Meteco Corse) though was enough to allow him to retain his grip of the Panda Cup championship, after six of ten rounds, with an eight point advantage over Cristiano Matteucci (Gip Racing Don Carlos), who finished second.

Gianni Barbati followed the Sanremo outing up on Sunday October 1st by taking part in the Bardineto-Scravaion slalom in the Savona province, with the target running further tests on the machine as Supergara considered three more events for the little car this autumn. Barbati achieved an excellent sixth overall position, and climbing onto the podium. "Our target was to fine tune the car on this asphalt, but we made almost nothing because it was already well balanced," said Barbati. "I was able to enhance my own feeling with the car after only a few kilometres, and that's great because it seems that car has been built to match my driving style. We worked also on enhancing speed along bends, trying different balances in the setup. I had driven the Panda Evoluzione on dry asphalt only in a test before the Sanremo Rally and it impressed me for its handling. Now it's time to move to the next step, thanks to the enormous work done by Valter Ballestrero."

On October 14th the Barbati drove the Panda Evoluzione on the "111 Minuti" Rally in Borgomanero (Novara) which was valid for the Italian First Zone Rally Cup, while this weekend (October 20-21st) he is scheduled take part with the Panda Evoluzione at Como in the epnonymous rally which counts towards the Italian Asphalt Trophy (TRA) and then on November 5th another outing with the car on the Rally Fabaria and Agrigento's Temples, which is also a qualifying round for the same Italian championship.
 

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22.09.2006

Fiat Punto driver Paolo Andreucci won the 48th Rallye Sanremo last weekend, claiming three out of the six stages that were run after adverse weather conditions forced the cancellation of the opening stages

2006 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed