SAFARI RALLY 2007

11.03.2007 ABARTH KICK OFF THEIR IRC TITLE CHALLENGE WITH VICTORY IN AFRICA

Andrea Navarra and the Abarth factory team this afternoon won the IRC classification of the Safari Rally, after a dramatic final leg that saw them survive a puncture and then recover from a penultimate stage gearbox failure.

The Abarth team in fact changed the gearbox at final service in a record 14 minutes, enabling Navarra and co-driver Guido D'Amore to make it to the finish with no further problems. The pair crossed the finish ramp in the centre of Nairobi to a champagne reception in front of an enthusiastic local crowd. "We came here to win and I'm relieved that we've been able to do that despite a few adventures along the way," said Navarra. "The entire team did a fantastic job to keep us going and I'd like to thank everyone who made this possible. I'm not sure if Safari will turn out to be the most difficult event of the year for us, but it was certainly the most unknown one, so we can approach the rest of the year with confidence."

In second place amongst the IRC runners was Japanese driver Hideaki Miyoshi, co-driven by Hakaru Ichino, who battled with punctures to get to the finish in his Mitsubishi Lancer. Third place was characterised by a massive battle between local drivers Asad Anwar and Sammy Aslam. Anwar eventually sealed the final podium spot by just eight seconds! The result means that Mitsubishi has a four-point advantage over Abarth in he teams' classification, while Navarra takes the lead of the drivers' series.

However the win wasn't to be an easy one for the Abarth team. Navarra, who held the overnight lead, had a tough wake-up call first thing this morning when he discovered that a timing error meant that his overall lead was just six rather than 21 seconds. But he was more determined than ever to put in a strong performance over the eight stages that remained.

On the very first stage this morning a fast and flowing 10-kilometre stretch Navarra's rhythm was interrupted by some spectator traffic on the road. Nonetheless, he maintained his advantage over the following stage, which was much rougher and more rocky. Despite some rain showers yesterday, conditions were dry and hot again today. "It's not at all easy; I understand now why the Safari has traditionally been such a big challenge," said the 36 year-old Italian. Following his team mate Umberto Scandola's problem yesterday which saw him forced out, the Abarth team was taking particular care to make sure that Navarra's Grande Punto didn't ingest too much gravel and sand. However, today's stages were on the whole less dusty than those of yesterday, so this turned out to be less of a problem.

The first real dramas of the day struck when Navarra picked up a puncture on the rough and rocky SS14: the longest stage of the day at 26 kilometres. The Italian probably grazed a rock close to the start. which started the right-rear puncture, then after about 10 kilometres the tyre began to come off the rim.
 

GRANDE PUNTO ABARTH S2000

Navarra and d'Amore also finished third overall on the Safari Rally classification which was won outright by Zimbabwean youngster Conrad Rautenbach in a Subaru Impreza; although without his puncture and gearbox issues, the Italian driver could have won the event overall on his first visit to the continent.

GRANDE PUNTO ABARTH S2000

Navarra completed the penultimate stage with his gearbox stuck in gear, and then drove carefully to the final service area, where his mechanics changed the gearbox (above).

GRANDE PUNTO ABARTH S2000

Andrea Navarra and the Abarth factory team this afternoon won the IRC classification of the Safari Rally, after a dramatic final leg that saw them survive a puncture and then recover from a penultimate stage gearbox failure.

GRANDE PUNTO ABARTH S2000

IRC victory for Andrea Navarra in East Africa today has allowed the factory Abarth team to kick off their IRC title defence in some style; although team mate Umberto Scandola (above) hit problems on yesterday's leg which ended the youngster's challenge.


Navarra chose to continue in the rough conditions rather than stop and change the tyre which turned out to be the right decision as he lost just under two minutes (compared to the three minutes or so that are usually necessary to change a wheel). With a lack of traction and grip he had to work hard to keep the car on the road, but he maintains the all-important IRC lead. Now he planned to drive safely to the finish on the four remaining stages.

Abarth team manager Nic Gullino commented: "It looks like the road was re-graded which meant that there were some sharp rocks poking through. Andrea was unlucky enough to find one of them. There is no other damage to the car though so now we will concentrate on getting him safely to the finish." At this point Hideaki Miyoshi's Mitsubishi was still second in the IRC classification, with the Japanese manufacturer poised to take an advantage in the team's classification thanks to third place for local driver Sammy Aslam.

Then, with the IRC win seemingly assured more dramas struck the Abarth team. Navarra had enjoyed a run of perfect reliability right up until the penultimate stage, when he felt the gearbox on the Grande Punto break. He was still able to get some gears, until the car jammed in fourth on the final stage. Luckily for him it was quite a quick stage, which meant that he did not lose too much time. However, the Italian was still concerned about whether or not his car would last the distance. Navarra completed the stage and then drove carefully to the service area, where his mechanics changed the gearbox in a record 14 minutes. Team manager Nic Gullino said: "It was an amazing achievement from our entire team: I am incredibly proud of them. Despite working in extremely difficult conditions they did a fantastic job to keep Andrea in the rally and hopefully en route to victory."

From then on it was a safe run to the finish line in Nairobi for Navarra, IRC victory in East Africa allowing the factory Abarth team to kick off their IRC title defence in some style. Navarra and d'Amore also finished third overall on the Safari Rally classification which was won outright by Zimbabwean youngster Conrad Rautenbach in a Subaru Impreza; although without his puncture and gearbox issues, the Italian driver could have won the event overall on his first visit to the continent.

IRC final classification, Safari Rally: 1 Andrea Navarra (I)/Guido d'Amore (I) (Abarth Grande Punto) 2h34m04s; 2 Hideaki Miyoshi (J)/Hakaru Ichino (J) (Mitsubishi Lancer) 2h40m03s; 3 Asad Anwar (EAK)/Nick Patel (EAK) (Mitsubishi Lancer) 2h45m22s; 4 Sammy Aslam (EAK)/Abdul Sidi (EAK) (Mitsubishi Lancer) 2h45m30s
 

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10.03.2007

At the end of leg one of the Safari Rally this afternoon, Abarth river Andrea Navarra leads the Intercontinental Rally Challenge classification, however his team mate Umberto Scandola was hit by bad luck and is out of the event

2007 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed