The Abarth 124 Rally has taken its biggest win to date after dominating the R-GT class of the FIA World Rally Championship-counting Tour de Corse, the quartet of Italian rallycars on the entry list performing a clean sweep on this legendary rally.
As well as being the fourth round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship, the legendary Tour de Corse also counts towards the FIA R-GT Cup and the inaugural Abarth 124 Rally International Challenge. A 1-2-3-4 finish in the R-GT class was an impressive achievement for the 124 rally while also being the first two-wheel-drive cars home and even muscling into the top twenty overall.
The result adds to previous historic successes enjoyed by Abarth on the Tour de Corse, including winning two editions overall with the famous Fiat 131 Abarth Rally, in 1977 and 1978, with French crew Bernard Darniche and Alain Mahé in the cockpit on both occasions.
Last Sunday at the end of a tough and difficult 2018 edition of the Tour de Corse, Milano Racing’s French crew, Raphael Astier and Frederic Vauclaire, comfortably beat the Italian crew of Andrea Nucita and Marco Vozzo, entered by Bernini Rally, to the top spot of the final R-GT classification, as well as finishing in a highly impressive seventeenth place overall of the seventy-one crews that survived the twelve stage, three leg rally that took place from 6-8 April.
There was disappointment though for Nucita and Vozzo, who held the R-GT class lead for more than two thirds of the rally as on the final special stage of the second leg, SS10 ‘Novella 2’, they made a small mistake and went off the road which cost the crew over four minutes and overturned the 1 min 39 second lead they had held in the R-GT class going into that stage. At that point they had been running an impressive fifteenth overall on the rally and were taking themselves and the 124 Rally towards an excellent result.
The 124 Rally also confirmed its reliability as all four cars that started the Tour de Corse finished the rally: Frenchmen Philippe Gache and Nicolas Rivière claimed third position while Italians Andrea Modanesi and Marco Menchini came home in fourth position.
Six cars had in fact started in the R-GT category and aside from the quartet of 124s there were two Porsche 997 GT3 Cup rallycars crewed by Coyne/Joyce and Valliccioni/Cardi. However, over the early stages the German sportscars couldn’t match the pace of the Abarths and both were gone by the end of SS4, the former crashing out and the latter suffering mechanical problems.
At the finishline Astier was delighted: “The Abarth 124 Rally was perfect from the start to end and let me get to know its potential stage after stage, proving itself to be very effective, especially in the longer and more tortuous stages. Winning at the debut of a high-performance car was a great satisfaction.”
Nucita was equally satisfied with the performance of the 124 Rally: “We came off the road due to a trivial error at a point where there were few spectators. Fortunately, our car is very robust, and once back on the road, we were able to continue. It was a shame, because we could have achieved an excellent overall result. In any case, with second position, we still have a good chance for the championship".
Also pleased with getting to the finish on the podium and in the points was Gache: “The Tour de Corse is always a tough tally, and finishing it is a great success; we have to tackle very special trials that are very long and fast. Third position is a reward for our commitment.”
It was an incredible experience for the young Modanesi: “For me, it was a race to gain experience in the international field. Thanks to the great reliability of the Abarth 124 Rally, I have been able to concentrate on trying to quickly learn and tackle very fast and tough roads.”
The FIA R-GT Cup was created at the beginning of 2015 as an exciting competition for drivers and co-drivers using a car of Class R-GT with a valid FIA Passport.
The schedule for 2018 is a mix of FIA World Rally Championship and FIA European Rally Championship events and points from all five rounds count towards the title. This year’s calendar has five events and with the Rallye Monte-Carlo and Tour de Corse now completed it’s on to ‘home soil’ for the Abarth 124 Rally with the Rally di Roma Capitale on 20-22 July. The Barum Czech Rally Zlin and Rallye International du Valais will complete this year’s schedule.
Photos: 2018 Tour de Corse - Abarth 124 Rally