Rally / 19 September 2011


After a disappointing foray in Hungary, the Honda IRC crews are all looking to secure vital points at the upcoming Rallye Sanremo, held on the picturesque Italian Riviera.

The Rallye Sanremo, the 9th round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, is one of the most demanding events on the calendar, with tight and twisty mountain roads and unpredictable weather. Competitors also face challenging long distance special stages, like the 44-kilometre La Ronde, one of the longest in European rallying. However no one knows how to conquer the Rallye Sanremo better than local hero Sandro Sottile.

In the last two years he has won the 2WD category back to back behind the wheel of a Honda Civic Type R.

?I haven?t been driving since that last performance in Sanremo.? said the 40-year-old reflecting on his success in 2010. ?No budget; the usual story. But thanks to a few friends and above all Ezio Repetto of the homonymous team, we are able to make the Civic Type R combative again.?

Despite his absence Sottile is also confident of his chances: ?I live nearby, know the area and the roads well and can?t wait to start racing again.? 

In preparation for his comeback, Sottile and Repetto Motorsport have been hard at work putting the car through a grueling 50km testing session.

?We have worked on the engine and the suspension and after only a few kilometers of testing it all started to come together.? explains Ezio Repetto, who has been synonymous with Honda in the Italian rallies since 2003. ?Sandro felt in shape, drove fast and was very satisfied about what we had achieved.?

Sottile, who also runs a school for up and coming rally talent, realizes that repeating his success at last year?s Rallye Sanremo won?t be easy.

?The competition hasn?t been standing still, the cars have evolved and unlike myself, my opponents have a lot of kilometers in the 2WD under their belts. But give me the time during the first special stages to find the right rhythm and then we will know more about my chances and? whether  I can win here for the third time!?

Those opponents are the 2WD-point leaders Jean-Michel Raoux, Stefano Albertini and Martin Kangur, an almost permanent representative of Honda in the IRC.

?Sanremo is completely new for me, but I can appreciate that it will be a difficult assignment? says the Estonian driver. ?During testing at the Mecsek Rally, we tried out some set-ups for Sanremo. It?s only after the recce though that we?ll be able to get a better view on what awaits us and on what we can change and adjust on the set-up of the chassis during the next shakedown. Maybe I should ask Sandro Sottile for some advice! He knows this rally like the back of his hand and he will be a good reference for me in the competition??

The Rally Sanremo starts on Friday September 23 at 14h00 and ends, after seven stages and 166 kilometers, at night with the famous La Ronde stage. On Saturday September 24 there will be again six special stages and after 109 kilometers against the clock the first contestant will be expected in Sanremo around 17h00.