Rally / 30 September 2008


Alessandro Bettega new leader in the IRC 2WD cup The Honda Civic Type R R3 has claimed first and second places in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge's two-wheel drive cup on the Sanremo Rally in Italy. Alessandro Bettega, the son of the legendary Italian driver Attilio Bettega, now leads the IRC 2WD Cup overall in his Civic after winning in Sanremo, ahead of the three other manufacturers that are eligible for the series.

Italian privateer Luca Ghegin claimed second in the IRC two-wheel drive class in Sanremo, just over two minutes behind Bettega, to give Honda its first one-two of the IRC season.

Bettega also finished a close second in the two-wheel drive class overall, which was hotly contested in Sanremo. The classic Italian event, for many years was a regular fixture on the World Rally Championship, took in 12 challenging asphalt stages, including a mammoth 60-kilometre test run entirely in the dark on Thursday night. Bettega's Civic, run by the well-known Italian Procar team, performed faultlessly during all three days and 258 competitive kilometres. Ghegin's car was run by private outfit Mirano Rally, but despite the fact that the two Honda Civics were fielded by different teams and even used different tyre suppliers, they were equally competitive throughout the event, underlining the car's performance under a wide variety of circumstances.

Bettega, a proven winner on the Junior World Rally Championship this year, got off to a good start but his progress was hindered by an incorrect tyre choice early in the event. Despite this setback, the Italian kept on pushing hard to win the IRC 2WD Cup class and finish just over 10 seconds behind the overall two-wheel drive winner, in 17th overall.

"It's been a very tough rally and we didn't always make the right decisions," said Bettega. "The main thing is though that we've really underlined just how strong the car is on this surface. The roads here were extremely challenging but the Civic felt incredibly stable, showing that all the development work carried out has really paid off. It was also perfectly reliable, giving us no problems at all throughout the rally. All we had to do was get in and drive! It's been a very good three days."

Bettega's success in Sanremo comes a few weeks after British driver Guy Wilks won the two-wheel drive class convincingly with a Civic Type R R3 on the World Championship's Rally Finland: the fastest and most fearsome event of them all. Sanremo provided an entirely different challenge, but once more the Civic was extremely competitive.

Stefano Fini is the engineer at JAS Motorsport, Honda's long-time competitions partner, who has overseen the majority of the development on the new Civic Type R rally car. "Sanremo was a fantastic result, especially because on paper the stages there were not optimally suited to the car," he said. "It's just a pity that we made a wrong tyre choice with Bettega, because otherwise we could have had first place overall in the two-wheel drive class as well. In any case, our performance here in Sanremo has shown now just how competitive the Civic is on every surface."

One of the Civic Type R R3's next engagements will be on the other side of the world when Wilks takes the wheel again at the Rally of Coffs Harbour from November 14-16, the last round of the Australian Rally Championship.