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IRC: Wilks eyes more points in Sardinia

28 May 2010

Having finished the last three rounds of the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge on the podium, Guy Wilks is hoping to continue his excellent run of success when he contests Rally d'Italia-Sardegna next week, the fifth round in the series.

Great performances in Brazil, Argentina and Gran Canarias, and a 100 per cent finishing record in his Skoda Motorsport Fabia S2000, sees the 29-year old tied for second with Jan Kopecky in the drivers' table, while Wilks has also helped Skoda establish a healthy 31 point lead in the Manufacturers' standings.

Rally d'Italia-Sardegna is a notoriously fast and difficult event, yet Wilks is confident he can produce another good result on what is expected to be the most competitive IRC rally of the year so far.

Wilks has contested Rally d'Italia-Sardegna three times before, as part of his FIA Junior World Rally Championship programmes. He finished second in class in 2004 and was leading the J-WRC category by over two minutes when a split oil cooler stopped him in 2006, while mechanical problems forced him to finish under Superally rules in 2005. Whilst he knows the style of the Sardinian stages well, much of this year's route is new - with the stages to the south never run before and new sections added to the traditional stages in the north.

Co-driven by Phil Pugh, this will be the first time he has contested Rally d'Italia-Sardegna in a powerful four-wheel drive car – and he'll also be driving a different Fabia S2000 to the one he's rallied in so far this season.

Having left the team's workshop on February 10 to compete in Argentina, Brazil and Gran Canarias, Wilks' rally car finally returned to base on May 17. Whilst Skoda UK Motorsport could have fully rebuilt it in time, the team has elected to run him in a 'fresher' Fabia S2000 – the same car as Jan Kopecky has driven in two rounds of the 2010 Italian Rally Championship (Rally 1000 Miglia and Rally Adriatico) in fact.

The car will be prepared to Wilks' specific requirements and a 50km pre-event test is planned in Sardinia on Monday.

“Rally d'Italia-Sardegna has been a good event for us before in terms of pace, although we've also had a bit of bad luck with mechanical problems,” Wilks. “The event can be quite tough on the car. You have to be very precise where you position the car on the road because there can be some large rocks just off the line. The roads really are carved around the landscape and rocks protrude out of the road where you least expect them – and where you don't want them. So you have to be mindful of that and take caution.

“The stages are very narrow in places, but fast and sometimes quite rough. It's not a rally where you can go blasting around carefree and try and set fastest stage time after fastest stage time, because you won't get away with it. You have to use your head to make sure you keep yourself in the game by steering clear of punctures and maintaining car reliability.

“The opening 28 kilometre stage will be very interesting. You have to get out of bed early and go for it on an opening stage like that; you can't sit back and relax, because you can lose so much time on such a long stage and spend the rest of the event trying to fight back. You can't afford to do that on a round of the IRC, because the competition is intense.

“I'm quite comfortable with what we've achieved in the previous rounds of the IRC. We've remained in our comfort zone and not really stuck our neck out, but now is the time to start doing so if we want to win a rally. We need to push that little extra bit to start winning rallies and maintain our challenge in the series.

“We've got some bankers in the form of three podiums and we'd like to think that come the time we're looking at our best seven results to count, our sixth place finish in Monte Carlo will be a dropped score. We have three good scores in our back pocket thanks to our podiums in Brazil, Argentina and Gran Canarias, so it's a great position to build from.”

Rally d'Italia-Sardegna is the home event for Skoda UK Motorsport team manager Pierfrancesco Zanchi and his Oleggio Castello-based squad. He has done the event once as a driver (lying second in Gp N to Gigi Galli in 2004 before breaking the steering rack) and three times (2006-'08) as a team principal – so knows the event extremely well.

There is one change to the Skoda UK Motorsport team line-up in Sardinia. Chief mechanic David Pelliccoili made a commitment to work at the Le Mans 24 Hour race before the IRC programme was confirmed, so in his absence he will be replaced by Marco Raele, who worked on Guy's Fabia S2000 on Rallye Monte Carlo.

“Rally d'Italia-Sardegna is a special event for everyone involved in this project and we really want to do well,” Zanchi added. “We have a good history of competing on the island, and whilst many of the stages are new to us all, we have a very good feeling. It is going to be a tough event and faster this year than before, but we have prepared very well and hope to fight for another place on the podium.”


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