THE ARDUOUS RALLY OF CENTRAL EUROPE CROWNS ROVANPERA WORLD CHAMPION
The Finn wins his second world title with one race to spare, managing his lead shrewdly
Rain and wet tyres protagonists of the first two days of the rally, which turned out to be more challenging than expected
Testoni: "The weather conditions strongly conditioned the race, but both the P Zero dry and Cinturato wet tires provided grip and reliability as usual, even on often extreme surfaces."
It was a tougher rally than expected, with dirty and wet surfaces right up to Saturday, which complicated the drivers' lives in no small part, the one held this weekend on the roads of the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany. Grabbing the victory of the first Central European Rally was Thierry Neuville on Hyundai who was able to take advantage of Elfyn Evans' exit from the game on Toyota due to an accident at SS11, which allowed him to overtake him in the standings, but above all resulted in a shrewd management of the race by Kalle Rovanpera (Toyota) who only needed a good placing to be crowned world champion for the second consecutive time. With his teammate and direct rival for the title out of the picture, the Finn, who up to that point had dominated on the wet and dirty terrain on Friday and Saturday, took a few more risks to stay in the front of the race, but in the end preferred to administer the lead in the overall standings, leaving the race scepter to Neuville.
From the point of view of tires, the teams' strategy was strongly conditioned by the weather conditions, which were worse than expected, just as the special stages on Friday and Saturday turned out to be more difficult than many had predicted on the eve of the race: The stages were characterized by muddy bottoms, due to the cuts, and speed. In addition, the surfaces were made even more slippery by the rain, which fell in abundance. So on Friday and Saturday it was the Cinturato wet tires that dominated the scene. The P Zero softs, which were the prime for this rally, after an initial appearance in the opening two stages in Prague, only definitely regained space from the second passes on Saturday, when the special stages were less wet than in the morning. On Sunday, as predicted by Pirelli engineers in their post-reconnaissance analysis, P Zero Hard tires also appeared on almost all the cars (exceptions were the Toyotas of Rovanpera and Sebastien Ogier, who went all out on the softs), thanks to the dry asphalt and higher temperatures.
Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli Rally activity manager: "The Cinturato Wet tires once again demonstrated their reliability even in such difficult conditions, with asphalts on which grip was really very poor, not only because of the rain, but also because of the many debris on the surface, despite the many anti-cutting devices. The 12 wet tires available to each crew ensured not only grip but also great reliability, durability and performance. In Japan we expect less challenging conditions than these, but not too much at the end: rain is a constant in that rally as well. Congratulations to Kalle, who always shows his class in difficult conditions, and to all of Toyota for the drivers' title, which comes just one race after the constructors' title achieved in Chile."
In Rally2, Nicola Ciamin in a Skoda Fabia came out on top, but Andreas Mikkelsen by winning the power stage managed to conquer the season title in his category.
Below is a graphic summary of the Central European Rally.