Four months after the world went into lockdown, Rally di Roma kick-started international rallying again last weekend. That achievement in itself is probably the biggest and most important thing to come out of the Italian event. But what else did we learn from two days in Fiuggi?
Solberg answers an unknown
Ahead of the event, Oliver Solberg told DirtFish his speed on asphalt was something which had been playing on his mind. He’d shown he could drive on snow as well as all sorts of gravel. But when it came to asphalt, that was still a genuine unknown. No more. His third place at Rally di Roma was one of the drives of an admittedly short international season so far. He was as quick as he was consistent. And he was very quick aboard a PA Racing Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Breen/MRF partnership is a pacey combination
Craig Breen, a Hyundai i20 R5 and MRF Tires is a fine combination for asphalt. Genuinely, what did you think? What did you expect from the Irishman on Indian tires? We just didn’t know if we were completely honest. We’d heard horror stories aplenty from early development of the asphalt-specification rubber, but ultimately it worked very, very well. Granted, the durability wasn’t quite there, but the speed – courtesy of Breen’s bravery and right boot – most definitely was.
Loubet shows his WRC potential
Pierre-Louis Loubet really does have the look of a star of the future. Climbing aboard a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC and hammering it down some of the most nadgery (not entirely sure nadgeriest is a word and gnarly’s just a wee bit too street for me…) roads around on Saturday morning was special. Forget any comparison with fellow Hyundai driver Dani Sordo – the Spaniard was very firmly in testing mode – but credit where it’s due, Loubet got in the car and drove it without putting a mark on it. Sunday’s faster stages highlighted where the attention will come next for the talented Frenchman; like all the younger drivers, jumping into these cars and pushing in the twisty bits is doable – but when the road widens and speeds up enough to lean on the aero grip, that’s a different story.
But it’s a story Loubet looks capable of writing.
Citroen’s Rally2 offering starting to look the part
Watching on the stages, one thing which was clear was the pace aboard Citroën’s C3 R5. The French-built R5 machine might have been a bit of a slow-burner, but – at least in engine terms – it’s right there now. We watched in a variety of bends: slow corners which demanded a good chunk of torque to fire the thing up the road and the really quick, all-about-the-power places, where the C3 sounded like it had just a handful more revs, enough to allow the drivers to hold a gear for that second or two longer. Unfortunately, Adrien Fourmaux’s early bath meant we couldn’t factor in M-Sport’s latest Fiesta R5 MkII to that comparison.
Italy has a clear fastest driver – but he still can’t catch a break
Andrea Crugnola would have woken up with a massive Rally di Roma headache on Monday morning. Once again, it was the event that got away. Crashing out on apparently jinxed Pico test on Saturday morning meant he’ll have to wait another 12 months for his maiden win on the Fiuggi-based event. So, what did the rally tell us about the Citroën C3 R5 driver? Simple: he’s arguably Italy’s fastest man right now. His speed through Sunday, where he returned to go fastest on all but one of the stages was impressive.