ORM, Rebenland-Rallye: Report

17. bis 18. März 2017
Stnr. 11: Andreas Aigner (A)/Ilka Minor (A) Skoda Fabia R5, 5th place

„There is room for more“

Ilka Minor about her challenge with Andi Aigner in the Eurosol Racing Skoda Fabia R5 at the Austrian Rally Championship start in Rebenland: How they could beat a WRC in special stage 3. How they rolled-over in special stage 7 and why in summary only 80% of the possibilities were maxed out.

After her successful off-road premier at the world-famous Rally Dakar in January 2017 on Czech Martin Prokop’s side, Ilka had a classic rally in her program last weekend: Together with Andreas Aigner she had a great kick-off at the Austrian Rally Championship. Aigner was P-WRC champion in 2008 and Production Cup European Champion five years later Minor and Manfred Stohl hit 4th place in 2006 and with that the best Austrian overall place in the World Rally Championship ever. And so far Minor on the side of rally pilots like Evgeny Novikov or Henning Solberg is our only star in the World Rally Championship. Since the exciting situation in Austria after the World Rally Cars release last year, fans are now asking themselves what Aigner and Minor can achieve in the R5 in competition against the WRC’s.

Not only one but three World Rally Cars started at the Rebenland Rally - at the forefront Hermann Neubauer who ended Raimund Baumschlagers title run of high-score Austrian Rally champion last year. Competing against these three WRC’s was an armada of R5 cars, including the 13-times Austrian Rally Champion Skoda Fabia R5 as well as Niki Mayr-Melnhof in a Ford Fiesta R5.

The Skoda Fabia R5 piloted by Aigner and Ilka was prepared by the Hungarian Eurosol Racing Team. The brand new car was warmed up by team leader Janos Puskadi himself: The ERC-experienced Hungarian hit 5th place in a rally Croatia.

„Top, top, top!“

On Thursday before the Rebenland Rally Andi Aigner and Ilka Minor ran their first test drive and Ilka got into raptures: „ The team is great! All of them are very nice and eager. They are top, top, top! The test drive went flawless“

About 70km were covered, Ilka states “When you are starting at zero with a new car, you begin with a basic setup from Skoda - during the test run we figured out a suitable setup“. For the tyre evaluation wasn’t enough time, but it also wasn’t as relevant. „The temperatures made it irrelevant. We had to experience during the rally which tyres are suitable“.

On Friday afternoon the start finally came along. But, as Ilka tells, there were some communication problems. „Even though the intercom was working, Andi didn’t hear me well, so I had to talk really loudly“. Never the less they were third best timewise in special stages 1 and 2.

Special Stage 3: Record time without Mickey Mouse

In special stage 3, not only the audio got back to work trouble free, but the drive was great in every way - that’s why they set the best time – 1.6 sec ahead of Gerwald Grössing (Ford Fiesta WRC), 2 sec of Baumschlager and 2.2 sec of Neubauer.

That they would hit best time in special stage 3, no one could have known beforehand. Ilka „I knew part of the stage from a test run with Tamara Molinaro – the Baumschlager Team uses this road often to test their cars. It’s a pretty selective route”.

Was there cheering in the cockpit? Ilka shakes her head smiling „No, we directly went to the regrouping and the connection route was short, that’s why we drove without “Mickey Mouse””. Without what? Mickey Mouse? Ilka laughs „That’s how we call our headsets we wear on road sections, so we can talk to each other, since it’s very loud in the cockpit”.

At the fourth special stage they unfortunately couldn’t repeat the feat. „We spun in a turn and Andi had to get the Fabia back on track”. On special stage 5 the selected tyres weren’t suitable anymore. „We picked tyres that were too hard, and that became clear quite soon as it became darker and the temperature dropped“.

After a service two stages were conquered in complete darkness.

Special Stage 7: Slow-motion turn-over without reaching the finish line

Then came the darned seventh special stage, Ilka remembers „We got bit off the right track in a right corner and didn’t find the best line for the next left corner - that’s why the rear got loose and slid into a bank which pushed the car to the right. The front right landed on a rootstock and the car fell over in slow-motion“.

Eventually Aigner and Minor had to give up on that day - but there was hope that the mechanics would get the Fabia fixed, since all team members agreed to participate in the following stages, for testing purposes. Due to the five-minutes-penalty they received for the dropping out in special stage 7 a top position was anyway out of sight.

That’s why they dared to use extremely soft tyres on Saturday morning, which didn’t work out at all. Ilka tells „For the next two stages we decided on tyres that were slightly firmer, but even those were too soft. It was important to try out as many things as possible to get experience. It was important to make it to the finish line”. Andi Aigner, who was quite attacking the previous day, adapted to the circumstances. „He thinks very carefully about what he does - and it was more important for him to try things for the future on Saturday”.

Final spurt on the Power-stage

Before the final Power-stage though, Andi switched back to attacking mode. Ilka says „Right before the last stage our team leader told us, that theoretically, it was possible for us to hit fifth place. We had to make up 10 sec - he didn’t have to tell it twice, Andi was in”.

Due to the fourth fastest special stage time, they got from seventh up to the fifth place - the team bosses mission was completed. Ilka’s optimistic summary: „It was a very positive first competition, but we didn’t use up the fully 100% and there is definitely room for more”.

Now they are looking forward to the next challenge excitedly - which might be in three weeks at the Lavanttal Rally. Surely though, them and their Eurosol Racing Team will participate in the Slovenian Rally Vipavska Dolina on April 21st and 22nd.

pictures: Andreas Aigner Rally Team