Andreas Aigner/Ilka Minor Lavanttal-Rally (Austrian Rally Championship / 7 - 8 April 2017/Pos 2)

Rally PWRC-World Champion Andi Aigner in love with the Carinthian stages

The special stages of the Lavanttal Rally have taken Andi Aigner with – Austrians last rally world champion is expecting an exciting pentathlon in the front.

Austrians last to date rally world champion, Andi Aigner, is full of beans, the anticipation to the Lavanttal Rally is huge – for the second round of the Austrian Rally Championship Aigner together with the WRC-experienced co-driver Ilka Minor fires up again a Skoda Fabia R5.

Promoting a Slovenian Top Thermal Spa

On the side of the car the logo of a new sponsor is displayed: The new partner of the Andreas Aigner Rally Team is called “Moravske Toplice” – a popular thermal spa in the Slovenian region Pomurje.

Andi explains: “That’s a beautiful region in the north-east of Slovenia where you can relax in one of the many thermal baths.”

Andi Aigner, who was recceing the stages of the Lavanttal Rally on Thursday, is highly excited about the roads:

“I’m happy that this rally will still be held in the championship as the stages are really awesome. I can only congratulate to that.”

Opposite to the season opener in the Rebenland some limits are set to the drivers: “To stop the cutting, staples of tires are put in the corners – of course it’s nicer and more homogeneous when you can cut the corners unbothered, but I fully understand the new organisers. Being myself the organiser of the “Skoda Rallye Liezen” I perfectly know how expensive it is to rebuild the roads after the event.”

Aigner last participate in the Lavanttal Rally 2010 in a Mitsubishi: “Then, some of the stages were run in the opposite direction – that’s already a while ago and my memory for them is limited. But Ilka and I made good pace notes, so that’s ok. I’m really looking forward to the driving.”

Hard impacts: “Clench my teeth!”

The Carinthian special stages attracted the PWRC-World Champion of the year 2008 so much that he will also cope with possible pain: “We had a really hard landing close to the finish of stage 4 in Rebenland Rally. The dampers went fully onto the pump stop and it hurt my back a little bit. Last week it was really bad so I even had to take pain killers – at the moment it’s OK. And if there are places where we get similar impacts  again I have to clench my teeth.”

The sportive sights for this event are not set too high: “The competitors, compared with the Rebenland Rally, didn’t change too much – the number of the R5 cars has gone down a bit but finally I believe we will be again 5 cars fighting in the front: The World Rally Cars of Hermann Neubauer and Gerwald Grössing as well as the R5 cars of Raimund Baumschlager and Niki Mayr-Melnhof and ourselves.”

“I can hardly wait for the start!”

The stages might have a slight advantage for the World Rally Cars with more torque and horse power: “Coming from hills in Rebenland we have to deal with real mountains here and such inclines sure are easier for a WRC.”

Apart from that, Aigner is feeling more and more comfortable with the tires: “The Michelin tires should work much better in Lavanttal, the tarmac is much rougher so the tire will get much quicker to working temperatures. Furthermore we used the second day of Rebenland Rally to gain more experiences with the tires.”

Again the car will be prepared and run by Eurosol Racing Team Hungary and Andi is full of praise: “Like usual the car is tiptop prepared. It was used already in one Hungarian Championship Rally on the last weekend. On Thursday we did a small rollout – it’s impossible for us to get a full test day because of our small budget. Anyway, we are in top condition and highly motivated. I can hardly wait for the start.”

After Lavanttal-“Thriller”:

Aigner/Minor leading the Austrian Rally Championship!

At a hyper-exciting Lavanttal Rally Andi Aigner and Ilka Minor experienced a truly “thriller”: After first leg quickest of the Neubauer-chasing pack, Saturday morning “bad driving”, then back on track to second position. But just before the last stage only on real- wheel- drive – still conquered one point for the power stage and thank to this one the new championship leader! Now the duo is looking forward to their next stop in Slovenia – at the same time Aigner tries to get the non-planned Wechselland Rally financed.

The start of the Lavantal Rally went really well for the prominent duo Andi Aigner/Ilka Minor. The PWRC-World Champion is reviewing the exciting Lavanttal Rally: “The start into the rally was really good. Already on the first special stage it was clearly visible what will happen during the weekend – the top 5 teams were very close together.” That means next to the Eurosol Skoda Fabia R5 from Aigner/Minor the World Rally Cars of Hermann Neubauer and Gerwald Grössing as well as the R5 cars of Raimund Baumschlager and Niki Mayr-Melnhof.

On the second special stage of the day, SS Vorderlimberg, Aigner set the second best time and went up to second overall position, retrospective the ex-world champion noticed: “I knew this stage only from the opposite direction, but I like the characteristics. On the long downhill section I have saved the breaks – maybe a little too much. But in the second passage of the stage it was good.” Finally Aigner and Minor finished leg one as third.

Chain-reaction on Saturday morning

On Saturday morning everything changed – Aigner honestly admitted after the first loop of stages: “It’s very easy: I just drove badly.” Was there a special reason for this or did Aigner just got out of bed on the wrong side? The Styrian laughed: “Maybe I didn’t tie up my shoes good enough – no honestly spoken: I had no trust in the breaks. We used harder and used tires and all- in-all it was like a chain-reaction. Also some of the pace notes, we made on the recce, were not perfect – I never got into a good rhythm. Three to four corners were good and then there was another one which wasn’t, I didn’t trust my own pace notes.” But: “Already in second loop it was running much better. Unfortunately we were already a little left behind after Saturday morning but still the podium was possible. There was only one moto after the lunch break: Fight for the podium!”

At that time there were only four pilots left in the front, as Niki Mayr-Melnhof hit something and lost a wheel. Aigner says: “I knew that the loop stage Eitweg, with a greater part of gravel, will suit me.”

Not only the incidences were overturning in that stage, no, also Raimund Baumschlager hit a tree stump and rolled spectacular of the road. Aigner says: “Raimund didn’t make a lot of mistakes during his whole career – but you can see: When the battle is tight, when you have to fight for every second, mistakes are easily done.”

Aigner: “We were really confident on the loop stage and took around 10 seconds out of Gerwald.” A little later Grössing even had to pull out of the rally as his engine failed. Aigner says: “Of course it’s nicer to fight for your position – but our time showed that we were also able to get up to second position with our own force.”

Involuntarily “rear-wheel drive car” get a power stage point

But then, on the road section to the final power stage also the alarms in the car of Aigner/Minor shrilled: “On the way to last stage we found some very unusual noises in the cockpit – the front differential failed, and the car had only rear-wheel-drive.”

Grinning Aigner says: “Luckily we made some experience with real-wheel-drive cars during our career that helped a bit – so we managed a third best time on the stage and got the additional point for it.”

“Desired Rally Wechselland”

Exact this single point made it happen that Andi Aigner is now leading the Austrian Rally Championship – exact one point ahead of Hermann Neubauer and Raimund Baumschlager, having both the same number of points.

In the next rally in the Austrian Championship, the Opel Wechselland, Rally Aigner/Minor would start as the championship leaders – the only problem with that: “From the budget side the Wechselland Rally has never been in our schedule – our next start is in two weeks in Slovenia. Of course we will try to find ways to organise an additional rally, the temptation is huge. But I’m anyway overjoyed and want to thank my sponsors for their trust. Also the Eurosol Racing Team made a perfect job: The car shows a super performance and gives me a lot of confidence. And of course Ilka made another good job.”

Ilka Minor: “Beautiful rally in my home country”

The Carinthian, who is living in Vienna, drove her home country rally and was in her best mood: “There were a lot of spectators all along the stages and I believe there have been also some fans of myself in the middle of them – it was a beautiful rally and it was super exciting from start to finish. I wouldn’t mind if things continued this way.”