XXXIII Rallye Elba Storico

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With the record number of 215 entrants, exceeding event organiser ACI Livorno’s expectations, the Rallye Elba Storico and the concurrent Elba Graffiti regularity rally, counting both for the Italian and FIA European Championships, attracted competitors from 13 nations to the small Island of Elba in the Tyrrhenian sea.   Also comprising contests for the A112 Abarth Trophy and the Michelin Historic Rally Cup, reserved for Porsche and Maserati owners, the FIA inscriptions were also at their highest, with 62 entries.  This year, it was dedicated to the memory of Elio Niccolai, founding father of the event, who passed away suddenly in May.  Many of the top drivers of the Italian and FIA Championships were there, creating an air of expectation at the start in the rally headquarters in the town of Capo Liveri.

That said, after the traditional Thursday evening prologue, the rally lost some of its top protagonists on the first of two days, with the  Category 3 Audi Quattro of ‘Zippo’ and Nicola Arena crashing out on SS2 (without consequences for the crew), and the leading Category 4 Lancia Delta Integrale of ‘Lucky’ and Fabrizia Pons failing to make it to the end of the day after an oil pump failure.  Also out of Category 4 were the front-running Lucio Da Zanche and Daniel De Luis, the double winners retiring from the very first stage.  2018 Category 4 Champions Valter Jensen and Eric Pedersen, making their first 2021 appearance, had issues on the opening day when their BMW M3 ran out of fuel.  The car’s fuel gauge was recalibrated on Friday evening and the Norwegians re-joined the rally for Saturday’s final leg.

With the Prologue and stage 1 winning Lancia Integrale gone, and Karl Wagner struggling with fuel pump issues in his Porsche, Gabriele Noberasco and Giacomo Ciucci took the next two stages amongst the FIA crews to finish the day in eighth place amongst all competitors, and first in the FIA contest, with 44 seconds in hand to Category 2 leaders Paolo Pasutti and Giovanni Campeis in a Porsche 911 RS, ahead of Karl and Gerda Wagner, who, despite their mechanical difficulties, were still leading Category 3.  Antonio Parisi and Giuseppe D‘Angelo led Category 1 by a large margin ahead of the BMW 2002 of Carlo Fiorito and Marin Bertonasco, the only other car in the category. 

Photo Courtesy Elba Storico

The tightest contest was in Category 2, where 21 seconds covered the first three cars, Ernie and Karen Graham (Ford Escort RS1800) behind Pasutti, followed by Czechs Vojtech Stajf and Vladimir Zelinka (Opel Kadett C-GTE).

The next morning, in foggy and slippery conditions, the Wagner Porsche was back – big time – the Austrian crew taking all five of the day’s stages.  Noberasco was out on stage 2 with a failed head gasket, leaving the Category 2 battle to rage in the leader’s wake.  Stajf was Category winner on the first stage of the day, ahead of the Grahams.  Pasutti countered on the second stage, but then Stajf, on a charge, took over to win the next three stages and finish the rally 16 seconds ahead of Pasutti, with a 50-second advantage over the British Escort, which still nonetheless, leads the overall season points table with two rallies left to complete.

Jensen and Pedersen, with fuel issues sorted on the BMW, scored four out of five of the day’s Category 4 wins, but had started the day too far behind to worry Alfons Nothdurfter and Juergen Nolte (Ford Sierra Cosworth 4X4), the new – after Noberasco’s retirement from SS6 – Category leaders.  The Austrian driver has now come within striking distance of 2021 Category leader Daniel Alonso Villaron, while Nolte has moved up to lead the Co-Driver points table.  Parisi and D’Angelo kept their Porsche on the tarmac to claim Category 1 honours and consolidate their Championship lead.  

Wagner won the FIA rally by bringing his Porsche home in sixth place overall amongst all the different classes and categories.  Overall winners of the rally and Italian Championship top scorers were the crew of Alberto Salvini and Davide Tagliaferri driving a Porsche 911 RS, who finished ahead of locals Andrea Volpi and Michele Maffoni.  Already winners in 2019 and 2020, it was the third consecutive win for the Sienese Scuderia Palladio Historic team.  For three quarters of the rally, Salvini, however, had battled the Sicilian Salvatore “Totò” Riolo, a great admirer of the island race, who was participating for the 20th time.  Back with his Subaru Legacy, the Sicilian had won the first two stages, only for a puncture to set him back by six minutes halfway through the second day, dropping him down to seventh place at the finish and third in the Italian Category 4 Championship.

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