CATALONIA RALLY

Berione by design

Hot on the heels of the FIA's announcement of a Two Litre (two wheel drive) World Championship in 1995 came a glimpse of what it might be like — the latest round of this year's Two Litre Cup, the Catalonia Rally. The omens were not good.

Reassuringly perhaps, the two-wheel drive battle was the highlight of the rally, Tommi Makkinen urging the British-built Sunny GTi to hitherto unattained speeds on tarmac in pursuit of the Spanish Champion, Oriol Gomez, and his works-spec Clio Wilhams. A broken gearbox sidelined the 1000 Lakes winner when he had scythed the gap between the two to just 14 seconds, leaving Gomez to take second overall and a very comfortable class victory.

Nissan collected second in class anyway, thanks to the Catalan veteran, Salvador Servia, who won the event outright 10 years ago, when it was a European Championship round. He was no match for Gomez though, finishing more than 10 minutes behind.

Opel suffered a major reverse in its attempt to retain the two-wheel drive title, Freddy Loix crashing his Astra on only the second stage.

Seat lost Erwin Weber at the same point, the German suffering brake failure and destroying his Ibiza at the end of a downhill straight. The Spanish firm picked up a respectable fourth overall nevertheless through Jordi Ventura. The outright winner was the little-known Italian, Enrico Bertone, co-driven by Massimo Chiapponi. They won as they pleased in their Grifone-prepared Celica once Gustavo Trelles had hit electrical trouble in his RAS Escort, but the F2 cars had regularly been as quick or quicker when Trelles was still in the running.

Numerically, the entry for the rally wasn't at all bad, but it was conspicuously short of professional crews and, accordingly, spectators and press. Whether the two-wheel drive formula is suitable material for a World Championship is open to conjecture. It will need more works teams and much more publicity if it is to stand on its own two feet in 1995, when no fewer than five of the 10 rounds will be "stand alone" rallies that are not part of the four-wheel drive World Championship.

The issue is further complicated by the introduction of the kit car regulations in January. At present, only Renault and Skoda have started serious work on kit cars and only the latter has indicated that it will contest the full series. A heavily modified two-litre kit car, such as Renault's Clio Maxi, could enjoy a 30 bhp power advantage over a conventional two-litre Gp A car and be up to three seconds per mile faster, according to Renault projections. Indeed, four-wheel drive team engineers believe that the top front-wheel drive cars could be within a second per mile of the turbo cars in 1995 under certain circumstances.

The snag is that most of the Formula Two teams much prefer the present regulations, largely on grounds of cost. While the kit car rules provide for quicker and more entertaining cars, they may actually deter potential competitors particularly if Renault does launch a serious championship assault. D K W

Catalonia Rally – November 2-4 1994

1. Enrico Bertone / Massimo Chiapponi (I) Toyota Celica 4WD, GpA 4h 43m 52s
2. Oriol Gómez - Marc Martí (E) Renault Clio Williams, GpA 4h 47m 46s
3. Salvador Servià - Xavier Lorza (E) Nissan Sunny GTi, GpA 5h 01m 44s
4. Jordi Ventura - Joan Sureda (E) Seat Ibiza GTi 16V, GpA 5h 06m 06s
5. Rui Madeira - Nuno Silva (P) Mitsubishi Lancer E, GpN 5h 07m 51s
6. Jaime Azcona - Julius Billmaier (E) Peugeot 106 Rallye, GpA 5h 09m 16s
7. Jaime Azcona - Vittorini Inma (I) Renault Clio Williams, GpN 5h 12m 13s
8. Emil Triner - Jiří Klíma (CZ) Škoda Favorit 136L, GpA 5h 14m 02s
9. Jindřich Štolfa - Miroslav Fanta (CZ) Škoda Favorit 136L, GpA 5h 14m 53s
10. Sergio Pérez - Joan Manuel Martínez (E) Peugeot 106 Rallye, GpA 5h 21m 10s