– Coffaro finishes ninth in Team Azimut Toyota supported by South Racing
– Fernando Alvarez finishes 14th after last stage delays in second South Racing car
The South Racing duo of Nunzio Coffaro and Fernando Alvarez produced two solid performances on their first ever snow rallies, when they brought their Toyota Hiluxes to the finish of the Baja Russia Northern Forest Rally in ninth and 14thoverall.
The traditional opening round of the 2016 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies was based in the northern forests of the Republic of Karelia for a second successive year and utilised snowy and icy stages near the border with Finland.
The experienced Venezuelan duo of Coffaro and Daniel Meneses had never raced across this type of terrain and Coffaro guided his Team Azimut Toyota Hilux supported by South Racing to the finish in an impressive seventh. But he incurred a five-minute penalty for a timing violation at Parc Ferme on Monday morning and that dropped the crew two places in the overall standings to an eventual ninth place. The Team Azimut Toyota has further backing from PDVSA, Toyota, Venezuela Tourism and the Ministerio Desportes.
Neither Alvarez nor his Argentinean navigator Luciano Gennoni had ever experienced racing in sub-zero temperatures and treacherous snowy conditions in the Conarpesa-backed Toyota. They produced a solid performance to come home in 14th, despite losing over an hour midway through Monday’s final stage after getting stuck in a snow bank.
It was a good race for the team and great experience, said South Racing’s team director Scott Abraham. Both crews put in solid performances over new terrain. The cold conditions tested all four of them and also the mechanics, who did a great job. Now we head back to Europe to turn the trucks and cars around for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. The boat leaves in just 10 days.
The event began on Sunday morning from Sortavala town and was followed by a short Prologue stage of 19.95km that determined the starting order for the first of two runs through a demanding selective section of 178.66km. The South Racing duo reached the finish in 16th and 18th, with the advantage falling to Latvian driver and eventual winner Maris Nieksans.
The first of the snowy stages through the Karelian wilderness ran a little later than scheduled and Neiksans maintained his overall lead in the FIA category. Coffaro and Alvarez reached the overnight halt in ninth and 12th overall. It was okay and we were careful not to make mistakes, admitted Alvarez.
Coffaro said: We are happy. We didn’t lose any time and completed the stage. It was difficult to get grip. The stage was so slippery. We tried to keep a line. This is our first time on snow. The temperature difference is extreme from here to the Dakar like 50°C to minus five.
Monday’s third stage was a repeat of the 178.66km on offer on Sunday, but ran in reverse and preceded the ceremonial finish in the village of Vyartsilya. Coffaro and Alvarez continued to run at a safe pace and were classified in 10th and 12th overall through PC5, after 17.8km of the day’s special.
Coffaro climbed to ninth through PC6, after 49.1km, but Alvarez lost over an hour in a snow bank and slipped to 15th. The Venezuelan went on to pass PC7 in seventh place and reached the ceremonial finish in a similar position before the time penalty was imposed. Alvarez clawed some time back over the closing kilometres to secure an all-important finish in 14th of the FIA registered cars.
South Racing was founded in 2013. Based near Frankfurt in Germany, the young, customer-driven team also has workshops in Portugal and has extensive experience of the Dakar Rally and rallying in South America. The team also has support from NWM, Rudy Project, OMP, TW Steel, Gold Nutrition, Michelin, MotoGP Argentina, Argentina Tourism and Ecomac.
Baja Russia Northern Forest ’16 final positions (FIA only):
1. Maris Neiksans (LVA)/Anton Nikolaev (RUS) Volkswagen 7JO , 3hr 49min 42sec
2. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) Mini All4 Racing, 3hr 50min 55sec
3. Vladimir Novikov (RUS)/Vladimir Novikov (RUS) G-Force Proto, 4hr 06min 00sec
4. Andrey Rudskoy (RUS)/Yevgeny Zagorodnyuk (RUS) G-Force Proto, 4hr 17min 28sec
5. Aldis Vilvans (LVA)/Andrei Rudnitski (BAF) Mitsubishi L200, 4hr 32min 07sec
6. Aleksey Cherkesov (RUS)/Artem Shevelev (RUS) Nissan Pick-Up, 4hr 32min 40sec
7. Vladimir Frolov (RUS)/Igor Petenko (RUS) Nissan Piuck-Up, 4hr 42min 57sec
8. Reinaldo Varela (BRA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) G-Force Proto, 4hr 45min 18sec
9. Nunzio Coffaro (VEN)/Daniel Meneses (VEN) Toyota Hilux, 4hr 47min 30sec
14. Fernando Alvarez (ARG)/Luciano Gennoni (ARG) Toyota Hilux, 5hr 54min 14sec
*South Racing cars in bold