*Spectacular tour of Rome in rally cars creates big interest
*Floodlit city superspecial attracts 18,000 fans
*ERC Junior Ingram: “best experience I’ve ever had at a rally”
FIA European Rally Championship drivers have described Rally di Roma Capitale as one of the events of the season following its scheduling as the penultimate event of the current campaign last week (14-17 September). The all-Tarmac rally, which marked Italy’s return to the ERC for the first time since 2013, began in spectacular fashion with a driving tour through Rome and culminated in a dramatic final-stage showdown with Bryan Bouffier taking victory over Kajetan Kajetanowicz by three-tenths of a second.
After bringing parts of central Rome to a standstill on Friday evening with an 18-kilometre driving tour of the historic city under police escort, which began at the Bocca della Verità (the Mouth of Truth) and passed by the Colosseum, a floodlit superspecial stage around the Colosseo Quadrato in Rome’s EUR district in front of 18,000 fans proved another highlight. The ceremonial finish in Ostia, a popular seaside destination on the banks of the Tyrrhenian Sea a short distance from Rome, brought the event to a spectacular close.
The bulk of the competitive action took place to the east of the capital with Fiuggi, a town famous for its natural spring water, hosting the permanent service park and event head quarters. A stage through Pico, referred to locally as the event’s Monaco Grand Prix, ran in parallel to a rally-themed festival.
“It’s quite amazing what the organisers achieved to let us drive through such a nice and busy city,” said event winner Bouffier. “It was a go-fast tour but we saw lots of monuments. The superspecial stage was also important with a lot of spectators. It was a good job from the organisation and the police.”
Double European champion Kajetanowicz said: “I never expected to see so many people on a road section. It was an amazing feeling to see people standing in the road for 18 kilometres. This is very important for rallying and the superspecial with all those people was amazing, such a good idea.”
Third-placed finisher Bruno Magalhães said: “I didn’t have the pleasure to know Rome but I after I passed through there in a rally car for sure I want to visit again to see all the buildings and the monuments. When you talk to your sponsor and you say you are going to make the Rally of Rome, Rome is a big name and it’s important for the championship to be in the main capitals of Europe. It’s good for everybody.”
Chris Ingram, a leading contender in the FIA ERC Junior Under 27 category said: “It was the best experience I’ve ever had at a rally, having a police escort through Rome through all the major attractions was absolutely amazing, so a massive thanks to the organisers. The city stage was good as well and it's so good for the championship to have so many people watching. It’s a massive rally with lots of things going on. To be able to have a rally in a place like Rome you can’t beat it.”
Jean-Baptiste Ley, the ERC Co-ordinator, added: “We were delighted when we entered into discussions with the Rally di Roma Capitale organisers. Firstly, this meant we would bring the ERC back to Italy, which sends out a strong message. Secondly, we were glad to offer our teams the strong promotional opportunities available in Rome. The Tour di Roma was an incredible experience, which brought the rally to thousands of people. Drivers had the chance for pictures of their rally car to be taken in front of the famous Colosseum. The superspecial in front of the Palazzo della Civilità attracted no less than 18,000 spectators for a dual configuration stage. Then the stages through the town of Pico were completely amazing, the passion for the rally from the public was so strong at the side of the road, making it a real pleasure to relay the action on TV through the various Eurosport programmes. Rally di Roma Capitale produced many spectacular images and memories. We’re already discussing exciting plans for next year.”