Rank 2 in Schneebergland

A lot of gravel, a lot of rain and a low outside temperature. Schneebergland presented itself one more time from its hardest side and lived up to its reputation as “rallye for real men”. It was already clear to Beppo Harrach and Andreas Schindlbacher beforehand that winning or at least passing the finish line before Raimund Baumschlager would be necessary to maintain the theoretical chance of keeping the State Champion title. Unfortunately things went differently in the end. The DiTech Racing Team already struggled to warm up the tyres on Friday afternoon. As would be determined later, this was due to an error of the tyre supplier that was unable to supply the required material, apparently due to internal problems, but did not communicate it further. The team still succeeded in procuring suitable tyres of another manufacturer over night. While it had never been possible to test these tyres either, the new tyres turned out to be the right choice following a brief adjustment period. Just rank 4 on SS1, rank 3 on SS2 and the first best time on SS3 only; the opportunity had slightly gone at that time. SS4 was subsequently cancelled, and the first day was finally finished in a reconciliatory manner with another best time on SS5, though just ranked 3rd. Special stages 6 and 7 once again ended in favour of Raimund Baumschlager until Beppo Harrach was able to fight back one more time on SS8. Baumschlager was ahead on SS9, Harrach again on SS10. Two additional best times for Baumschlager and one additional best time for Harrach followed. The difference to the leader of almost half a minute could no longer be made up out of own resources at this time. As a result, it also no longer mattered that SS 15 and consequently the last special stage had to be neutralised due to the extreme weather conditions. Beppo Harrach: “The lack of grip on the first day unsettled me and also brought me a difference to the leader which was almost impossible to make up. After that, it really got better and better, though I did not see a chance for victory since this morning at the latest. Even though the tyres worked well then. I would have favoured Manfred Stohl at this rallye, but he had to struggle just like me with the Mitsubishi simply being too big for these special stages, some of which are very tight and also include many turns, and the extreme weather conditions. On a special stage, I also ran into Manfred Stohl who limped out of the SS due to tyre damage. A few seconds were lost again this way. Personally, I was constantly focusing on trying not to contact anywhere; another failure simply was not an option. We drove a good rallye, made few errors, and yet it was not enough for keeping the chance for the Champion title alive at the finish line. It would have turned into a truly exciting decision with the right tyres from the beginning at Schneebergland; this way, the chance for that had already gone on Friday. We simply did not have the luck needed for being able to defend the title this year. Of course that hurts, but that is the way it is in rallye sport.” – Johannes Mautner Markhof www.harrach.at