The drivers competing on this 50th anniversary edition of SATA Rallye Acores got in touch with their roots this evening before the rally action starts tomorrow: by planting trees in a forest reserve close to Ponta Delgada.
Tree planting has become something of a tradition for SATA Rallye Acores in recent years, symbolising the event’s desire to put something back into the environment. This ecological programme was pioneered by the Azores and has since been adopted by other events as well.
This year, however, there was a new venue for the ceremony: the Pinhal da Paz – which means literally ‘pine plantation of peace’, above Ponta Delgada. As the name suggests this is a peaceful forest reserve, which was also the venue for a welcome barbecue, open to all the drivers and teams.
Nine drivers in total planted saplings of the folhado tree: an indigenous tree to the Azores, which is known for its striking flowers. All the top seeded drivers took part, both from the Azores and abroad.
One of the drivers to test his horticultural skills was Frenchman Robert Consani: probably the driver who has planted more trees in the Azores than any other, as this was his third tree planting ceremony.
“It’s nice idea, which I always enjoy,” he said. “When I was driving to the service park this morning, I actually recognised the tree I planted last year, on the harbour front. Of course it’s got a lot bigger now, so it’s always nice to see your efforts having a result…”
The drivers are currently halfway through the recce, having completed the Sete Cidades stage today. Now they move on to drive through some other famous stages, including Tronquiera, tomorrow.
“The stages are actually in even better condition than I remember them,” said two-time winner Bruno Magalhaes, who also planted a tree. “There is less damp and it’s less slippery than before. These are perfect conditions that should allow us to push hard right from the start.”
Before then, the drivers have the City Show to look forward to tomorrow night. This is a non-competitive show, held in rally conditions, around the seafront in Ponta Delgada. Competitors will run with a three-minute interval over a 3.5-kilometre stage that is specifically designed to appeal to spectators and allow them to get close to the action.
The show will start at 8.30pm with the 48 European Rally Championship competitors running in reverse order. They will then be followed by the Portuguese national championship contenders, also in reverse order, and finally the Azorean championship runners.