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GP Week : Issue 18
ROUND 4 of the FIA’s Asia- Pacific series is held this weekend in Japan. While Rally Japan itself this year moves to a new location, Rally Hokkaido returns to the central Hokkaido city of Obihiro, from where stages will again be run in the Tokachi region. Like last year the Japanese PCWRC driver Toshi Sartai again makes an appearance, as a non championship entry, on this event. Number one seed is APRC championship leader Australian Cody Crocker, ahead of his close rival Katsuhiko Taguchi. Hokkaido hosts Asian round AFTER running side by side at Ypres, this coming weekend the IRC and the ERC championships diverge but both go east! The former heads for Russia, the latter to Bulgaria, and following the Ypres Rally two weekends previously, competition cars will have to be re-prepared with gravel instead of the asphalt suspensions used in Belgium. The Russian rally itself is based at Vyborg, midway between St Petersburg and the Finnish border. Once again there will be a ceremonial stage in St Petersburg. Not entered will be the IRC series leader Luca Rossetti but the Kronos Peugeot 207 S2000 team will again be present with three cars, this time with the Finnish Mitsubishi driver at the wheel of their celebrity car. Otherwise the IRC regulars should be there. Meanwhile the two wheel drive R3 battle between Renault and Honda is hotting up. Guy Wilks drives the Honda Type R again. JAS chief Alessandro Mariani explains: “the purpose of the entry is to continue our gravel road testing with Guy, ready for Finland. Since his original drive with us in Australia, he has done more testing with us in Italy, especially with suspensions and shock absorber work. “We were very pleased with the speed of Alex Bettega in Ypres, when he was competitive with the Renault of Kris Princen, who is an expert on that rally”.” Renault is represented in Russia by the Ulster driver Kris Meeke with a state-of-the art Clio R3 prepared by Munaretto. IRC and ERC head east The venue for the Russian round of the World Rally Championship, to be held 16-18 July 2010, is the ‘Hero City’ of Novorossiysk, a naval port on the Black Sea which already hosts the final round of the Russian national series. The area is well known as Russia’s leading wine-making region. FIA officials will attend the 2008 event (26-28 Sep) as advisers, then go to the official candidate rally in 2009 for observation. The area behind the city is mountainous with gravel special stages, which makes it more attractive than the fast and flat roads used in the current Rally Russia, based at Vyborg. The existing international Russian rally is set to carry on with IRC, which has a five year agreement with Eurosport, and it is presumed in Russia that these events will continue to be run in north-west Russia. It is not clear who will use the name Rally Russia. The promoters of the Black Sea rally are calling their event ‘Novorossiysk Rally Russia, WRC Candidate’. Novorossiysk Here We Come 18