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GP Week : Issue 19
n Promoters of the Wales Rally GB have confirmed most of the original plans for this year’s event, the final round of the World Championship, to be held on December 4-7. The main difference is that plans to start the event proper in Llandrindod Wells at the leisurely hour of 0800 Friday morning have been dropped. The rally will get under way from Swansea at 0600 that morning instead. Attractive for spectators will be the twin stages at Walters’ Arena late Friday afternoon and the asphalt indoor stage at the Millennium stadium on the Saturday. n Dani Sordo won the OK Auto-Ralli Finnish championship rally, based at Kouvola and run as a test event for the forthcoming Neste Oil Rally Finland, his first ever win with the Citroen C4 WRC. His main opposition came from Finnish driven Group N cars headed by Juha Salo in a Mitsubishi. n Sebastien Ogier, Citroen Sport’s young talented JWRC driver, will compete in this weekend’s Eifel Rally in a C2 Super 1600. Based just north of Trier, this event will give a good test run for the forthcoming all- asphalt Rally Deutschland. One curiosity in the entry list: two drivers with the same name are to drive Ford Focus World Rally Cars! These are the father and son Peter van Merksteijn. n Niall MacShea, the Ulster driver who was the 2004 world Production Car rally championship, won the New England Forest Rally in Maine, USA. His main prize was the fast-track to compete in this year’s X Games competition. SPECIAL StAGES 14 ON his first rally in a Super 2000 car, Finnish driver Juho Hanninen won Rally Russia at the wheel of the Kronos team celebrity Peugeot 207, heading the works Abarth Grande Puntos of last year’s winner Anton Alen and Giandomenico Basso. Seventeen-year-old Russian prodigy Evgeny Novikov held second place until he retired on the final stage, while Simon Jean Joseph finished top two-wheel drive car in his demonstrator C2 R2 Max after GuyWilks struck trouble in his JAS Honda. Every day consisted of just two different stages, each run twice, making a total of 12 stages in all. Before the rally and one year on after creating an international name for himself, Novikov faced two dilemmas: whether to use a new or an old Subaru or whether to continue with a Russian codriver or try out a foreign one. His team went testing in Estonia and made two decisions – opting to run the N12 Impreza and take the Australian co-driver Dale Moscatt, whose previous drivers included Cody Crocker and the late Chinese rallyman Xu Lang. It was also to be a rougher rally. The event was again held at Vyborg over flat sandy stages which released immense rocks as the cars went past. Notwithstanding this being his first ever rally in a Super 2000 car, Hanninen went immediately into the lead despite a puncture, and he was chased by last year’s winner Anton Alen before the Finn was slowed by two punctures. Second on Thursday evening was Basso in front of Kopecky’s Peugeot, hurried rebuilt after its Ypres accident. Auriol was out for the day with suspension failure after hitting a rock, Sola also with engine failure, while Vouilloz and Loix were both delayed by punctures and Tirabassi by clutch trouble. Going well was Guy Wilks, the best two wheel drive car, while his rival Meeke (Renault Clio R3) had a puncture. Delayed on the first stage of Day 2 by a misting windscreen, Basso was passed by Kopecky, Novikov and Vouilloz but then the Czech driver punctured leaving Novikov in second place with Alen climbing back at third. Vertunov had been lying seventh in his Subaru N14 but then hit a rock and damaged the engine. On the penultimate stage Novikov damaged his suspension but carried on with one wheel missing, his brave drive finally coming to an end on the final stage when the damaged fuel tank eventually ran dry. This enabled Alen finally to regain his long lost second place. The top placed local driver was Oleg Antropov who came ninth overall in an old Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI. First Timer Juho Hanninen wins Rally Russia M ar tin H olm es