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GP Week : Issue 37
>>WRCINSIGHT e we last met ... L IFE has been hectic on the WRC front … Citroen became World Rally Champions for the fourth time at the final round of 2008, the Wales Rally GB, and Sebastien Loeb, who was already proclaimed Driver’s champion, went on to win the championship rallies in Britain and then, in 2009, in Ireland and Norway. On Wales Rally GB, his final appearance as a Red Bull team driver, Austrian Andreas Aigner clinched the Production Car World Rally Championship, while Sebastien Ogier had already been crowed 2008 Junior World Champion. The 2008 season ended dramatically in Wales, after the event had been postponed from the first to the second week in December. Wintry weather had arrived in the meantime and created dramatic conditions, with ice and snow. Ford’s chances of retaining the Makes title evaporated when Mikko Hirvonen rolled, but Ford’s guest driver Valentino Rossi did well to finish 12th and 17 year-old Tom Cave won his class by a quarter of an hour. It was Rossi’s third appearance on a WRC event, while Cave had only passed his driving test the week before the event! It was also Subaru’s debut win in the PCWRC category for their new hatchback ‘N14’ version Impreza. The global economic situation was given as the reason for the withdrawal of the official world championship teams of both Subaru and Suzuki. Although Subaru had introduced its new 2008 S14 model in mid-season it did not produce as much performance improvement over their previous model as hoped, while Suzuki withdrew after many changes in management. Ironically the performance of Suzuki’s SX4 WRC cars in the 2008 series had exceeded all expectations, considering the severely limited resources under which the team operated. Subaru, however, continues to be strongly represented in world championship rallying through their Group N activities, while official Suzuki Sport Europe team cars continue to compete in the JWRC series. The most important recent FIA rallying decision over the winter months GP, a lot has changed in the last few months for the World Rally Championship. oks back at what’s changed and what has stayed the same has been the selection of an official World Championship Promoter, which was announced on the eve of the opening round of the 2009 World Rally Championship. This work will now start in 2010, not 2011 as specified in the original job tender. The Promoter was named as ISC, the company which already worked as the championship’s commercial rights holder, so this will be an extension of the work in which they were already engaged. The Pirelli Star Driver selection process started off in 2008 as an individual project in each of the four regional divisions of international rally sport, using different ways to choose which driver would gain the prize drives on six rounds of the 2009 world championship. The African series went very smoothly, won by South African VW Polo Super 2000 driver Jon Williams; the Asia Pacific series used a complicated Shoot-Out but the unequivocal winner was New Zealander Mark Tapper. The European system was bolstered by incorporating 37