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GP Week : Issue 37
candidates from both the Nacam and Codasur series and the selection process involved interviews as well as driving performance. Its two winners were named as Martin Semerad from the Czech Republic and Jarkko Nikara from Finland. The fight for the Middle East series award continued for many weeks into the new year, and the winner was named as the Cypriot driver Nick Thomas. All six drivers have their first outing on the world championship rally in Portugal. There are some specific but major changes for the 2009 World Rally Championship: The number of qualifying rounds has been reduced from 15 to 12, under the FIA’s event rotation system. The qualifying rallies for the 2009 calendar are more European-based than usual, with just two rounds (Argentina and Australia) counting as ‘long haul’events. There is also an unusual front-heavy balance to the series, whereby eight of 38 the 12 events are to run in the first half of the year. Three countries return to the world championship after extended absences, Cyprus and Australia come back after three years away, while Poland is represented again in the series for the first time since 1973! As explained elsewhere, Cyprus has become the first rally to take up the FIA’s renewed invitation to run dual surfaces stage surfaces (some days asphalt other days gravel), the first time world championship rallies have had this format since Sanremo in1996. Currently two full manufacturers (M1) teams have entered the championship this year: BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT and Citroen Total WRT. It had seemed there would only be two subsidiary Manufacturer team (M2) entries, Citroen Junior and Stobart VK M-Sport Ford. The FIA then decided that single car entries would now be permitted and this allowed the Argentine-based Munchi’s team to become the fifth registered team. The main team novelty of the year is the new Citroen Junior team. Main drivers in this team are Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach and Russian Evgeniy Novikov, while on a one-off basis in Rally Ireland Australian Chris Atkinson drove. The team also run their protege driver Sebastien Ogier but as a non-championship competitor.