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GP Week : Issue 55
>>WRCnews Peak Hanninen finds another Skoda WHILE Skoda Motorsport’s official team prepares for its next event, the Barum Rally, their Rally Russia winner Juho Hanninen is to drive the Neste Oil Rally Finland in Patrik Sandell’s Fabia S2000 car. This is the car prepared in Austria by Raimund Baumschlager’s Red Bull-backed team and quite the most successful Fabia S2000 in the world – it has won four rallies in Austria outright, and won the PCWRC category in Norway and Cyprus. Driver-manager Baumschlager said “for sure this will be a favourite to win the Group N category on this event and will be fitted with the latest specification shock absorbers. It is in an identical spec to the works IRC cars”. Private Skoda Fabia S2000 cars are now also running in Spain, Italy and Belgium. Juho has been seeded number 66, first non- priority driver on the event, immediately behind the five Pirelli Star Driver entries and ahead of Anton Alen, Patrik Flodin, Janne Tuohino and Kimi Raikkonen. Finland’s missing best THEY seem to succeed everywhere else in the world, but even if the Neste Oil Rally Finland continues to attract Finnish rally drivers from a wide variety of backgrounds, the best national championship drivers will again miss their World Championship qualifying rally. This is all the more surprising because no Finnish driver on the start list of this year’s event has won their country’s most important event! With seven times winner Marcus Gronholm and four times winner Tommi Makinen now on the career retirement list, Finnish drivers with experience of winning in Jyvaskyla do not exist. Of the currently top five drivers in the Finnish series, the only driver even competing at Jysvalyka will be Jari Ketomaa who for this event has graduated from his usual Group N car to a World Rally Car, a Subaru Impreza WRC S12b which has been provided by the Adapta team from Norway. Absent therefore are Juha Salo, Kristian Sohlberg, Jussi Valimaki and Kyosti Katajamaki. The reason is just like it was in Sardinia, Greece and Poland – the rally is on a much bigger and more expensive scale that national championship round, and this event does not count for the series. Many of Finland’s traditional rally stars will however be present Next week’s GPWEEK magazine will contain the latest news of Neste Oil Rally Finland, together with an analysis of the huge differences between Rally Finland and the other major rally that weekend, Rally Madeira, at absolutely the other end of Europe. Driver/co-driver get divorced FOLLOWING the Acropolis Rally, when they had their third successive series of misfortunes, Pirelli Star Driver Nicos Thomas has changed co-drivers. Half way through the six-round PSD programme, Nicos has parted company with Stephane Prevot, one of the world’s most experienced world championship co-drivers, and elected instead to compete with a fellow Cypriot Angelos Loizides. This change has come at a critical time for Thomas, a driver who comes from the country with some of the slowest rallies in the world. The next event for the PSD drivers is Neste Oil Rally Finland, the World Championship’s fastest event, an event which Prevot had contested eight times before, finished in the top 10 places five times and was third with Chris Atkinson last year. Phil Short, a PSD manager, said: “I am really sorry the partnership between Nicos and Stephane did not work out, but in rallying things have to work out on a personal level”. Thomas, who was admitted into the PSD squad at the last moment after an appeal, has not enjoyed a great season so far. He went off the road in Portugal, suffered fuel related trouble in Sardinia and then had transmission and engine troubles in Greece, while on Cyprus Rally, a non-PSD event which was Nicos’home rally, they retired with electrical trouble. 19