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GP Week : Issue 72
Petter Solberg, put his own show together and, typically, it was full on. Jari Matti showed all the impetuosity of youth -- sometimes to his cost (left). World Rally, the most scenic of motorsports, right. points. The main attraction of the IRC was the wide range of types of car which drivers could run with realistic hopes of success -- which meant the Super 2000 cars, the manufacturers of which were frightened off by the WRC. The IRC series had two major boosts in 2009 -- the arrival of Skoda with its Fabia S2000, a car competitive straight out of the box, and the sponsorship by Peugeot UK of a car to be run by the successful Kronos Peugeot team. With Peugeot UK came Kris Meeke, a most talented driver who had for years struggled through the orthodox WRC channels and was getting nowhere career-wise. He was picked up by all three French companies, having originally been introduced to Citroen by the late Colin McRae and then by Renault. Meekes' story of the 2009 season was a fairytale of success. The World Rally Championship meanwhile was in a transitional phase, with events being decided on a rotational basis and with two established support series, the Junior and the Production Car categories. It was possible to do both series if your funds allowed. Indeed by the end of the season, Czech driver Martin Prokop was able to win the JWRC and come second in the PCWRC. The Junior series was poorly supported, following the removal of sponsorship of competitors by Citroen, which had introduced its own series based on national events.. The Production Car series was won by Armindo Araujo, after a series of problems in the series. There were two major technical crises. Firstly Nasser Al Attiyah lost his chance to challenge for the series as a result of a disputed exclusion based on engine modifications, and then Eyvind Brynildsen lost his category victory on the final event because of a parts supply error. The PCWRC in 2009, however, showed that the days of the orthodox Group N cars were severely numbered. Super 2000 cars, which run in the same category, were progressively showing themselves to be superior in performance, most particularly the new Skoda cars. Parallel to the Production Car activities was the entry for the five drivers in the Pirelli Star Driver programme. This innovative idea was thwarted by the unexpected unreliability of the new Mitsubishi Evo X cars, but was in other ways a great success and which will be repeated for two more years. The performance of the orthodox Group N cars was under debate all year, and the FIA ordered that in 2010 their turbo- charging restrictors could be increased from 32mm diameter to 33. This promised to make them more competitive against the nimbler S2000 cars, but then for no apparent reason the FIA ordered that S2000 cars in 2010 could widen their bodywork, enabling wider track and better road-holding. This decision was never convincingly explained, and was kept a secret to the outside world by the FIA. The rotational calendar meant that some events of major significance in the series were missing. Monte Carlo was one. It then made a deal with the IRC series, which offered them much greater freedom in organisation format than the FIA did for the WRC, which pleased the organisers immensely. The Tour de Corse was another. The French federation checked out the financial foundation of the event and decided to award the French world championship status for 2010 to another event in their country instead. The Finnish Neste Oil Rally was to be dropped from the 2010 series, but then 36