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GP Week : Issue 101
WRC FRANCE >> The Rallye de France will be something special. It is the first time that France’s world championship rally will be held on the mainland, after a year’s gap in 2009 and since the Tour de Corse was last held in 2008. The reason why the Strasbourg community has been so enthusiastic to host the event, however, is that this is Sebastien Loeb heartland, and there was always a chance he might win his seventh successive Drivers’ title here. A chance which might not happen in future ... That chance has been getting stronger every rally this season. Despite Loeb’s disappointing result in Japan it could still happen here. Regardless, the most excited people will be at the little town of Haguenau, the birthplace of Loeb, some 30km north of Strasbourg where two of the final stages of the event will be held. Even aside from the Loeb factor this will be an action-packed weekend. The Ceremonial Start (at Palace Kleber, Strasbourg) will be held the same day that Ford, BMW and Citroen are expected to launch their revolutionary 2011 World Rally Car models at the Paris Salon and then revert quickly back Strasbourg. The Rallye de France will be the second and final time this year that all the support activities (Super 2000, Junior, Production Car and the Pirelli Star Drivers all on their penultimate outings this year) will run on the same event, and, as one further attraction, this event will run in conjunction with a round of the French championship series. The French championship factor brings complications to the event, not least because this runs to different rules to the world championship. The national championship runs on a special event called the Grand National, run over 18 stages (the same as for the WRC apart from the final two stages of the event) but for national championship points only the first 12 stages will count ... In the ranks of the WRC-registered teams, there is another change in the Stobart M- Sport Ford Rally Team with the second car now to be driven by Ken Block, the team’s fifth different driver in five rallies. Although there are 13 World Rally Cars on the entry list and there is a disappointing lack of private World Rally Cars after the abundance at Rallye Deutschland, with an entry for the Touring Car driver Yvan Muller in a Xsara. There will be in an ex-Petter Solberg Citroen Xsara run on the event by Norwegian mechanics. A further eight WRCars, however, will be running in the Grand National event. Hometown hero 43