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GP Week : Issue 139
Kris Nissen, VW Motorsport director, came under fire in Salou for his decision on the Wales Rally of Great Britain to halt the habit of including a candidate local driver to steer one of their Skoda SWRC cars at their home rally. Joonas Lindroos had raced for Skoda in Finland, German rally youngster Christian Riedemann in Deutschland and Yeray Lemes in Catalunya. But for Rally GB - a Dutch and a German driver, not a British driver will line up for Skoda. Nissen had his reasons, voicing continued hope for the British hopefuls. Despite this however, Sepp Wiegand and Kevin Abbring will be the youngsters lining up at the Rally of Wales. “I can only say what I’ve always said, Volkswagen wants to have a young driver in the team that we believe can be the new Sebastien Loeb or Petter Solberg, or whoever, who can one day win the world championship,” Said Nissen of his decision. “ The quality is much more important than the nationality. “Of course we cannot ignore that we are a German manufacturer and we are proud of that, and we also have a bit of a job to do to make rallying more popular in Germany. This is why we also need to know, as soon as possible, which German drivers might have the talent, even if they are not ready for 2012 or 2013. “ We are watching Hermann Gassner, we have given Christian Riedemann a drive for the second time, we found another young German Sepp Wiegand, who will drive in England. But we are also trying the Dutch driver Kevin Abbring in England because he is recommended to us by the FIA Academy. We have some British drivers on our list and I’m sure by the latest next year, March/April, we will have done tests with one or two British drivers, and if we are convinced by the testing then we will put them also in a car for a rally.” Nissen then added, “We have a clear goal which is to be with a good team in 2013 in the WRC, to win our first race in 2014 and to fight for the championship in 2015. “For the first race in 2012 we go to Monte Carlo then Mexico and Argentina. We are planning to start proper testing with the Polo in February 2012. “We want to be at the start with three works cars.” “Just as soon as there is anything to say, we will tell everyone,” were the words of Ford motorsport director Gerard Quinn, who was looking unhappy during Catalunya Rally. Quinn answering journalists who reminded him that a statement about 2012 plans were overdue. The mid-October date was expected to be the deadline for when plans for Ford’s continued presence in the WRC were to be revealed. Ford’s presence in the WRC is still in the air. Adjacent to the Ford M-Sport facility in the service park at Salou were the Prodrive Mini cars, where there were similar anxieties. Many projects have been put on hold as plans, which should have been centred around a new overall team sponsor, are still awaiting. 30 year-old Juho Hanninen achieved his eight year dream when he clinched the FIA’s Super 2000 World championship title on the weekend. Not only was it a personal success, but it was also the first time a driver had won a world championship title after 10 years of trying by Skoda! Juho - never call him Juha! - has had a remarkable career in which he gained piecemeal achievements in a variety of rally disciplines, including Group N, Super 2000 and also Super 1600, despite a series of demoralising disappointments. On no fewer than three occasions he has been excluded from the results of a world championship rally, twice after a misunderstanding in which he ended up the innocent victim. Hanninen’s career took off when Skoda invited him to join their official IRC team in 2009, following his victory in a privately-run Peugeot in Russia the year before, and in 2010 he won the IRC title after his seventh win in three years for Skoda. no bRiTish DRiVeRs foR skoDa uncertainties at ford and elsewhere Don’t call me Juha! 44