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GP Week : Issue 139
WRC NEWS >> Twenty World Rally Cars have been entered for the final round of the 2011 World Rally Championship. Making their first appearances in a WRC car are SWRC contenders Ott Tanak and Martin Prokop in Ford Fiestas, while former Brazilian PCWRC driver Paulo Nobre will line up in a Mini. As already announced, Evgeniy Novikov replaces Khalid Al Qassimi in the registered Team Abu Dhabi entry, while new PCWRC world champion Hayden Paddon has been entered in a Subaru Impreza R4. This gives Paddon entry as a P2 driver and therefore qualifies for his world title. The VW Motorsport entries for candidate drivers Kevin Abbring and Sepp Wiegand, however, are expected to compete as non-priority drivers. The draft entry list names of 78 crews, including 17 drivers in the WRC Academy category, with two drivers (Valentin Hummel from Germany and Christopher DuPlessis from the USA) new to the Academy. Another one making his maiden appearance in a World Rally Car, is the Class 10 Toyota Yaris of Belgian privateer Renaud Bronkart. The internal strife at the powerful Citroen rally team has been a major factor in the season, and with impending decisions about who-drives-what in 2012 still up in the open, there is plenty of stress in the air. But how did it all come about? Was it due to the perception that Ogier disobeyed team orders in Germany, or was there strife before that ever happened? Citroen’s competitor director Olivier Quesnel explained the background. “It all started because Sebastien Loeb was supposed to retire from rallying at the end of this season, (2011)” said Quesnel Said. “He was fed up with the 2011 restart rules, in which the championship leader has to drive first car on the road on gravel events. We asked the FIA if they would change the rules in the middle of the 2011 season but they said that was impossible. Ford had supported this request. “Ogier had already got a proposal from Ford for 2011 and also 2012, so if he accepted the offer and then Sebastien Loeb was going to stop at the end of the season, Citroen would end up with no top drivers! We decided we had to keep Ogier in the team. We knew he wanted to stay but we had to give Ogier equal number status straightaway to make sure this happened. “ Then in Sardinia, Sebastien Loeb heard that the FIA was going to change the restart order rules in 2012 and said he would like to stay in rallying after all. The problem has not happened because Sebastien Loeb was changing his mind. For myself, it was because the regulations from the FIA were changing”. When asked if Quesnel thought the problem could have been avoided, he replied “I would have preferred Sebastien Loeb had told me at the beginning of the season he would stay for 2012 and maybe 13. “It would have been easier for me but this is it. I can’t do anything about that. But for Citroen I think it is good news to still have Sebastien Loeb in the team”. Jacques Berger, the architect of the technical rules which have shaped the new generation of World Rally Cars, has been given new responsibilities within the FIA, with a new role of working on sports safety projects. At present it is not known who will take over Berger’s current position, or whether there will be a direct replacement, although new to FIA work is Karl-Heinz Goldstein, best known for his rally engineering work with GM in the 80’s. Berger has worked full time in motorsport since September 1990, following the work of Gabriel Cadringher who introduced the Groups B, A and N regulations, and together they have worked on in the past formulating the World Rally Car rules which came into force in 1997. “I hope I will be best remembered for my rally work with the new Group R rules, also in the WTCC and the GT3 cars,” he said when he visited this year’s Catalunya Rally. Berger started his motorsport work with the WRC, and for many he will always be remembered for discovering the illegal Toyota turbochargers during the Catalunya Rally in 1995, regarded by many as a masterpiece of technical detective work. no bRiTish DRiVeRs foR skoDa The architectural berger moves on Quesnel explains the Citroen crisis Rally gb entries confirmed 45