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GP Week : Issue 147
WRC >>> news Quality not quantity for IRC Short Circuit Small in entries and short in length, the revived Circuit for Ireland will run this weekend as a fully international event. After many years run as a domestic event the Circuit has attracted only 19 entries for the fully international championship event, but supporting category entries have substantially bolstered the total number of competitors. Highlight of the event, run as an IRC qualifier for the first time, is the arrival of the latest version Peugeot 207 S2000 cars. These cars will add a new dimension to the already intense inter-Skoda rivalry which has dominated the two earlier rounds of the IRC this season. There will be four works or works-supported Skodas: series leader Andreas Mikkelsen, both official Skoda Motorsport drivers Jan Kopecky and Juho Hanninen and Skoda Germany driver Sepp Wiegand. They will face the newly- homologated Peugeots 207 S2000s of Craig Breen and Mathieu Arzeno. The all-tarmac event is run this year entirely in Ulster, based at Armagh, which includes a superspecial at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast and night stages as well as a nine hour night halt, all within a 27 hour time frame. Five stages from the end it looked like the Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi would score a ground-breaking victory in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category of Rally of Portugal, which he held for more than two days of the event. It would have marked a major stepping stone in the evolution in the sport, the first world championship event victory for the concept of an ‘everyman’s’ competition car, a 1.6 litre turbo car which is designed to compete in more than one formula, in both the World Rally Championship and the SWRC. This was a long cherished idea of the former FIA President Max Mosley. At this time there are only two types of car which comply with this concept, the Ford Fiesta S2000 and the Mini John Cooper Works. Yazeed explains the background to his endeavour: Al Rajhi: "After my disaster when the car was stuck in the water crossing on the Friday I have been driving very carefully and not made any mistake. We nearly made it through to the finish, but then the subframe broke and we had to retire five stages from the end. When we were stuck in the river the reverse gear broke and that had to be changed at service. “This 1.6 direct injection turbo car is different because of the torque. You have the extra torque and you do not have to play with the gears so much. "I like this car, it is easy to drive, more easy than S2000. It means not a lot of changing gearbox and I think it is more strong car. I think the car has about the same amount of power as the old S2000.” The introduction of this type of car as an equivalent to the long-established normally- aspirated S2000 cars is something of a contentious matter, on account of the high cost of the car. The cost is exactly the same as a World Rally Car, plus a few extra parts (for example the rear wing and some extra pieces) have to be purchased. BRIEFLY » Jost Capito will take over as Director of Volkswagen Motorsport, from Kris Nissen, effective 1 May. Capito comes from Ford Motor Company in USA. He started his professional career in 1984 as a development engineer at BMW, later responsible for the Porsche Carrera Cup Organisation. Later he was at Sauber Red Bull F1 Team before moving to Ford with responsibility for the performance vehicles and motorsport strategy. In his regime at Ford Europe, he masterminded the company’s most successful rally sport activities, winning the World Manufacturers’ title in 2006 and 2007. Kris Nissen (51) has been Managing Director Volkswagen Motorsport since 2003 and has achieved important motorsport successes for Volkswagen during this time including three victories on the Dakar. » There is no news about the future of the Go-Fast sponsored rally team, which began operations at Monte Carlo as an M-Sport customer operation and which has been shrouded with uncertainty all the time. Chief driver casualty has been the career of Henning Solberg whose entry in Portugal was cancelled. » Chris Atkinson won the APRC Whangarei Rally on his first outing in a Skoda. Second was the Proton of Swedish driver Per-Gunnar Andersson. Argentina entries confirmed Entry details have now been issued for Rally Argentina, the fifth round of the FIA world rally championship. A total of 43 entries in Rally Argentina will be eligible for the world championship category, with another 17 entries eligible for the national championship category of the event, making a total of 60 cars. This year the FIA have changed the regulations concerning the local Maxi Rally Car rules. Last year these cars were admitted into the Class 3 category for Group N cars, but not this year, so the three such cars will compete for the national category instead. There is a disappointing turn-out of top local drivers, the only one being Marcus Ligato, who has entered the FIA Production Car Championship. Of the 12 drivers finally accepted into the PCWRC all except the English girl Louise Cook have chosen this to be one of the six qualifying rounds. This event is the final event for a WRC (‘M2’) team to be eligible for the Manufacturers. In this series a team is eligible for makes championship points if they agree to contest seven events, of which two must be ‘long-haul’ events. SO NEAR BUT SO FAR 15 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: