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GP Week : Issue 153
WRC >>> news Production Car World Rally Champion Hayden Paddon is to rally an Escort RS1800 in the Otago Classic Rally, based in Dunedin, New Zealand. Run the same weekend as the Acropolis WRC event, for which championship SWRC cars are not eligible to score points, New Zealander Paddon has found an opportunity to go rallying closer to home. The Otago Classic Rally has in recent years become one of the Southern Hemisphere’s leading classic car rallies, and Hayden is to drive a brand new car built for the event: “It is four years since I have driven this sort of car, so going to the Otago, which is less than three hours away from my home in Geraldine, is a journey of curiosity and opportunity for me! It will keep me honest, stop me from getting too comfortable in the car I am driving in the WRC. The Escort has similar power to my Skoda Fabia S2000 and is a lot lighter because it is only two-wheel-drive.” Paddon is the first current WRC driver to compete in this event, where visiting drivers in the past have included Juha Kankkunen. Former British champion Gwyndaf Evans also competes in Otago this year. Paddon goes retro at BRIEFLY » Jost Capito, the newly appointed VW head of motorsport, made a surprise implication in a media telephone press conference from Hanover that it is now not sure if VW will enter two or three cars in the WRC events in 2013, the start of their three year commitment to the championship.“In addition to Sebastien Ogier we want another driver capable of winning rallies. Regarding the idea of a third car specially for a younger driver, that is still an option. We are still looking at the possibility of a third car.”It was his predecessor Kris Nissen’s promise of a third team car for a Junior driver that led to the Skoda Fabia S2000 entries on WRC events in 2011 and 2012, as part of an evaluation process for finding a suitable driver for this entry in 2013. » After contesting the Mexico and the Argentina rallies with his own Mitsubishi, Peruvian driver Nicolas Fuchs will drive a Subaru on the Acropolis Rally, his third outing in the PCWRC series.This car will be run by the Belgian Symtech team, which runs the Rally Class championship cars which qualify for a championship of their own.“DMack user Nicolas will not run as a Rally Class competitor as these cars, which run with DMack tyres also have a more severely limited allocation of tyres compared with cars running in the PCWRC”, explained Symtech director Dirk van der Sluys.Fuchs had been in line to win the PCWRC category, before suffering turbocharger trouble near the finish.Once again there will be four drivers in the event in the Rally Class category, but this time not all running together, as fellow Mexican Ricardo Trivino has a priority status because of his registration also as a PCWRC driver. Seldom seen in international rallying is the Renault Megane RS, but these cars came into the limelight in the Tour de Corse, with the three examples initially dominating the Class 3 category. This class caters for the traditional “N4" cars such as the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX and Xs and the Subaru Imprezas. As the Mitsubishis and Subarus lose favour among ambitious drivers on account of being outclassed by the various lighter and more nimble Class 2 Super 2000 cars, so their drivers are moving away or upgrading to the alternative R4 category, which qualify for Class 2. As Class 3 becomes a desert, so the Meganes are finding a niche. A niche, however, only in asphalt rallies. Notwithstanding their considerably tarmac-friendly lighter weight, their front-wheel-drive format does them no favours on the gravel ... The bonus feature is their overall weight. The minimum permitted weight is theoretically 1276kg but although this is not achievable, Meganes normally run over 100kg lighter than the four- wheel-drive cars in Class 3. The Megane was one of the final designs to have been registered at the FIA under in the Group N category before manufacturers concentrated on Group R designs. Introduced in September 2010, these cars started to be seen regularly on rallies in 2011. They feature a novel front axle design in which the suspension and steering work independently of each other, a critical feature when over 260 bhp is transmitted solely through the front axle. As with other designs still running under the big Group N class, a 33mm turbo restrictor is fitted. Of the three Megan RSs on the event, Francois Delecour’s won the class (above) but the other two crashed during the event. He said: “The chassis with this car is very good, I have been driving very hard, pushing and enjoying myself. I had the feeling I could go even faster but I do not want to crash, I wanted to reach the finish but it’s not easy in a Group N car because the brakes had a lot of work and this was a long and difficult rally.” Delecour reported the brakes had a tendency to fade. His only other problem on the event was an an intercom failure on Day one: “On the third jump in the first stage we lost the intercom system because it fell down and my co-driver Dominique Savignoni had to use his hands to show the way to go,” said Delecour. “We had a spare intercom which we fitted for the second stage but it was not a good one so it was difficult to hear Dominique. But we fixed it all at service” . THE MYSTERIOUS MEGANES 16 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: