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GP Week : Issue 158
WRC >>> NEWS Several stars missing in Ypres For the first time this season, the two major subsidiary international rally championships, the ERC and the IRC, meet each other face-to-face, in the historic Belgian city of the battle fields, Ypres. The Geko Ypres Rally runs 22-23 June. Skoda teams are taking both championships seriously, with the runaway ERC leader Juho Hanninen seeded number one ahead of the IRC leader Andreas Mikkelsen. Many top championship drivers however will be absent. IRC number two Jan Kopecky is competing on the Hustopece Rally, a round of a third series, the Czech national championship, which the Skoda team are also anxious to win. ERC number two Giandomenico Basso competed in last weekend’s IRC event in Sicily. Very few regular ERC contenders will be in Ypres, no doubt deterred by the new rule which says the ERC points this year will be based on overall results, and not limited to registered championship driver. The old system of only issuing points to registered drivers for the series has been abandoned. The biggest spectator appeal of the highly popular Ypres Rally however comes early, ahead of the rally. It is confirmed that Bernardo Sousa will drive the prototype Lotus Exige S as the Course Car. This car, built for the new Class 4 R-GT category, promises to introduce a new and exciting sound to the sport, the wailing of the car’s compressor engine. STOHL RETURNS TO WRC Austrian Manfred Stohl, veteran of 126 starts in the world championship, will make a return to the WRC series when he drives the entry of Daniel Oliveira’s Fiesta World Rally Car team in Rally of New Zealand. “Daniel (right, above) decided after Greece that he would not personally compete on this event. It is an event he didn’t know, and he was worried about rumours the event would leave the championship in the future. He said he preferred to concentrate on the forthcoming asphalt rallies instead” , explained Stohl, whose company prepares and runs his car in the 2012 series. “The team had already nominated New Zealand on registration for the championship, and two weeks before the event it was decided I should go back and drive his car there instead. I have not been to New Zealand for the last five years, but I guess the country has not changed very much since then, but what will be new for me is rallying a 1.6 turbo car” . One suspects that Stohl (left) might have another more personal reason to make a reappearance in the WRC on this occasion. Two weeks after the rally he will celebrate his 40th birthday! 36 year-old Finnish N4 champion Juha Salo moves from Mitsubishi to Ford for a one-off event and then to Proton, where he will become the latest in a very long line of official drivers for the Proton Motorsports team. After a frustrating experience last year when an intended Pirelli prize drive on Rally d’Italia went wrong through contractual confusions with the FIA, he has been offered by Pirelli a free compensation drive on the forthcoming IRC San Marino Rally, in a Fiesta S2000. This event will take place the first weekend in July, and be the first experience for the accomplished Group N of S2000 competition. Salo has recently been competing in a R4 version Mitsubishi, but the performances this year of Esapekka Lappi in a Fiesta S2000 has established that the old turbo four-wheel drive Mitsubishis are not longer competitive. Salo is then to drive a Proton as teammate to PG Andersson on the Neste Oil Rally Finland and the Wales Rally GB, rounds 5 and 6 of the SWRC championship. Salo has not tested a Fiesta to date but has driven the Proton for 160km in tests in Wales. SALO ON THE MOVE 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: