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GP Week : Issue 162
WRC >>> NEWS PRODRIVE CONFIRMS SPANISH ENTRY Three former world rally champions are due to start the Swedish midsummer Midnight Sun Historic Car rally (18-21 July), which this year is celebrating the life of the late Swedish driver and Toyota team director Ove Andersson. Several contemporary Toyota rally cars have been prepared for the event, including a 1974 spec Corolla for Hannu Mikkola and a 1980 Celica RA45. Mikko Hirvonen was originally to drive the Celica but Citroen’s plans precluded this, and the car will now be driven by Thomas Radstrom, winner of the 1994 Swedish Rally and for nine seasons a regular Toyota team driver. There were also hopes that Juha Kankkunen, winning Toyota driver in the Safari and Ivory Coast rallies, would be present, but testing work has caused his withdrawal. Other former champions involved in the event are Bjorn Waldegard and Stig Blomqvist, both driving Porsches, which the former works Porsche driver Ake Andersson is also driving. At the wheel of a Ford Escort is to be the current FIA WRC Academy driver, 21 year-old Pontus Tidemand, more than 50 years younger than many of the top names on the entry list! The event starts Wednesday 1900 at Vasteras. 38 year-old Sebastien Loeb has given his local newspaper Dernieres Nouvelles d’Alsace the latest hint that he is considering premature retirement from rally driving at the end of this year, and that a decision will be announced after he has first spoken with his employers, Citroen. He confirmed that his young daughter is pleading with him to stop rallying, and Sebastien says he has an increasingly busy life running his racing team. “I am not going to stop my activities overnight. One thing is clear, I take no pleasure without competition. I want to ‘Garder le piment de la course’, keep enjoying the spice of racing”. Citroen meanwhile need to know how long their golden goose will keep laying their eggs of success, and how they could justify a competition programme after Loeb has gone. SEB DROPS LATEST QUIT HINT Prodrive’s competition director Richard Taylor has confirmed that Dani Sordo is to be entered not only in Rallye Deutschland (24-26 August) but also in Catalunya Rally, final round of the 2012 world championship and one other round of the WRC this year. “The agreement we made with Dani was that he would do seven WRC events this year. We have done four already, Germany will be the fifth.” This leaves Rally GB, France or Italy as the remaining possible entries for Sordo. Dani is to due to drive a completely new Mini John Cooper Works in Rallye Deutschland and his earlier car, last used in New Zealand, is to be made available in 01B specification for Portugal team driver Armindo Araujo to use in Germany. Prodrive say Sordo’s new car is currently in preparation, in basically the same specification as the New Zealand car except in asphalt format, but with minor improvements based on experience. Regarding Prodrive’s plans for 2013, Taylor said “we are still hoping to do a full WRC programme next year but it is too early to know if that will happen, and certainly it is too early to know whether we would enter an official manufacturer team” . The Portugal team has confirmed that Armindo stays with the old 01A model in Finland as that they do not have a chance to make a pre-Finland test to check out the newer version. “Anyway Armindo is familiar with the (old) car, so this seemed like the logical choice. However we plan a pre-Germany test where he will have the chance to get used to the car. Asphalt is traditionally Armindo’s best type of rallying. “Team-mate Paolo Nobre is expected to stay with a 01A model. In addition to receiving the ex-Sordo car, the team also has the chance to upgrade one of the existing cars to 01B spec if necessary.” Curiously it was the unexpectedly soft surfaces in Finland last year which was instrumental in certain changes on the 01B design. Taylor: “In fact, only the works cars had problems with the sand ingression in Finland last year, and that was largely because we wrongly ran the ride heights too low. The other Minis did not have the trouble.” Latest Mini news is that the Turkish TOK Sport team which runs the Kuwaiti driver Abdulaziz Al Kuwari will run a Mini in full WRC specification for the Finnish privateer Riku Tahko on the Neste Oils Rally Finland. TOK Sport recently acquired an ex-Meeke works car which the Czech driver Antonin Tlusak drove on the recent Bosphorus Rally. Plans are being made to upgrade the Mini used by Vaclav Pech for the Invelt team in Czech Republic to the 01B specification. One week before Finland, Kris Meeke is to drive a Mini John Cooper Works in WRC specification at the popular Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park one-day single-venue rally in Northern Ireland (28 July). This will be in the privately owned car of Derek McGeehan which was driven on the Galway Rally to second place by Eugene Donnelly. His contractual position at Prodrive continues to be undefined. Team director Richard Taylor said “Kris is free to drive what he likes, because we cannot offer him a drive.” DRIVERS PAST & PRESENT GO HISTORIC 15 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: