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GP Week : Issue 167
RALLY >>> NEWS It has been confirmed that Citroen has been in further negotiation with authorities in Qatar regarding Qatar’s hopes to obtain an exclusive sponsorship arrangement with the Citroen WRC rally team. It is still a mystery about the reasons why, or at what level, Qatar wants to be involved in the WRC – and even if Qatar is the only Middle East interest that Citroen are dealing with. The latest rumour from the region is that Abu Dhabi is considering a return to the WRC scene and has also been speaking with Citroen. Negotiations between Citroen and Qatar appear to be getting very complicated. Certainly Qatar, through Nasser Al Attiyah, is putting a lot of pressure on Citroen, presumably worried that Citroen might instead decide to work with Abu Dhabi. Another factor is that Nasser is becoming increasingly frustrated that his hopes of regaining the Middle East rally championship title are slipping away, following his non-start in Lebanon. Basically Nasser wants to finalise a deal with a manufacturer, preferably Citroen, in which he can drive its car not only in WRC events but also MERC events. Citroen meanwhile has filed papers with the FIA in the hope the FIA will agree to homologate a competitive version of their DS3 in S2000 specification. Currently Nasser can only do this with Ford and Mini, not Citroen. Meanwhile Qatar has ordered a new 1.6 litre Fiesta RRC for Nasser to use later this year in case talks with Citroen fail, to keep Nasser’s 2012 MERC championship hopes alive. Citroen's Middle East mystery at BRIEFLY » ERC: Andorran driver Joan Vinyes won the Rally Principe de Asturias, round 9 of the FIA European championship in a six year old Suzuki Swift S1600, ahead of the Peugeot 207 S2000 of Polish driver Michal Solowow. The rally was saddened when a spectator died in a crash on a stage. » IRC: Ukraine driver Yuriy Protasov had been leading his country’s IRC Yalta Rally at the wheel of an ex-Latvala World Rally Car, converted to 1.6 turbo Super 2000 specification before puncturing and then retiring with broken suspension handing victory to the 2-litre Fiesta S2000 of Turkish driver Yagiz Avci. The early stages had seen an exciting duel between Protasov and Mikko Pajunen, the lead changing between them on each of the first five stages, but the Finnish driver damaged his car and retired. » Day 2 of WRGB was the 5th anniversary of the untimely death of British former world rally champion Colin McRae. Sadly not a single British driver scored even a top six stage time on the event this year. Only three British drivers took part: Matthew Wilson finished eighth. » Toyota Auris driver Johnny Gemmell won the Toyota Cape Dealers Rally in South Africa after early leader Mark Cronje lost a couple of minutes on the first day. Auris S2000 cars finished first, fifth and sixth. » The Welsh promotional authorities announced they would continue their support for Rally GB, hopefully with revised requirements regarding the format of the route. » The three day national event category supporting the WRC Wales Rally GB event was won by Bob Ceen, Subaru Impreza World Rally Cars took the top seven places. With Juho Hanninen unbeatable in the race for the FIA’s European championship, his third major title in three years, Skoda Motorsport have started looking further into the future. Hanninen has now won the IRC title in 2012, the SWRC in 2011 and the ERC in 2012. Skoda has now offered Esapekka Lappi a drive on the Rajd Polski, the penultimate round of the 2012 ERC series. Lappi has been unbeatable in national championship rallies in his native Finland, and on the Neste Oil Rally Finland he showed speed equal to Sebastien Ogier until suffering power steering failure. Skoda Motorsport boss Michal Hrabanek has stated that Esapekka is one of the biggest talents in the sport. Poland has been chosen as this is a gravel event. Lappi’s successes so far have been at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000 in Finland where he has been unbeatable, and the Fabia S2000 is widely regarded as the pacemaker 2-litre S2000 car. His co-driver will again be Janne Ferm. Skoda eyes Lappi One of the most significant people in Kenyan motorsport and the country’s motor industry has died. This was Peter Hughes, known worldwide by sporting enthusiasts as the organiser for many years of the Safari world championship rally, but earlier as the winner of the 1964 Safari. He was a member of the family which were the Ford distributors in the country and one of the pioneers of the CKD (completely knocked down) car production systems. His AVA car assembly company in Mombasa handled countless different makes of cars. The Ford business was started by his father, originally based in Nakuru, and Peter’s victory in 1964 was one of the first international rally wins for the Cortina. After his retirement from the sport he was closely involved in the organisation of the Safari Rally. On the 1991 Safari Rally his son Michael won the Group N category, on which his father was Clerk of the Course, and this was one of the first major successes in the WRC for Subaru. Vale: Peter Hughes 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: