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GP Week : Issue 168
RALLY >>> NEWS Thursday: Paris Salon preview The anticipated presentation of the Peugeot 208 R5 car, the first R5 design to break cover, is expected to be the major rally highlight of the Paris Motor Show. The car on display will be a show car but this will be the first opportunity for Peugeot to release full details of the type of car which the FIA proposes will be the foundation of sub-WRC level international rally sport in the future. Another long promised announcement at the Salon is to come from Hyundai as to how they visualise their future in rally sport and possibly the WRC. Friday: WMSC preview The FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris is expected to confirm a 13-round calendar for the 2013 WRC, in which Rally GB reverts to its traditional date to become the final round and Italy comes forward to a hot midsummer date. The proposed upheaval in the WRC support championship is due to be announced, in which a four-wheel drive car series (excluding world rally cars) is to replace the Super 2000 world series and a two-wheel-drive car series is to run to help develop newer talent. The Academy programme will continue but the Production cars series which began 25 years ago is to end. And, hopefully the icing on the cake, it is expected that positive news will emerge about a promoter for the world championship together with news of a television deal. Friday-Saturday: International Rally Yorkshire The final round of the landmark British two-wheel- drive national championship sees four drivers mathematically able to take the title. Favourite is 2009 and 2010 champion Keith Cronin (above) from the south west of the Republic of Ireland who needs only to gain a top eight result to be champion. Complex points scoring rules favour Cronin against fellow Citroen driver Tom Cave, who is only four points behind. Osian Pyce and Johnny Greer are the other possible champions, but a fifth other wise eligible driver Elfyn Evans is unable to take part because of the closeness of the WRC Academy round in France. Double points are gained from this gravel event, which this year features a night stage in Dalby forest. British championship authorities meanwhile have announced next year’s series will see a return of the Scottish Rally, for the first time in many years. Friday-Sunday: Sliven Rally. For the fourth and last IRC round in Eastern Europe, the series moves on to Bulgaria for the Sliven Rally. Endless negotiations behind the scenes have finally enabled the event to run, largely due to the efforts of the national federation’s caretaker president Alexander Alexandrov and the Mabanol oil company. While the overall championship protagonists have their entries tactically manoeuvred and are not entered, the main international interests are focussed on the two wheel entries of Robert Consani (Renault Megane RS) and Harry Hunt (Citroen DS3). In the IRC’s two wheel drive cup, Hunt currently leads Consani (pictured) by one point, while in the IRC Production Car category Consani is also three points behind Mitsubishi driver Andreas Aigner who is not entered on this event. The fight for overall honours is expected to be between local drivers Dimitar Iliev, Krum Donchev and Peter Gyoshev (all in S2000 cars), Mitsubishi driver Plamen Staykov, winner of the most recent Bulgarian rally and Turkish driver Yagiz Avci, recent IRC winner in Ukraine. Saturday-Sunday: Rajd Polski Notwithstanding that the European championship is already decided, the penultimate round goes ahead in the north of Poland, on the Rajd Polski, one of the sport’s longest running events. This is the second of only two gravel events in the other wise all-asphalt series and is as usual based at the Mazurian lakeside town of Mikolajki. As a trial run for future ERC events, the event will feature a WRC-type Qualification Stage and running order selection system. Local interest centres around Michal Solowow’s hope to cement his second place in the European series and international interest on the debut appearance of Esapekka Lappi in a works car and the reappearance in rallying of Krzysztof Holowczyc, 1997 FIA European champion who earlier this year won the Baja Poland at the age of 50! Busy week in the rally world ... It is reported from the Middle East that Abu Dhabi has signed a five-year agreement with Citroen to run a three-car team in the world rally championship and also a Super 2000 car in the Middle Eastern Rally Championship. This allows the Qatar authorities to withdraw from the WRC and concentrate on other activities surrounding their star driver NasserAl Attiyah. Khalid Al Qassimi (above) is to resume his former position as Abu Dhabi’s chosen international driver, in both programmes. Khalid’s rival Nasser Al Attiyah’s current plans now centre around his cross country buggy, which he plans to race on Dakar and the FIA world series, and the MERC series which he is to contest with a 1.6 litre Fiesta S2000 (RRC). Citroen’s agreement with Qatar had been expected to continue into 2013. It is expected that the forthcoming Rallye de France will be Nasser Al Attiyah's final regular appearance in the WRC, and presumably his final appearance at the wheel of a Citroen. The Qatar World Rally Team’s registered entries on the two final WRC events (Italy and Spain) will be honoured with Thierry Neuville at the wheel instead. Abu Dhabi are negotiating an exclusive agreement to have access to the proposed new Citroen S2000 car for MERC events. Nasser confirmed during Rally GB that his competition future lies in Dakar and FIA cross country and MERC events rather than the WRC, and gave critical pre-Dakar testing as the reason for missing the remaining WRC events. Abu Dhabi’s Citroen deal; premature WRC exit for Qatar 19 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: