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GP Week : Issue 169
RALLY >>> NEWS Hyundai eyes WRC again 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. The Hyundai stand at the Paris Motor Show hosted a concept WRC car, and at a small presentation it was declared that the company was eager to return to world championship rallying. Indications however were that corporate publicity saying that the company was “Ready for WRC Return” and captions to images stating the car is “rally-ready” were premature, with specific details on the project heavily outnumbered by the uncertainties. There were no details about setting up a team, which must first be registered at the FIA before a World Rally Car can be homologated. In an interview on ‘irallylive.com’ website, Hyundai Europe’s Marketing Director Mike Hall said “It is very difficult to say when the brand will compete on its first WRC event. We cannot contemplate an entry in 2013; 2014 is our primary objective.” He confirmed however the plan is to set up an in-house operation in Germany, near Frankfurt. After a preliminary two-year presence with two-wheel drive cars in 1998 and 1999 through an Australian based team, Hyundai was officially active in the WRC from 2000-2003. On the positive side, this is (after VW) the only specific announcement of a manufacturer seriously intending to enter the WRC for more than a decade, a very heartening development for the sport. The FIA’s World Motor Sport Council meeting announced last Friday that they approved a proposed deal with German The Sportsman Media Group and their associated Austrian company Red Bull Media House to act as WRC Global Promoter from 2013. This means that Eurosport Events will not be involved in the promotion of the WRC, but will continue to be the commercial rights holder for the WTCC and will also act as the Promoter of the FIA European Rally Championship for 10 years. Development of television coverage of both the WRC and ERC agreements are fundamental parts of the responsibilities given to the Promoter. These various appointments have been long awaited, desperately needed after the sudden demise of ISC nine months ago. The award of the ERC agreement, however, means that the popular IRC rally championship is in danger. Within minutes of the public announcement by the FIA, Eurosport Events stated that IRC series “will not run next year in its current format across Europe.” They have been charged with preparing a calendar of ERC events, due to be formalised at the World Rally Championship and Rallies Commission meetings due for the end of October. Dates for FIA regional events, together with allocation of which support championships shall accompany which WRC event, will be decided at the same time. Dates have been issued by the FIA for the 13 rounds of the SWRC in 2013. with the exception of the date for Rallye Deutschland, which has had to move away from the originally proposed date in August because that date has been claimed by the nearby Belgian Formula 1 race. Main changes are that the Italian WRC events has been moved to mid-summer, and the British round back to its traditional date at the end of the season. Confirmation has been given to the planned restructuring of the WRC support championships, in which WRC2 is the name of a new four-wheel-drive series, and WRC3 is the name for the new two-wheel- drive series. The WRC Academy is renamed FIA Junior WRC Championship. WRC Promoter named, calendar published 15 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: