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GP Week : Issue 171
RALLY >>> NEWS at BRIEFLY » Andrew Coe, chief executive of the organisers of the WRC Wales Rally GB, states he hopes to base his event in North Wales in 2013, in an attempt to obviate the widespread format disapproval experienced this year. At this time he does not know if the Wales sponsorship authorities will agree to the event not passing through Cardiff in the south of the country. » 30 years after he first rallied a car of the type, Markku Alen won the premier event in the San Marino based Rally Legends in a Lancia 037. His co-driver, as ever, was Ilkka Kivimaki. Also on display at Legends was an experimental 037 fitted with four- wheel-drive and a hybrid system power unit. At the same time at the western end of the Mediterranean, ‘Pedro’ won the 60th edition of Rally Costa Brava, now run for Historic rally cars, in another 037. » “Ancora Cipro e poi basta IRC” (Still the Cyprus Rally is to come, then the IRC is finished) exclaimed IRC manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas at Sanremo Rally. At a private briefing to journalists before the event, Francois Ribeiro, director of Eurosport Events Limited also confirmed the imminent end of the IRC series, which after a provisional start in 2005 has run for seven successful seasons from 2006. “Our aim in promoting the IRC was to offer fun and fair competition, and that is the goal of EEL in promoting the FIA’s European Rally Championship in the future”. He emphasized that a provisional calendar list of entries already seen is far from definite (“a product of the imagination”), except that the opening event, the Janner Rally in Austria, is confirmed. Not only must commercial terms first be agreed with each organiser, but the regulations for the championship must be aligned with the FIA’s policies for regional championship events. The IRC has been well respected for its sense of free-spirit. The hope in EEL is that the ERC can regain the professional level that it enjoyed a generation ago, when many different official teams ran cars in the series. WRC crews head now to the Mediterranean for the two final rounds of the season starting with Rally Italia Sardegna on the island of Sardinia and then three weeks later to Spain for Rally Catalunya Costa Daurada, the former all gravel and the latter a mixed surface event but mostly on asphalt. Sardinia was the last event to be nominated for the FIA's 2012 series, substituting for the proposed new event in Sicily as late as February this year. Although being run in Sardinia satisfactorily on seven previous occasions, this year the calendar date offered by the FIA is later than before and fits uncomfortably within a crush of top line rally events in Italy. Also its out-of-season date makes travel by air and by ferry to and from the island problematical. The pressure of Italian rallies does not affect regular WRC drivers but with the two weeks since the Rallye de France leaves little more than five days for rebuilding the cars when teams will use the same car on both events. Entries finally closed with 43 crews entered and a high emphasis on quality – more than half the crews are registered championship competitors, but a major shortfall of Italian crews. There are only 12 privateer Italians, half of them residents of the island, and no regular CIR (the Premier national series) competitors because the event falls on the weekend between the qualifying events in Sanremo on the mainland and one week later at Costa Smeralda, also in Sardinia. Three registered WRC teams, Citroen Junior, Adapta and Brazil named Sardinia as an event on which they did not undertake to enter, but Adapta driver Mads Ostberg will compete in this event in any case but is not registered for Manufacturers' points. Regular Citroen Junior team driver Thierry Neuville will also take part, driving the car entered by the Qatar WRT for the second time this year, in place of the absent Nasser Al Attiyah. Sardina promises to be a leisurely event, with special stages spaced over four rather than three days, and with a total stage distance almost the shortest of the championship season. The first and last days feature one stage venue, each tackled twice, and the interim days each cover three venues tackled twice. The Qualifying Stage is run over a new 3km section. The driver running order selection objectives are not clear, and will probably depend largely on the conditions of the stages. Last year Sebastien Loeb ran first car on the road all the time and won the event! If conditions are dry, dust hanging in the air on the stages will be a major factor on this event, overriding the usual concerns with stage cleaning. There will be unusually very little time on the Thursday for teams to define their preferred running order between the end of Qualifying and leaving for the first two stages of the rally. And the shortness of the QS means that performance on every centimetre of the track will be critical. On this event the prime tyre is the hard compound and preferred tyres will largely depend on temperature and weather conditions. If the temperatures are low or it is wet, then all ten available soft compound tyres are bound to be re-used, and the teams engage in complicated cross- tyre fitting systems. With the two major WRC titles already secured in Rallye de France, attention is now focussed on the Production Car support championship, which is still headed by the Mitsubishi Ralliart Italia drivers Mexican Benito Guerra and Polish Michal Kosciuszko. This series promises to be a race to the line, as the final event in the series will be the final WRC event in Spain. Mediterranean double to conclude WRC 15 GPWEEK.com // 15 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: