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GP Week : Issue 173
RALLY >>> NEWS The car that never was ... After lengthy negotiations, the car which Citroen’s technical personnel said could never happen has come to life! This is the Citroen DS3 RRC which was driven by Pieter Tsjoen on the Rallye du Valais, final round of the old-style European Rally Championship, built under the FIA’s 1.6 litre turbo Super 2000 rules. Whereas the equivalent 1.6 turbo cars produced by M-Sport for Ford and Prodrive for BMW Mini were designed for a dual purpose, easily interchangeable between regulations, the Citroen was produced straightaway to comply only with the World Rally Car rules, complete with a fully Global regulation engine. By recent agreement with the FIA, Citroen were able to homologate a downgraded version of their World Rally Car design to S2000 specification, principally by fitting a smaller turbo restrictor, revised front bodywork design and a smaller rear aerofoil wing. This is the type of car which Nasser Al Attiyah wanted to use in Middle East championship rallies before his contact with Citroen ended, and which Khalid Al Qassimi plans to use in the new Abu Dhabi team entries in the MERC in 2013. Tsjoen’s car in Valais is a former World Rally Car converted into RRC specification, with an unsettled background. It is the same chassis used in World Rally Car guise by Sebastien Loeb when he won the Sardinia Rally in 2011, but in which Loeb was beaten three times by his team-mate Sebastien Ogier and had engine failure in France. In 2012 it became the Citroen Junior Team car last used by fellow Belgian Thierry Neuville in Wales Rally GB this year but had been crashed in Monte Carlo this year, lost a wheel in Mexico and rolled in Finland. It was then rolled last weekend in Switzerland This weekend’s Cyprus Rally serves not only as the very final round of the 2012 IRC series before the demise of the series at the end of the year, but also the penultimate round of the Middle East Rally Championship for which it is the penultimate round. As the major categories in the IRC have already been decided, the MERC contenders expect to garner most of the attention. The most important IRC categories still waiting to be resolved are the Production and the Two-Wheel-Drive series. Curiously the Renault driver Robert Consani has the chance to clinch both series, after alternating between his Megane N4 car for asphalt events and a Clio R3 car for gravel. Cyprus is only the fifth round of the MERC and, after the first four rounds statistically 27 drivers could win the series, but many of the regular competitors have not entered this event, leaving seven drivers still in contention. Leading is the Qatari driver Abulaziz Al-Kuwari (above) with a Mini John Cooper Works S2000 with fellow Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah and Lebanese driver Roger Feghali equal second, nine points ahead. No fewer than six drivers have entered the event with 1.6 turbo S2000 cars, all MERC contestants. No 1.6 litre S2000 drivers have regularly competed on IRC events. The MERC season ends in December in Dubai. Based at Paphos in the south western corner of the island the rally starts on Friday evening with a three- kilometre superspecial in Paphos in the dark, and then runs through Saturday and Sunday. The unusual speciality of the event is that it is a complete mixture of asphalt and gravel stages, some completely asphalt, some completely gravel and several a mixture of both. Such a mixture is most unusual in rallying and does not happen in the WRC. In total the mix is 30% asphalt and 70% gravel. Cyprus hosts IRC finale 15 GPWEEK.com // 15 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: