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GP Week : Issue 174
RALLY >>> NEWS MERC contender Nasser Al Attiyah led the Cyprus Rally almost from the start to the finish, taking advantage of punctures suffered by the already-crowned 2012 IRC champion Andreas Mikkelsen (above) , and despite losing time with a broken driveshaft on Day 1. His win put Al Attiyah into the lead of the MERC series with one event to follow, after two of his closest challengers failed to arrive in the island due to shipping problems, three more went off the road during the event and retired and another was slowed by engine problems. Titles gained on this joint IRC-MERC event were the IRC categories for Production and for Two-Wheel-Drive cars. The Production category was clinched by Robert Consani thanks to good performances earlier in the season in his Renault Megane N4. Consani brought a Clio R3 to this event hoping also to take the 2WD series, but transmission failure caused his retirement and gifted the title to Harry Hunt in a Citroen DS3. Top Production Car finisher on the event was third-placed Toshi Arai ahead of fellow Subaru driver Jarkko Nikara while Sepp Wiegand (Skoda) recovered from a broken steering on Day 1to finish fifth at the end. Cyprus represented the end of the IRC rally championship before the IRC promoters join forces next year with the revamped FIA European championship. The MERC series finishes next month in Dubai. Rally winner Nasser Al Attiyah was visibly active in wooing M-Sport chief Malcolm Wilson (inset above) during the event, hoping to forge a relationship with Ford based on an occasional programme in the 2013 world championship. Disappointed at the collapse of talks with Citroen which centred around the uncertain availability of Citroen’s new RRC car, Nasser turned to Ford to supply him with a 1.6 turbo S2000 car for a late challenge in the Middle East series, which has spectacularly developed with victories firstly in Jordan and now in Cyprus. Nasser now hopes to lure Ford into a composite arrangement, centred on a three-car WRC team plus equipment for a MERC challenge in 2013, in addition to his independently projected cross country activities in Dakar and then the FIA’s world cross country cup in 2013 . Nasser dominates Cyprus Meetings with WRC organisers and the FIA earlier last week failed to finalise urgent issues facing the WRC as the 2013 season approaches. Perhaps the most critical issue concerns the tender for supplying the timing and tracking equipment. Two tenders are being considered, the first is the established Stage 1 Tech system, used now for several years and in which organising teams are well versed, and the second is a system being promoted by the organisers of Catalunya Rally. As one organiser explained: “the problem is time. If we are to have a change the system, it will need a lot of time to adjust to a new system, and the season starts in January.” Championship rules for the new-format series have still not been published in detail, even though standing regulations demand that organisers must start publishing individual event regulations. This was also the first chance for the proposed new WRC promoters (Sportsman/ Red Bull Media) to discuss their work face- to-face with organisers. Most immediate question is that organisers need early advice whether to plan a live televised Power Stage on events, on which far-reaching decisions about the time format for each event are based. Representatives of the promoters explained that promoting the championship was not an overnight exercise, and issues such as televising power stages was not only concerning the arranging of the coverage but also successfully marketing the rights. Organisers however felt comforted that the promotion of the championship was now in the hands of authorities who have a successful background in this field. FIA moving slowly Prodrive has announced that its engineering staff is working with BMW Motorsport on the improvement of the performance of the Mini John Cooper Works engine into 2013. This is despite no certain plan that Mini will run a world championship manufacturers’ team after the end of this year. Work centres on various aspects of the design, including engine calibration, turbo control, transmission control strategies, leading on to a new ‘Evo’ package comprising a number of mechanical enhancements, which will bring a major step change in performance early next year. Team chief Richard Taylor explained: “we understand there are restrictions on homologations of new pieces in relation to world rally cars if the manufacturer does not run a full world championship team, but these do not relate to the parts homologated under the basic Super 2000 (RRC) design, which are outside these restrictions. “Basically the only limits as we understand the situation are to the few special parts which change a Super 2000 (RRC) car into a World Rally Car.” The FIA rule came into force well before the concept of interchangeable World Rally Car/Super 2000 cars arose. Engineer Jason Hill has been installed in charge of this work at Prodrive. When the initial agreement between BMW/Mini and Prodrive was struck, engine work was the responsibility of the German manufacturer. Prodrive plans for Mini engine development 16 GPWEEK.com // 16 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: