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GP Week : Issue 174
R ally RACC Catalunya Costa Daurada (8-11 November) is the final round of the 2012 championship and represents the end of the first 40 years of the FIA’s World Rally Championship. With many far reaching impending changes not only in the format of the championship but also of the teams active in the series, the Spanish event, already unique in being the only official mixed surfaced event in the current WRC calendar, will truly be a memorable occasion for all. With both the Manufacturers' and the Drivers’ championship titles already decided two rallies ago, the outstanding challenge is the fight for third place in the drivers’ ranking between Ostberg, Solberg and Latvala. Elsewhere the competitive focus will be on the support championships. This is the only event in the WRC this year which counts for all three – the SWRC, the PCWRC and the Academy categories – all of which will be reformed and run in different guises next year. Main novelties in the world championship for this event are the new drivers in both the M-Sport and the Qatar rally teams. As Evgeniy Novikov will drive a car running on DMack tyres, he cannot contest this event under the M-Sport Ford WRT banner, and so the driver of car number 6 will be the West Indian John Powell. With Nasser Al Attiyah preparing for the forthcoming Dakar Cross Country event, his seat in car 7, the Qatar WRT entry, will be taken by the Dutch driver Hans Weijs Junior. The Citroen Junior WRT is not registered to compete in the manufacturers' championship on this occasion, but a non-championship entry has been made for their usual driver Thierry Neuville. Sebastien Ogier heads the VW Motorsport Skoda team entry, this time with Andreas Mikkelsen as the number two driver. For this final event, Prodrive have entered two 01B Minis, for Dani Sordo and Jarkko Nikara, while Abdulaziz Al Kuwari drives a MERC Mini uprated to WRC specification. Whether this will be his MERC car or a different car has not yet been resolved. This event is due to be the final appearance of Ford WRT and of Team Mini Portugal and the last before the arrival of Volkswagen with their new Polo R WRC team in 2013. DMack are running tyres for the first time on World Rally Cars on an asphalt event in their sponsored team of Novikov and Martin Prokop All six registered drivers in the SWRC category are entered plus one Guest driver, the popular former skier Andorran Albert Llovera whose heroic exploits in previous years at the wheel of a S2000 car fitted with hand controls have created universal admiration. He will be back with an old Fiat Grande Punto. Three drivers can still win the SWRC title, with Craig Breen just two points ahead of Per-Gunnar Andersson, while Yazeed Al Rajhi is still able to win if troubles strike the two ahead of him. With Hayden Paddon now out of the title hunt the SWRC is the one championship for S2000 cars that a Skoda driver cannot win this year! Proton have yet another new driver in their team, this time Alastair Fisher as teammate to Andersson. No fewer than six drivers are still able to win the PCWRC series – Benito Guerra, Michal Kosciuszko, Valeriy Gorban, Nicolas Fuchs, Marcos Ligato and Subhan Aksa. Two drivers have been entered as national Guest drivers, Yeray Lemes and Josep Membrado, both in Evo Xs. Also entered in Group N cars are the Rally Class competitors, where the remaining three drivers are all entered. In this series, Yuriy Protasov is favourite and needs only to finish the event to win the Symtech Racing prize of entries on five rounds of the WRC next year in a Subaru Impreza R4. This is the final event using the name ‘Academy’. And for this occasion the registered Academy driver Alastair Fisher is promoted to drive a Super 2000 car, while competing on a one-off basis is the Polish driver Aron Domzala. As is customary, the Academy drivers competition finishes on the Saturday evening. While Elfyn Evans will clinch the title simply by starting the event, no fewer than four co-drivers are in line to win their cup – Rhianon Smyth, Candido Carrera, Stuart Loudon and Stig-Rune Skjaemoen. The event is special on account of the mixed surface and the knock-on consequences relating to tyres. There are two available tyres for asphalt and two tyres for gravel available for crews, with probably enough quantity of asphalt tyres to run the same type all event, but probably not enough to run the same type of gravel tyres all event. As the gravel stages come first, there is the traditional gravel rally Qualifying Stage to determine running order for Day 1, while for the asphalt stages on Days 2 and 3 the cars will run in asphalt-style classification order. This year there will be no gravel stages in darkness, and the top cars will run the gravel stages at three-minute intervals. The other novelties are a ceremonial start in downtown Barcelona on the Thursday afternoon and a mixed surfaced stage to be run on the seafront in Salou, where the rally is based, on the Friday evening. WRC >>> PREVIEW 44 GPWEEK.com // 44 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: