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GP Week : Issue 177a
WRC >>> FEATURE and gravel events, but later in the season (above) he started to show fully competitive speed as well. In the penultimate event of the season, he was the fastest driver of all. The only other young WRC driver to match him was the Russian Evgeniy Novikov while the others only deceived. One other driver showed amazing results consistency – Sebastien Ogier. Ogier was driving a Skoda Fabia Super 2000 (above right) as part of Volkswagen’s plan to gain hands-on experience of world championship rallying before they entered the series in 2013 with their Polo R WRC car, serving also as a way of gaining performance feedback for their WRC development programme. He competed 12 of the 13 rounds, finishing the highest placed non-WRC driver on 10 occasions, seven times in the overall drivers points chart. Special novelties of the 2012 WRC season were (a) reverting to reverse order running for gravel events; (b) a system by which performance at pre-rally Shakedown allowed drivers to choose their own running order for Day 1 on gravel events; (c) the return into the WRC for Monte Carlo; (d) increased flexibility of event formats and lengths, and (e) introduction of ‘emergency alternative’ compound tyres in case of unexpected weather conditions. Notwithstanding many promises of global expansion, the WRC Calendar remained familiar. While efforts were instigated to solve the Promoter crisis, efforts were made to introduce new countries and lure the commercially emergent countries of the world into the championship but nothing progressed. Championship ‘candidate’ events were set up in South Africa and Brazil – the former was run in disappointing style and the latter never took place. The WRC Promoter problem dominated the political front, with lengthy discussions through the season leading to agreement for a new-style promoter taking command in 2013. Meanwhile the FIA were planning shake-ups in the support championship systems so that the winners of the PCWRC (Benito Guerra from Mexico), the SWRC (Craig Breen from the Republic of Ireland, last year’s Academy winner) and the WRC Academy (Elfyn Evans from Great Britain) were last-time world champions in these categories. The first two series are to be replaced by a support championship for four-wheel- drive (WRC2) and two-wheel-drive cars (WRC 3) while the Academy class is to be replaced by a Junior championship. The FIA has been placing increasing emphasis on back-up championships as well, with the FIA’s traditional four regional series now expanded to six, and a strong effort to restore the importance of the European regional series. This was achieved by appointing the effective Promoter of the IRC series (Eurosport Events) to carry out the same work for the ERC, which led to the decision to amalgamate the two series, adopting the assets in each. Cyprus Rally therefore saw Andreas Mikkelsen winning the IRC for the second successive year and was also the last event in a most successful series. A new Rally Cup series is to be introduced to clean up a confusion among lower level championships. 2013 was the second year of the 1.6 -litre turbo World Rally Car formula and, encouraged by increasingly stricter rules about long- life components, the cars continued to prove amazingly reliable. Also getting wrapped up has been the FIA’s new categorisation of rally car groupings, the final step in the ‘Group R’ revolution being the announcement of the R5 cars category, effective in 2013. This is a replacement for the ageing and increasingly expensive Super 2000 formula. For the first time a car was homologated for the new Sportscar R-GT class, but this effectively failed to get off the ground. 2013 is going to be very different to 2012. A new Promoter; VW will come with their new world championship team; Loeb goes into semi-retirement – the chance for a different world champion for the first time in 10 years! 50 GPWEEK.com // 50 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: