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Rally Russia - 09-11 Jul 09

Posted: July 9, 2009 9:37 PM - 4429 Hits

Round 6 - 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC)

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live.bfgoodrich.com | Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) | Rally Russia

Entry List

Posted: July 6, 2009 5:34 PM

IRC - Rally Russia Preview

Posted: July 6, 2009 5:33 PM

The Intercontinental Rally Challenge takes its third trip to Russia from July 9-11 for round six of the series, the Rally Russia.

Following the complex and narrow asphalt roads of Ypres, Russia provides a complete contrast with its wide and flowing gravel stages, which some drivers have compared to the classic speed tests of Finland. This comes as no surprise given that the rally is based in Vyborg, which is less than 100 kilometres from the Finnish border.

The stages in Russia are mostly made up of compacted gravel roads, which can be as smooth as a motorway in the right conditions. However, the surface can cut up after several cars have been through, exposing sharp rocks that are capable of causing punctures. These are often in evidence through the corners, where the competitors try tosave time by cutting the ideal line in order to find the quickest trajectory. Whereas Finland is well known for its rollercoaster crests, the roads in Russia tend to be flatter but no less spectacular. The weather in Russia at this time of year is usually warm, but sudden rainstorms are far from unknown – and these can turn the rally on its head in an instant.

This unique mix of stages and weather, coupled with the risk of punctures, makes tyre choice even more complex than usual. But it is an event that tends to favour the usual gravel specialists: in particular the Finns, who are virtually playing at home. For the past two years, the winner of the Rally Russia has been from Finland.

Since joining the IRC two years ago, the Rally Russia has gradually expanded, and this year it is up to 15 stages and 223.45 competitive kilometres. The start of the event takes place in the evening of Thursday 9 July from the podium in Vyborg, with an opening leg of four stages that ends late at night. For the first time night stages are set to be a feature of Rally Russia, adding yet another challenging element to what is already an extremely technical event.

The action restarts in the morning of Friday 10 July, with six stages divided into two identical loops of three. Amongst them is the longest stage of the rally: the legendary 29.31-kilometre Topolki test, reckoned to be the most challenging of the entire event. The rally concludes with five stages on the final day before the finish back in Vyborg at 15:00.

Rally Russia is a valuable example of the IRC breaking new ground in emerging markets, with the inaugural 2007 event having been the first major international motorsport fixture behind the former iron curtain since the 1917 St Petersburg Grand Prix.

The entry list for the Rally Russia contains both the latest new manufacturers to join the series. The factory Skoda team, headed by last year’s Rally Russia winner Juho Hanninen, is first off the ramp in Vyborg – north of St Petersburg – on Thursday night. Also on the entry list is the new Proton Satria S2000, driven by Guy Wilks, which made apromising debut on the Belgium Ypres Rally last month. Like Hanninen, Wilks has previous experience of the Rally Russia after leading the IRC 2WD class in Vyborg last year, at the wheel of a Honda.

The inaugural Rally Russia was won by Finland’s Anton Alen – the son of the legendary Anton Alen – and the Abarth driver was once more in strong contention for victory last year before his charge was halted by a double puncture. The second driver off the start ramp, following Hanninen, is Alen’s team mate Giandomenico Basso. The Italian, a former European Champion, has also proved himself to be a strong force on gravel rallies such as Russia. With the Abarth team benefiting greatly from its test in Italy, the mood is upbeat.

Significantly, the European Peugeot teams have chosen not to contest Rally Russia as under the IRC regulations only seven from eight scores count. With Meeke on 30 points and Skoda’s Jan Kopecky on 21 points, a top result for the popular Czech driver could deprive Meeke of the lead. However Peugeot will be represented by Russian driver Aleksandr Zheludov, who takes the wheel of a 207 S2000 for the first time.

Also out in Russia will be several other strong local drivers, such as Andrei Zhighunov in a Mitsubishi. With several Mitsubishi entries, the official Ralliart brand stands to benefit greatly in the IRC manufacturers’ standings. Another driver contesting the event in a Mitsubishi is the Austrian Franz Wittmann, who has put together a comprehensive IRC programme this year.

The battle for IRC 2WD Cup honours will be equally close. Three IRC registered manufacturers will be represented: Honda (the last 2WD winners in Ypres), Peugeot andVolkswagen. None of the IRC 2WD Cup leaders are planning to contest the event, so this is a vital opportunity for their rivals to try and close the gap.


Posted: July 6, 2009 5:31 PM

Franz Wittmann Jr believes the experience gained on the Belgium Ypres Rally in June will be highly advantageous when the Intercontinental Rally Challenge resumes in Russia later this month.

Austrian Wittmann will tackle the gravel event based in Vyborg in a Mitsubishi Lancer E9 following a strong showing on the asphalt lanes of Ypres recently. There he was challenging for a top-ten finish until a puncture caused a driveshaft to failure and led to his retirement from the event.

If Wittmann can maintain his impressive start to the season in Russia then it will help the Mitsubishi-blessed Ralliart operation to maintain its second position in the IRC manufacturers’ standings.

“We entered the Ypres Rally knowing that we wouldn’t stand much chance against 19 superior Super 2000 cars and several [of the latest] Mitsubishi Lancer Evo Xs on a 100 per cent Tarmac rally,” said Wittmann. “But we can be a little bit proud that we managed to be 11th in the intermediate classification as second-best non-Super 2000 car after six stages. In any case we learned a lot in Belgium and I hope that I can put these experiences into action in the future.”

Wittmann is the only driver from Austria regularly competing in the series. He is currently 19th in the drivers’ table.


Posted: July 6, 2009 5:30 PM

Juho Hanninen believes he can secure Skoda’s first win in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge when the series resumes on Rally Russia. Finn Hanninen, who won the event last season driving a Kronos Racing Peugeot 207 Super 2000, believes he will be able to make the most of his reputation as a gravel specialist by claiming overall honours.

“I am looking forward to Russia because I certainly prefer gravel to Tarmac,” said Hanninen following the recent Belgium Ypres Rally. “It is a surface I have performed well on in the past and I am sure I will be able to do so again. I gained a lot of experience on the [asphalt-based] Ypres Rally, which wasn’t exactly ideally suited to me, and I wish to thank all members of the team for their support and for the excellent preparation of my car.”

Hanninen held third place on the Belgium Ypres Rally heading into the final stage only for a punctured tyre to drop him to fifth overall in the final standings.

“I am glad to have got to the finish of this difficult rally,” he added. “I consider fifth place in the overall rankings to be positive.”


Posted: July 6, 2009 5:29 PM

The factory Abarth team is hoping the luck that has deserted it so far this year will return on Rally Russia, round six of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, later this month.

Abarth’s lead drivers Anton Alen and Giandomenico Basso are both experts on gravel and are looking forward to delivering a stronger showing in Russia.

They hope the gravel event, which is based in Vyborg from July 9-11, will bring about a change of fortune.

Nicola Gullino, the Abarth team principal, said: “We have had a bad start to the championship despite making lots of technical improvements to the car. We have been trying our best but we have not had the luck. Even in Ypres, when we were not in the top three, the final result did not reflect our performance.”

Abarth will be heartened by the fact Alen won the inaugural Rally Russia in 2007 at the wheel of one of the Italian firm’s Grande Punto Super 2000s.

“Anton is very quick in Russia but the road surface is a big factor there,” Gullino continued. “In 2007 the road was very smooth, almost like Finland, but the restoration of the roads last year following a tough winter was not so good and that made the road conditions quite bad in some places.


Posted: April 17, 2009 10:38 AM

Outline details of Rally Russia, which forms round six of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge from July 9-11, have been announced.

Although the rally is still three months away, organisers have already begun preparing the special stages for the event, which will again be based in the town of Vyborg.

This work has been instigated in an attempt to ensure the roads used are in the best possible condition for the rally following comments by some drivers last year that certain stages were too demanding on cars.

The major change to the itinerary this year is the moving of the ceremonial start from the city of St Petersburg's Isaac Square to Vyborg and a new location close to the walls of the town's ancient castle. This will make the event more compact for competitors because they will no longer have to complete a 100-kilometre journey.

The ceremony will take place at 19.00hrs on Thursday July 9. The competitive action will begin on Friday July 10 with the finish scheduled for Saturday July 11.

Event Website / Details

Posted: January 1, 2009 12:01 AM

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