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2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC)

Posted: March 30, 2012 1:50 PM - 11983 Hits

Huge television audience figures for IRC in 2011

Posted: March 28, 2012 11:59 AM

One hundred and seven million different people watched television coverage of the all-action Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2011, an increase of 35 per cent over the amount recorded for the previous year*.

The impressive figure, published by the independent German sports research consultancy IFM Sports Group, is further proof of the rising popularity of the IRC, an international motorsport competition backed by Eurosport Events, the sports broadcaster’s wholly-owned subsidiary.

In total, the IRC enjoyed 500 hours of programming in 2011, while press coverage totaling 3293 articles achieved a value of eight million euros, thereby underlining the growing appeal of the series, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last season.

“We are delighted with this figure because it’s further proof of the IRC’s appeal around the world but also another demonstration of how beneficial the IRC is to car manufacturers and other commercial partners,” said Antonello Lodoletti, the IRC’s Commercial Director. “They are using the IRC as a platform for their marketing and promotional activities so it’s very satisfying to discover the value and worth of the television coverage. Furthermore the IRC consistently produces some of the most thrilling action on television so it’s fantastic to learn that so many people are watching it unfold.”

Three rounds of the IRC were shown live on television in 2011 when Eurosport pioneered the use of SimulCam technology in rallying. The system allows viewers to watch two cars tackling the same section of a stage at the same time for comparison purposes and will be utilised in the coverage of eight rounds of this year’s series. In addition, all coverage on Eurosport will be shown in high definition.

Featuring 13 rounds between February and November, the 2012 IRC season includes several events in the increasingly important Eastern European marketplace. The series, which began with a round on the islands of the Azores from 23-25 February, also includes a number of classic events such as Tour de Corse and Rallye Sanremo in Italy. The next event of the season is the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally from 6/7 April.

*Source: IFM Sports Group.

IRC winners honoured in Paris

Posted: December 20, 2011 9:50 PM

The various Intercontinental Rally Challenge award winners were honoured in Paris recently at the annual IRC Awards Ceremony.

IRC drivers’ champion Andreas Mikkelsen was among several star performers from IRC season five in attendance in the French capital to collect their silverware in front of 200 guests gathered at Salons de la Maison des Arts et Metiers.

William De Braekeleer received the IRC 2WD Cup manufacturers’ trophy for Honda, while Michal Hrabanek picked up the overall IRC manufacturers’ award on behalf of SKODA for a second year in succession.

Toshi Arai flew in from Japan to collect the inaugural IRC Production Cup. Jean-Michel Raoux received was presented with the IRC 2WD Cup.

Event promoters from the 11 rounds that made up the 2011 IRC were recognised for their efforts, while the IRC’s tyre partners Michelin and Yokohama were also honoured.

The prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy Driver of the Year was presented to emerging talent Thierry Neuville after the Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg rising star produced several standout performances in 2011.

Upon receiving his trophy from Laurent-Eric Le Lay, Chairman and CEO of Eurosport, SKODA UK Motorsport driver Mikkelsen, a 22-year-old from Norway, said:
“We had lots of big fights because the level of the IRC is so strong with such big competition. We had some luck but sometimes you need some luck. We got it all and we came out from Cyprus as the champions and I’m so happy.”

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Arai expects more pace from R4 Impreza

Posted: July 23, 2011 6:45 PM

Toshi Arai has said that Subaru’s R4-specification Impreza can only get better following its first appearance on gravel on last week’s Sata Rallye Acores, round six of the 11-event Intercontinental Rally Challenge season.

Although Arai dropped out of the running when his Yokohama-supported car suffered an electrical failure on day two, team-mate Fumio Nutahara claimed the final IRC drivers’ championship point in his Impreza STI R4.

“It was quite a difficult rally with the weather and with some small problems but generally we didn’t have any big problems,” said Arai. “I think we can make more improvements before my next rally in Hungary where I will try even harder.”

Arai’s fellow Japanese Nutahara said:
“I like the car a lot. It feels more lightweight than the Mitsubishi [I used to drive] with very good handling and fast cornering speed.”

Subaru Technica International chief engineer Makoto Shimanura said the car’s development was ahead of schedule, adding:
“The target is to make the R4 closer to Super 2000 but not as expensive. We do this through weight reduction, suspension design and cooling performance. We want to make the car 50 kilograms lighter and within 1.0s per kilometre closer to the Super 2000 cars. We are achieving this.”

Nutahara will back in action on Barum Czech Rally Zlin at the end of August. Arai’s next event is the Mecesk Rallye in Hungary in mid-September.

IRC to drop Rali Vinho Madeira from calendar

Posted: June 25, 2011 1:50 PM

Subaru announces Impreza R4 IRC bid

Posted: May 8, 2011 1:41 PM

Subaru will enter a brace of Impreza WRX STIs, conforming to the new R4 technical regulations, on selected rounds of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge for respected Japanese drivers Toshi Arai and Fumio Nutahara.

Arai, 44, will begin his programme on next month’s Tour de Corse-E.Leclerc before entering July’s Sata Rallye Acores, the Mecsek Rally in Hungary in mid-September, October’s RACMSA Rally of Scotland and the IRC season-closing Cyprus Rally in November.

Forty-seven-year-old Nutahara, meanwhile, will contest three events: Azores, Barum Czech Rally Zlin and Scotland. Both drivers will use Yokohama tyres.

The R4 regulations have been developed by the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body, to increase the competitiveness of Group N cars against the pacesetting Super 2000 machines. This has been made possible by allowing weight saving, improved cooling, enhanced engine performance and modified suspension.

Subaru’s participation in the IRC dates back to 2010 when it registered as an official manufacturer for the first time. As part of its involvement in the series, the company launched the Subaru Individual Award to support Subaru customers contesting the IRC.

Arai made his IRC debut on last June’s Geko Ypres Rally in an Impreza. Nutahara tackled his first IRC event on Barum Czech Rally Zlin last August in a Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer.

Skoda Deutschland commits to four IRC rounds

Posted: May 8, 2011 12:13 PM

Skoda Auto Deutschland will enter a brace of Fabia Super 2000s on selected rounds of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Seven-time German champion Matthias Kahle, 42, and rising star Mark Wallenwein, 24, will contest Barum Czech Rally Zlin in late August followed by the Mecsek Rallye in Hungary in mid-September. Kahle will also take part on RACMSA Rally of Scotland in October and the season-closing Cyprus Rally, where Wallenwein could return to the line-up in a second entry.

“I am happy to come back to the international rally scene again,” said Kahle, who won last year’s German title in a Fabia S2000 and will be co-driven by Peter Gobel. “But of course it will be a difficult task because the teams in the IRC are very evenly matched and the top ones have a big advantage in experience. I look forward to the gravel rallies because I enjoy to drive on that surface very much.”

Wallenwein already has prior IRC experience after contesting Rallye Monte-Carlo in January. He finished 21st alongside co-driver Stefan Kopczyk after being delayed on stage eight with a damaged wheel.

Skoda Auto Deutschland has run a rally team since 2001. Confirmation of its IRC bid brings the number of Skoda importers actively involved in the series to four and further increases the total number of manufacturer importers participating in the IRC.

Skoda to focus on IRC bid following Czech win

Posted: March 31, 2011 3:23 PM

Skoda Motorsport will focus its efforts on its Intercontinental Rally Challenge bid for the next few months following Jan Kopecky’s victory on the Czech championship-counting Wallachia Rally last weekend.

Kopecky and co-driver Petr Stary won the 30th running of the rally in a Fabia Super 2000, which carried a livery reminiscent of the design used by the manufacturer in the 1970s. Skoda is celebrating 110 years of motorsport participation this year.

Michal Hrabanek, the Skoda Motorsport boss, said:
“We were one of the biggest favourites at the Wallachia Rally and we wanted to meet those expectations. We are also pleased that the other Fabias, the private ones, have succeeded. We are going to make a break now in the home championship and focus on [the] IRC, the top of our agenda this season. In all probability, the next home event we will take part in will be the Hustopece Rally in June.”

PROTON considers third car for IRC

Posted: March 31, 2011 3:21 PM

Chris Mellors has welcomed the addition of Giandomenico Basso to the PROTON Motorsports team and revealed that the Anglo-Malaysian squad could add a third Satria Neo Super 2000 to its line-up on Intercontinental Rally Challenge events later this season.

Basso, a winner of four IRC rallies with Abarth in the past, was confirmed as a PROTON driver last weekend and will contest a number of all-asphalt IRC rounds starting with next month’s Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles where he will join existing PROTON driver PG Andersson. However, Mellors said PROTON’s attack could be expanded on selected events.

“We’re delighted to have Giandomenico joining us for the IRC programme,” said PROTON team principal Mellors. “He comes with a wealth of experience of the sport at this level and there’s no doubt he’s going to give us an extra edge on the rallies where he’s competing. This is an exciting time for PROTON Motorsports. Not only have we finalised the IRC programme with this exciting development, we have the potential for a third car on some IRC rounds.”

Basso said:
“When I tested the car in Italy, I felt two things: I felt the car was good and I felt a warmth in the team. The car was easy to drive, which is really important, especially when you have events, which can have changeable conditions. Everything is very positive and it’s great to be back working with a manufacturer.”

Double European Rally Champion Basso joins PROTON Motorsports

Posted: March 27, 2011 4:15 PM

Italian rally star Giandomenico Basso will drive a PROTON Satria Neo S2000 on six rounds of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

The double FIA European Rally Champion will join two-time Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson at PROTON, ensuring the Malaysian team will field arguably the strongest driver line-up in the series.

Basso tested the Satria Neo S2000 for the first time in Italy earlier this month – and immediately felt comfortable in the British-prepared car. He will join Andersson for six asphalt rounds of the IRC this season (Rally Islas Canarias, Prime Yalta Rally, Geko Ypres Rally, Rali Vinho Madeira, Barum Czech Rally Zlin, Mecsek Rallye and Rallye Sanremo).

The 37-year-old completed 300 kilometres of testing in two days and will return to the PROTON for a further two days of running before his debut with the team on Gran Canaria next month (April 14-16).

PROTON Motorsports tested further drivers in Italy, with a third factory-supported Satria Neo S2000 likely to be running on selected IRC rounds later this season.

Giandomenico Basso said:
“I am very happy to join PROTON Motorsports. When I drove the car in Italy, I felt two things: I felt the car was good and I felt a warmth in the team – I know I can work well with PROTON. The engine felt strong straight away, we have some small work to do to get power into different areas, but it’s good. The car was also easy to drive, which is really important, especially when you have events which can have changeable conditions – it gives you confidence. We know we have some work ahead in order to improve the overall perfomances to bring the Proton Satria close to the top group and we are excited about that. I’m really looking forward to the first event with the team, everything is very positive and it’s great to be back working with a manufacturer.”

Chris Mellors (team principal) said:
“We’re delighted to have Giandomenico joining us for the IRC programme. He comes with a wealth of experience of the sport at this level and there’s no doubt he’s going to give us an extra edge on the rallies where he’s competing. Everything went very well with Giandomenico from the start. The two days of testing he did were great, we had no issues and we got on really well. We completed some engine work during the test, looking at different engine strategies, and some set-up work. He was pleased with the car and we were pleased with him. We’ve got more developments coming on the car all of the time: the suspension is the next area we are looking at.

“This is an exciting time for PROTON Motorsports. Not only have we finalised the IRC programme with this exciting development, but we have the potential for a third car on some [IRC] rounds – there’s a huge level of interest in the car and the team right now. And, let’s not forget, we’ve got Malaysia Rally, the first round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship coming up next month. We finished last year’s Asia Pacific series with a win – and we’re looking to get 2011 under way in exactly the same fashion with our APRC drivers Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson.”

About Basso…
Giandomenico began his motorsport career aged eight at the wheel of a kart. He competed at all levels in karting before switching to rallying at the age of 21.

Basso has gone on to become one of Italy’s most successful rally drivers. After just missing out on a podium in the Junior World Rally Championship in 2002, he went on to dominate the European rally scene, taking the FIA European Rally Championship title twice in four years (2006 and 2009).

Basso won the inaugural Intercontinental Rally Challenge title in 2006, with wins on the Ypres Rally and Madeira Rally.

He won his home title, the Italian Rally Championship in 2009.

Basso drove for the Turin-based Abarth factory team for four years between 2006 and 2009.

Hunt finalises 2011 IRC schedule

Posted: March 3, 2011 11:13 AM

Reigning Intercontinental Rally Challenge 2WD Cup champion Harry Hunt has confirmed the remainder of his IRC schedule for 2011.

The London-based Briton, who beat Kevin Abbring and Rafael Tulio to the IRC 2WD Cup title in 2010, will contest Tour de Corse, Geko Ypres Rally, Sata Rallye Acores, Barum Czech Rally Zlin, Rallye Sanremo, RACMSA Rally of Scotland and the Cyprus Rally.

Hunt, who began his IRC 2WD Cup defence on Rallye Monte-Carlo in January, will drive a Citroen DS3 R3 alongside co-driver Sebastian Marshall. The Welsh I Cars Motorsport operation will prepare and maintain Hunt’s car.

“After winning the IRC 2WD Cup last year I’m really excited about the challenge I’ll face trying to defend my title,” said Hunt. “Obviously it’s going to be more difficult this year because I’m stepping up in terms of car performance and I’m going to face even more rivals. But I’m doing a good spread of events and I’ve got a good chance to learn even more. I’ll certainly be doing my best to get some good results and build my experience.”

This year, all drivers in any two-wheel-drive rally car built to Group A, Group N and Group R regulations are eligible for the IRC 2WD Cup drivers' title. Only those car makes registered as an IRC manufacturer are permitted to score IRC 2WD Cup manufacturers' points.

Al Rajhi back in the IRC with Kronos Racing

Posted: March 3, 2011 11:11 AM

Yazeed Al Rajhi will return to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2011, only this time the Saudi Arabian driver will embark on an expanded programme of events.

Al Rajhi made a one-off appearance in the IRC on Rally d’Italia-Sardegna last June in a Kronos Racing Peugeot 207 Super 2000. He will continue with the Belgian squad this season but is planning to tackle six rounds of the series, starting with May’s Tour de Corse.

Marc van Dalen, the joint boss of Kronos Racing, is delighted to be welcoming Al Rajhi back to his team for a third consecutive season.

He said: “Yazeed wants to learn asphalt rallies because his experience on this surface is not so big. It’s also great for us to have him in the team again because it’s the third year in a row that he has been with us. He’s a good guy and will have the latest specification Peugeot available.”

Al Rajhi will be co-driven by Frenchman Matthieu Baumel. His exact schedule of events has yet to be finalised, however.

Tour de Corse runs from 13-15 May. Kronos will also be running 207 S2000s for team regulars Thierry Neuville, from Belgium, and Briton Guy Wilks. Neuville runs under the Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg banner while Peugeot UK enters Wilks.

Barrable plans IRC campaign in Skoda Fabia

Posted: March 1, 2011 11:28 AM

Irish driver Robert Barrable is planning to contest selected rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this season.

The 23-year-old from Swords, near Dublin, is a one-make rally champion in the UK and Ireland. He has bought a Skoda Motorsport Fabia Super 2000 used by Jan Kopecky on selected rounds of the IRC in 2010 and is planning to enter the Geko Ypres Rally in June and October’s RACMSA Rally of Scotland.

Barrable, who completed a short systems check in the Fabia in Czech Republic recently, was only due to take delivery of the car for the first time yesterday (Wednesday), but was planning to use it on the opening round of the British Rally Championship this Saturday.

He told Motorsport News in the UK:
“I’ve bought this car as part of a two-year plan. This year we’re going to run in the BRC as well as doing Ypres and Rally of Scotland and then we’ll do some more events abroad next year. I feel going to S2000 now is the way forward for the future.”

Magalhaes confirmed for seven more IRC events

Posted: March 1, 2011 11:25 AM

Bruno Magalhaes will tackle seven more rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this season at the wheel of a Peugeot Sport Portugal 207 Super 2000. And if additional sponsorship can be found, the IRC event winner could take part on the season-closing rallies in Scotland and Cyprus.

Magalhaes, who finished fifth overall in the IRC drivers’ standings in 2010, will resume his campaign on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles in April. Along with co-driver Paulo Grave, Magalhaes will also enter May’s Tour de Corse, the Geko Ypres Rally in June, Sata Rallye Acores in July and Rali Vinho Madeira in August.

Funds are available for two further events although Peugeot Sport Portugal team manager Carlos Barros says no decision will be made on what those will be until later in the season.

“We will try very hard to do all the events this year but we know we will do at least seven more events, which is great,” said Barros. “We know with the [extra] points for Scotland and Cyprus it will be important to do those two rallies as well but we will need more budget to make those happen.”

Drivers in the IRC can count their seven best scores out of a possible 12 so even if they are not able to take part on all rounds of the series they won’t be put at a disadvantage in their efforts to secure the coveted title.

Neuville gets new co-driver for IRC bid

Posted: February 18, 2011 9:31 AM

Thierry Neuville has acknowledged the efforts of his former co-driver Nicolas Klinger after confirming that he would be linking up with fellow Belgian Nicolas Gilsoul for the balance of his Intercontinental Rally Challenge campaign with Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg this year.

Neuville and Klinger, who co-drove Nicolas Vouilloz to the IRC title in 2008, teamed-up for the 2010 season and scored a best result of third place on the Geko Ypres Rally in June.

However, Neuville has decided to change navigators and has recruited Gilsoul, a 29-year-old fellow Belgian: “I would like to thank Nicolas Klinger. He is an excellent co-driver and his taking and reading of pacenotes were always perfect. Through his experience and connections I made a lot of progress in understanding rallies with him but I no longer need a big brother with me – he is 35 and I am 22. He lives in southern France, me in Belgium, and we cannot meet each week but with Nicolas [Gilsoul] we can.”

Neuville and Gilsoul’s programme of rallies will be revealed tomorrow (Friday 18 February). They will drive a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 run by the Belgian Kronos Racing team.

Gardemeister to double as team boss in 2011

Posted: February 11, 2011 1:24 PM

Finnish driver Toni Gardemeister will double up as a team owner when he contests an expanded programme of Intercontinental Rally Challenge events in 2011.

The 35-year-old has made occasional IRC appearances in the past and took 10th overall on the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo last month.

Although his schedule of IRC rounds has yet to be confirmed, Gardemeister has confirmed that he will compete with his own team, TGS Worldwide Ou.

He said:
“TGS is a new brand in motorsport, but it is based on many years of experience. All our mechanics and engineers have a great experience in rally and worked with me during a long time on different world events. I’m absolutely confident in their skills and sure that my team is the best way to realise all my future plans.”

Gardemeister has recruited Tapio Suominen to navigate him in place of Tomi Tuominen who has revealed plans to retire from competition.

Skoda UK confirms Mikkelsen’s IRC schedule

Posted: February 11, 2011 1:24 PM

Skoda UK Motorsport has confirmed Andreas Mikkelsen’s schedule of Intercontinental Rally Challenge events in 2011.

The 21-year-old from Norway will tackle the remaining rounds of the Eurosport-backed series with the exception of Rali Vinho Madeira, which forms round seven from 4-6 August.

IRC regulations allow crews to count their best seven scores during the season and while Mikkelsen insists he relishes driving on Tarmac, his team has chosen to skip the asphalt-based island rally.

“I learned a lot about asphalt rallies when I did rounds of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship in 2007, and since then I’ve had some good results on asphalt in both the IRC and the WRC,” said Mikkelsen, who posted an early retirement on last month’s Rallye Monte-Carlo after damaging his Fabia S2000’s suspension.

Mikkelsen will resume his bid for IRC glory on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles from 14-16 April alongside co-driver Ola Floene.

Andersson set for more PROTON IRC action

Posted: February 3, 2011 11:32 AM

PG Andersson’s appearance for PROTON Motorsports on Rallye Monte-Carlo won’t be a one-off after it was confirmed that the Swede would tackle several Intercontinental Rally Challenge events with the team in 2011.

The 30-year-old from Sweden, who made his debut for the Malaysian manufacturer on the centenary edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo last month, has signed an agreement with the MEM-run squad for the remainder of the season, starting with Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles.

Andersson, a double Junior world champion, said: “It’s fantastic to have a season of driving confirmed. The Satria is a great car and to have the chance to be working with a manufacturer like PROTON is very good news for me. There is some work to do with the car but in the short time I have been with the team we have made some big steps forward.”

PROTON Motorsports team principal Chris Mellors said: “Anybody who has seen PG driving up close can be in no doubt about the kind of speed he is capable of. We’re really looking forward to working with him this season.”

Details of Andersson’s team-mate for Rally Islas Canarias will be announced in the coming months.

Hanninen linked to expanded IRC campaign

Posted: February 3, 2011 11:31 AM

Defending Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Juho Hanninen is likely to take part on more rounds of the series this season than previously thought, according to Skoda Motorsport team manager Pavel Hortek.

Beyond last month’s Rallye Monte-Carlo, which Hanninen had been dominating until an incorrect tyre choice for two snow-hit stages dropped him back to an eventual sixth place, the Finn’s only other scheduled IRC event was Barum Czech Rally Zlin in August.

Hortek said:
“We were very pleased with what Juho did [in Monte Carlo]. His schedule is not confirmed and we cannot say officially, but definitely he will do Barum and I would imagine the rest of the season will be Cyprus, Scotland and some other rallies on asphalt.”

Running Hanninen on the final two rounds of the IRC makes sense for Skoda, with points and a half on offer on RACMSA Rally of Scotland and double points for the final round, the Cyprus Rally in November.

Yazici aims for IRC programme

Posted: February 3, 2011 11:30 AM

Serkan Yazici, a four-time winner of the Turkish Rally Championship, is trying to secure a budget to contest selected rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this season.

The 38-year-old has extensive experience in rallying having started competing in 1988.

He said:
“Nothing is sure yet but I would like to do a couple of rounds of the IRC and I hope to have it finalised in maximum one month.”

Yazici, who drove an Abarth Grande Punto Super 2000 in his native Turkey last season, is exploring the possibility of switching to a Peugeot 207 in 2011 and said he would prioritise entering the gravel-based IRC rounds this year alongside a Turkish championship campaign.

Loix confirms seven-event IRC programme

Posted: January 27, 2011 12:38 PM

Freddy Loix, who has won more Intercontinental Rally Challenge events than any other driver, has confirmed that he will contest six further rounds of this year’s series in a Skoda Motorsport-prepared Fabia Super 2000.

Loix, who began his 2011 IRC campaign with second place on the centenary edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo last week, will contest the rounds in Spain (Gran Canaria), France (Corsica), Belgium (Ypres), Portugal (Madeira), Czech Republic (Zlin) and Italy (Sanremo) with backing from the financial services company BFO.

IRC regulations stipulate that drivers can only count their best seven scores, meaning Loix can’t afford to make any major errors during the season. However, with the Belgian ace including the three events he won in 2010 (Ypres, Madeira and Zlin) on his schedule, he is not unduly concerned by the prospect.

“I am extremely pleased with this programme,” said the 40-year-old winner of six IRC rallies.
“But because I have no spare rallies I have to be very clean. But I work well under pressure so it won’t be a problem.”

Loix will continue to be co-driven by countryman Frederic Miclotte in 2011. The pair will also contest two rounds of the Belgian national championship.

REVISED CHAMPIONSHIP ROUNDS

Posted: January 20, 2011 5:14 PM

  1. 18-22 January, Monaco: Rallye Monte-Carlo (Asphalt)
  2. 14-16 April, Spain: Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles (Asphalt)
  3. 13-15 May, France: Tour de Corse (Asphalt)
  4. 02-04 June, Ukraine: Prime Yalta Rally (Asphalt)
  5. 23-25 June, Belgium: Geko Ypres Rally (Asphalt)
  6. 14-16 July, Portugal: Sata Rallye Acores (Gravel)
  7. 04-06 August, Portugal: Rali Vinho Madeira (Asphalt)
  8. 26-28 August, Czech Republic: Barum Czech Rally Zlin (Asphalt)
  9. 09-11 September, Hungary: Mecsek Rallye (Asphalt)
  10. 22-24 September, Italy: Rallye Sanremo (Asphalt)
  11. 14-16 October, Scotland: RACMSA Rally of Scotland (Gravel)
  12. 03-05 November, Cyprus: Cyprus Rally (Asphalt/gravel)

2011 IRC calendar updated

Posted: January 20, 2011 5:10 PM

The calendar for the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge has been updated. It features 12 events, starting with the centenary edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo from 18-22 January and culminating with the Cyprus Rally from 3-5 November.

In between the series will visit Spain (Canary Islands), France (Corsica), Ukraine, Belgium, Portugal (Azores and Madeira), Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and United Kingdom (Scotland).

In a change to the schedule published on 10 December, Rally de los Alerces, which had been due to form round two of the series, will no longer appear on the list of dates. Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles, which joined the IRC for the first time in 2010, will count as the second event of the year from 14-16 April.

Two other changes have also been made to the calendar: Tour de Corse has moved back one week to 13-15 May, while the Mecsek Rallye in Hungary will take place on asphalt stages only having originally been set to use a combination of asphalt and gravel tests.

Marcello Lotti, the IRC General Manager, said:
“Unfortunately, the organisers of Rally de los Alerces have faced difficulties with their main sponsor and were unable to confirm their position on the calendar. We will continue to have dialogue with them in the hope Argentina can return to the IRC in the future. While it is a shame Rally de los Alerces will not be on the 2011 calendar, the scheduling of Rally Islas Canarias as the second event of the season ensures the challenge and prestige of competing in the IRC remains.”

Andersson signs for PROTON Motorsports

Posted: January 20, 2011 5:07 PM

Sweden’s Per-Gunnar Andersson has signed to drive for PROTON Motorsports in this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

The 30-year-old made his debut with the team on the Monte Carlo Rally, round one of the IRC, this week and is looking forward to driving the Satria Neo S2000 throughout 2011.

“It’s fantastic to have a season of driving confirmed,” said Andersson. “The Satria is a great car and to have the chance to be working with a manufacturer like PROTON is very good news for me. There is some work to do with the car, we know that, but in the short time I have been with the team preparing for Monte Carlo, we have made some big steps forward and I have every confidence that working with Chris [Mellors, team principal] and the whole of PROTON we can really make a very good year in 2011.”

Andersson’s ability as a driver is beyond question; he has won two world titles already, capturing the 2004 and 2007 Junior World Rally Championship crowns with Suzuki. Andersson was also selected to spearhead Suzuki’s first ever assault on the full World Rally Championship in 2008. Last season, he was drafted into the Stobart M-Sport Ford World Rally Team and finished seventh on his maiden outing in a Focus RS WRC.

PROTON Motorsports team principal Chris Mellors is delighted to have secured a double world title winner for 2011. He said:
“Anybody who has seen P-G driving up close can be in no doubt about the kind of speed he is capable of. We’re really looking forward to working with him this season. With Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae confirmed for the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and P-G confirmed for the IRC, we’re looking at a very strong driver line-up through this year. There’s no doubt this is going to be a very exciting season for PROTON Motorsports.”

PROTON Motorsports will enter two Satria Neo S2000s in this year’s IRC and will announce who joins Andersson in the team for the second round of the series (Rally Islas Canarias, April 14-16) in the near future.

Andreas unveils Škoda UK’s 2011 challenger

Posted: January 13, 2011 12:19 PM

Andreas Mikkelsen, glamorously assisted by television presenter Zöe Salmon, has unveiled the Škoda UK Motorsport Fabia S2000 that he’ll drive in this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge at the Autosport International Show today (Thursday 13 January) – and then flew to the south of France for the Rallye Monte Carlo recce.

The unveiling took place on the Škoda UK stand (number 2750, Hall 20) at the NEC – where the full-spec Super 2000 rally car will remain on display until the show ends at 6pm on Sunday.

The new 2011 colour scheme reflects Škoda UK Motorsport’s close association with Škoda Motorsport, but remains loyal to the Milton Keynes-based operation by carrying a distinctive Union Jack on the bonnet and roof.

Andreas will make his competition debut in the car on the Rallye Monte Carlo, which starts in Valence next Wednesday (19 January).

It’s a hectic schedule for the driver and team, but Škoda UK Motorsport was determined to support British motorsport by not only being present at the Autosport International Show, but having its biggest ever stand there too – over twice the size as in 2010.

In addition to the Fabia S2000, a matt black Fabia vRS (reflecting the ‘Made of Meaner Stuff’ campaign), a white Fabia vRS and a 1958 single seater Škoda Spider racing car (celebrating Škoda’s 110th anniversary in motorsport), are also on display.

Visitors to the Škoda stand at the NEC this weekend will also be able to enter a competition to win a high-speed passenger ride with Andreas in the Fabia S2000 rally car!

New livery for factory Skoda Fabias

Posted: January 6, 2011 1:49 PM

Skoda Motorsport has revealed a new livery for its brace of official factory Fabia Super 2000s that will contest the Intercontinental Rally Challenge season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo from January 18-22.

The new design, which has been commissioned to mark Skoda’s 110 years of motorsport participation, will appear on the Fabias of reigning IRC champion Juho Hanninen, from Finland, and his team-mate, the Czech Republic driver Jan Kopecky.

According to the Czech manufacturer, the “new green and white combination is reverse” of the design used during the past two seasons.

Ten Fabia S2000s will be in action on Rallye Monte-Carlo, where Skoda finished second and third last season, 12 months after making its IRC debut on the asphalt event.

In addition to guiding Hanninen to the IRC drivers’ crown in 2010, Skoda also secured the IRC manufacturers’ award for the first time.

Franz Wittmann has to put his plans for next year’s IRC season on hold for now

Posted: December 23, 2010 1:58 PM

Up to the last moment, Franz Wittmann had been hoping for a Christmas miracle regarding a further IRC season. But yesterday it became bitter truth: the first run in Monte Carlo will take place without the Austrian’s participation.

“We had a meeting with the responsible persons at Interwetten to sort things out. Thereby I was unfortunately told that they plan to set different marketing activities next year for business policy reasons. This cancellation creates a budget hole that proves too large to be filled without a main sponsor. I am nevertheless extremely grateful to Interwetten, and especially Wolfgang Fabian, for these two years. This cooperation enabled me to perform rally sports on the highest level and thereby to introduce myself internationally”, explains the youngster.

What the future holds for Franz Wittmann remains to be seen. It is obvious that one will have to withdraw the entry for the season’s premiere in Monte Carlo for the above mentioned reasons.

“From this moment on I will naturally try to find partners who could help me to successfully continue my rally career in some form”, says Wittmann.

REVISED IRC CALENDAR FOR 2011

Posted: December 10, 2010 10:56 PM

A revised calendar for the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge has been presented today by series promoter Eurosport Events, and will start with the centenary edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo from 18-22 January.

Following the announcement of the draft schedule in September, two changes have been made to the list of rallies with a new date for Rally de los Alerces and an all-new event in Ukraine, the Prime Yalta Rally.

**Rally de los Alerces, which will be based in the Argentine city of Esquel, will now take place one week later than originally scheduled, from 11-13 March.

**The Prime Yalta Rally will run on the new date of 2-4 June.

It will mean there will be four new rallies when the IRC celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2011. Along with Rally de los Alerces and the Prime Yalta Rally, the Tour de Corse on the French island of Corsica and Hungary's Mecsek Rallye also represent unchartered territory for the IRC series.

Eurosport Event's Managing Director Géraldine Filiol said:
"We are delighted to confirm this exciting IRC calendar for 2011, which reflects the increasing status of IRC in world motorsport with more and more prestigious rallies joining our series. The addition of four new events to our 2011 schedule will pose an exciting challenge for our competitors and a great spectacle for the fans watching on the stages and at home on television."

Details of the Prime Yalta Rally, an asphalt event, will be announced next week.

PROTON to challenge in FIA Asia-Pacific and IRC series

Posted: December 5, 2010 8:36 PM

PROTON Motorsports will start its 2011 programme of events with next month's Monte Carlo Rally, where regular driver Chris Atkinson will be joined by P-G Andersson.

Two-time FIA Junior World Rally Champion Andersson (Sweden) brings plenty of experience to the PROTON Motorsports, having previously driven for the Suzuki and Ford World Rally Teams.

While confirming its drivers for the January 19-22 Intercontinental Rally Challenge opener, PROTON can also confirm it will contest 10 rounds of the IRC and the full FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship with the Satria Neo S2000.

In addition to Atkinson and Andersson, Scotsman Alister McRae will remain with the Malaysian manufacturer for next season, contesting the APRC series and selected rounds of the IRC.

For now though, all eyes are on the French Alps and the forthcoming Monte Carlo Rally. Next year's rally will be one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the motorsporting calendar as the world's oldest rally celebrates its centenary year. First run in 1911, the 2011 itinerary poses a considerably tougher challenge than it did 100 years ago.

Starting from Valence, in the heart of the Ardeche region, next month's event will take crews through the stages which have built the legend of this rally down the years. And, just when the competitors think the event can't get any tougher, they arrive at the overnight final loop which takes them over the classic Col de Turini - a stretch of road which has caused more than its fair share of upset, intrigue and delight in equal measure. And it's before the passionate and frenzied fans on top of the Turini that PROTON aims to deliver its first result of the season.

PROTON is already building new Satria Neo S2000s for next season, with the test car already heading south for the Alps to start testing with Atkinson and Andersson early next week.

The Monte Carlo Rally is nothing new to both PROTON's drivers, with Australian Atkinson arriving in the principality with three starts and three finishes on an event that's rated among the most difficult in the world. Atkinson has never finished outside the top six and collected a FIA World Rally Championship podium last time out in 2008.

Andersson has also contested the rally three times, taking a strong eighth place on the 2008 event.

Quotes:
Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir (Proton MD) said:
"We are extremely proud to be able to reveal our plans for the 2011 rally programme. This development represents yet more exciting news from PROTON, which celebrates its 25th birthday this year. It's incredible to think how far we have come for such a relatively young company. But this is just the beginning for PROTON. Thanks to the close alliance with MEM in the UK, the rally team will go from strength to strength, embracing the cutting-edge technology which runs through the PROTON road car range.
Competing at such a high level of rallying across the globe offers PROTON the perfect opportunity to showcase its range of road cars. And all of those cars sold to our valued customers contain a little piece of our rallying DNA; the same spirit of performance, expertise and reliability which will undoubtedly carry the Satria Neo S2000 to the greatest of heights next season."

Chris Atkinson said:
"Starting the season with the Monte is awesome. As a rally driver, this is the traditional place where we always start our year. I've always gone well on the event, but it is really tough. Running high in the Alps in January, you never know what's really coming around the next corner: it could be dry asphalt, wet asphalt, snow or ice. It's a massive challenge for the team and the driver, with one of the most important aspects being to get the tyres right. I'm looking forward to continuing my strong record there with PROTON. As for the rest of the year, it's great to have everything sorted out with a really forward-looking team like PROTON. There was definitely a feeling of leaving some unfinished business in the APRC last season, so we'll be back bigger, better and stronger on some of the hottest and toughest rallies in the world next year."

P-G Andersson said:
"It's great to be joining the PROTON team for Monte, I can't wait to get the testing started. It's been a couple of years since I was on this rally the last time, but I have always made good stage times there and it's a rally I like. Of course, the conditions can make it tough, but if you have to gamble with the tyre choice then you can always make some big gains. Drivers tend to like grip from the car, so a dry Monte would be nice, but if we have a lot of snow it's always fantastic to drive in these conditions. For now, we are with PROTON for Monte, but we will be talking straight after the rally to see what is possible for the future. I'm very happy to join a team which is looking forward to a good future in the sport."

Alister McRae said:
"I'm really pleased to be involved with the team for 2011. We showed some great potential through last year and with everything in place, I think we can build on that for next season. The Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is the thrust of the programme for me and going into next year off the back of the first APRC one-two in China is great news for PROTON. I was third in the APRC this year and my priority is to improve on that, hopefully by two places!"

Chris Mellors (Team Principal) said:
"We've had an extremely positive few weeks since the end of our season, with PROTON confirming its significant investment in the car, the team and infrastructure for next season. To have the programme signed off is great news and to have PROTON so thoroughly behind us on this makes for a very exciting year ahead. On a more practical footing, we have already begun our testing for Monte Carlo. Next week, P-G [Andersson] will drive the car for the first time in the Alps, where he will join our other entry for the Monte, Chris Atkinson. We've made some steps this season, but with everything in place for next we're looking to really push the PROTON Motorsports ahead in 2011."

Mikkelsen joins Skoda UK for 2011 IRC campaign

Posted: November 11, 2010 3:36 PM



Andreas Mikkelsen will drive for Skoda UK Motorsport in the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Mikkelsen, from Norway, finished seventh in this season's IRC drivers' rankings at the wheel of an M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000, six points behind outgoing Skoda UK pilot Guy Wilks, who will switch to the rival Peugeot UK operation for 2011.

Aged 21, Mikkelsen is regarded as one of the rallying's brightest prospects. He underlined his potential by finishing second on RACMSA Rally of Scotland in mid-October before winning the inaugural Love Cyprus Golden Stage Rally last weekend.

"I am very happy to be asked to join the Skoda family and to be given this opportunity from Skoda UK to do the 2011 IRC," said Mikkelsen, who was unveiled as a Skoda UK driver at the White Dove Motor Group dealership in Cardiff, UK, earlier today (Thursday). "It is a fantastic new step in my rally career and to be in a Skoda seat with all the experience from Skoda Motorsport. My goal will be in to win the championship in 2011 ? no more, no less."

Ola Floene will continue to co-drive Mikkelsen when the 2011 IRC season gets underway with Rallye Monte-Carlo from 18-22 January.

ŠKODA UK TO CONTINUE IN IRC SERIES IN 2011

Posted: November 4, 2010 9:54 AM

Škoda UK today confirmed that it will contest the 2011 IRC Series, running a Fabia S2000. Building on its impressive debut season, the Skoda UK team will operate as a satellite team with official ties to the Skoda Motorsport factory operation.

Encouraged by positive results on its first season in the IRC, Skoda UK plans to compete in up to 10 rounds of the 2011 series, campaigning the car that recorded more victories than any other in the 2010 championship. Having recorded podium finishes in some of the toughest events on the calendar, Skoda UK is aiming for more silverware in 2011. The season starts in Monte Carlo in January, and will once again feature events in Argentina, Czech Republic, Scotland and Italy.

Robert Hazelwood, Škoda UK Director is eager to continue next season, commenting,
“We had some great results in 2010. Our entry in the IRC has generated a lot of excitement for the brand among our customers, retailers and staff and we’re keen to continue that in 2011. We are proud to be part of the Škoda Motorsport team, as they take the “double” in 2010, with unassailable leads in the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ Championships and we’re looking forward to a strong assault on the top in 2011.”

Škoda UK will announce its driver line-up in the near future.

PEUGEOT UK ANNOUNCES GUY WILKS AS NEW DRIVER FOR 2011 IRC SEASON

Posted: November 4, 2010 9:51 AM

The waiting is over as Peugeot UK announces that Guy Wilks will join the team to drive the Peugeot UK 207 S2000 in next year's IRC rally championship.

One of the "hottest" seats in rallying has now been filled by double British Rally champion Guy Wilks who will join the Kronos supported Peugeot UK team for a full campaign in the 2011 IRC rally championship.

The 2011 IRC Challenge will be contested over twelve rounds starting with the legendary Monte Carlo Rally in January, which will be celebrating its 100th birthday, and finishing in November with the Rally of Cyprus.

Guy started rallying when he was 19 and competed in the Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) and was the British Rally Champion in 2007 and 2008. His first experience in the IRC was in 2009, which led to a drive with Skoda UK in 2010.

Phil Pugh, Guy's co-driver since 2003 will join him on the Peugeot UK team to maintain one of the best partnerships in rallying.

With the 100th Monte Carlo rally less than 12 weeks away it is full steam ahead now for Guy and Phil to start their preparations for the rally. Both Guy and Phil are no strangers to the IRC podium and with the backing of Peugeot UK this trend can only continue.

Guy Wilks said
"We are very excited to be joining Peugeot UK for the 2011 IRC. It was a difficult decision to leave Skoda UK and I am indebted to them for their support in 2010. But the opportunity to drive the Peugeot 207 S2000 for Peugeot UK, with the support of a team like Kronos was too hard to resist. We're highly motivated for 2011 and can't wait for the Monte."

Jon Goodman (Managing Director Peugeot UK) said
"I am delighted to have both Guy and Phil join the Peugeot UK team. We had a difficult year this year but I am sure that together with Kronos we can get back to our winning ways in 2011. Rallying is in the DNA of Peugeot and it is a great way to demonstrate that "Motion and Emotion" work together at Peugeot and rallying shows off the dynamic qualities of our cars and especially the 207. We know we have a winning car, and in Guy and Phil we can also have a winning team."

Peugeot UK to continue in IRC in 2011

Posted: October 1, 2010 7:05 AM

Peugeot UK will continue in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2011. However, Kris Meeke, the 2009 IRC drivers' champion, will no longer form part of the team's line-up after announcing his decision to take up a new challenge away from the series next year.

Peugeot's Director of Communications, Andrew Didlick, said:
"Kris has been a great ambassador for the Peugeot brand and, along with the Peugeot 207 S2000, has surpassed all our expectations when we entered the IRC in 2009. By winning the drivers' title in his first year in the IRC, Kris clearly demonstrated his world class abilities. It's been a non-stop source of excitement having him on board and we wish him every success for the future."

Meeke, who will see out the current IRC season with Peugeot UK, started his career with the manufacturer in 2000 after winning a competition to unearth a future star driver. He rejoined the brand to spearhead Peugeot UK's IRC bid and also helped Peugeot win a third consecutive IRC manufacturers' title in 2009.

The 31-year-old Northern Irishman has scored eight podium finishes for Peugeot UK, including five wins, from the 19 rallies he has contested with the importer.

"I'd like to extend a huge thanks to Peugeot UK for giving me the opportunity in the IRC and for its commitment and support over these last two years," said Meeke.

Peugeot UK will announce details of its IRC programme for 2011 at a later date.

IRC boss excited by calendar changes for 201

Posted: October 1, 2010 7:04 AM

Marcello Lotti, the General Manager of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, has said the inclusion of two new countries, France (Corsica) and Hungary, plus a new event in Argentina on next season's IRC calendar will ensure the series continues to go from strength to strength.

Speaking following the publication of the 2011 IRC schedule, Lotti said: "The IRC continues to go from strength and the addition of two new territories to the calendar, Corsica and Hungary, will ensure the interest and excitement is maintained when the IRC turns five in 2011.

"Both events are unchartered territory for the IRC but both enjoy significant public interest and this will only multiply when they play host to the IRC. We hope that confirmation of these new events plus more groundbreaking live television coverage will be just some of the highlights on offer in next season's Intercontinental Rally Challenge."

Next season's IRC calendar will once again start with the famous Rallye Monte-Carlo and conclude with the Cyprus Rally, which will be run over mixed surfaces.

2011 CALENDAR: EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS FOR THE NEW IRC SEASON

Posted: September 29, 2010 2:35 PM

Eurosport Events, the promoter of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge is pleased to announce the official calendar for the IRC's fifth season in 2011. Starting with the legendary Monte Carlo Rally, the schedule will include two new countries, France (Corsica) and Hungary, plus a new event in Argentina.

Comprising 12 all-action rallies, the 2011 IRC calendar will feature a mixture of gravel and asphalt events in Europe plus a return trip to South America for the new gravel-based Rally de los Alerces (Argentina) in March. However, the most notable development is the addition of the world-famous Tour de Corse to the schedule, and the IRC's first visit to Hungary for the mixed-surface Mecsek Rallye in Pecs, in the south-west of the country.

*The Tour de Corse, affectionately known as the 'Rally of 10,000 Corners', is one of the longest established asphalt events in rallying and runs again after a one-year gap. Crossing the island from Calvi to Ajaccio, the rally is famed for the stern test it subjects both car and crew to.

*Having successfully applied for IRC Supporter Event status, the Mecsek Rallye organisers have always outlined their desire for the event to achieve a higher profile. With the participation of two Hungarian drivers in some of the IRC rounds this year, the popularity of the series in Hungary and Eastern Europe is set to go from strength to strength.

*As in the past two years, the prestigious Rallye Monte-Carlo will open the IRC season. The asphalt event, which is often prone to wintry and changeable weather conditions, will celebrate its 100th anniversary next season. Eurosport, the IRC's international broadcast partner, is set to screen extensive live coverage of the event, one of several IRC rallies the network is due to show live in 2011.

*In addition to IRC mainstays such as the events in Madeira, Sanremo, Ypres and Zlin, the rounds in Azores and Scotland are both back for a third season while Rally Islas Canarias Trofeo El Corte Ingles, which joined the IRC family earlier this season, will also return. The season will end for the second consecutive year with the demanding mixed-surface Cyprus Rally.

"The IRC continues to go from strength and the addition of two new territories to the calendar, Corsica and Hungary, will ensure the interest and excitement is maintained when the IRC turns five in 2011," said the IRC's General Manager Marcello Lotti. "Both events are unchartered territory for the IRC but both enjoy significant public interest and this will only multiply when they play host to the IRC. We hope that confirmation of these new events plus more groundbreaking live television coverage will be just some of the highlights on offer in next season's Intercontinental Rally Challenge."

Magalhaes closes on full IRC campaign in 2011

Posted: September 23, 2010 8:24 AM

Bruno Magalahes is closing on a deal to contest all rounds of next year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge with the Peugeot Sport Portugal operation.

Carlos Barros, the team’s sporting and technical director, said negotiations were underway to secure the finances needed to expand his driver’s current programme of eight events in 2011.

“There’s a strong possibility Bruno will do all rounds next year,” said Barros. “Of course we need to close the budget but things are moving in a good way. It would be a big shame if Bruno could not come back to the IRC after all the experience he has gained this year and the great job he has done. We are working very hard to make it happen because the IRC is the best championship for our team and the coverage we get has made our sponsors very happy.”

Magalhaes, who returns to IRC action on Rallye Sanremo this week, has impressed throughout his maiden season in the series, winning Sata Rallye Acores in July at the wheel of his Peugeot 207 S2000. Sanremo is set to mark the last of his eight planned rallies although Barros is hopeful an agreement can be reached to allow the 30-year-old Portuguese to undertake the recces for the season closing events in Scotland and Cyprus.






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