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France (Alsace) (S A) - 4-7 Oct 12

Posted: November 23, 2016 6:55 AM - 4591 Hits

Round 11 - 2012 World Rally Championship
S - S2000 Championship
A - WRC Academy

LOEB, ELENA AND CITROEN WORLD CHAMPIONS*

Posted: November 23, 2016 6:55 AM

Leaders since Friday morning, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena claimed their eighth win of the season in Strasbourg and the 75th victory of their remarkable career. The result means that they become World Rally Champions for the ninth year running. Also on the podium, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen collected the points required to wrap up the Manufacturers' championship. The Citroen Total World Rally Team has therefore won its eighth world title at this year's Rallye de France.

Although it was much shorter than the previous two days, the final leg of the Rallye de France didn't look like it would be easy going. Rain had fallen throughout the night and continued into the early morning, which eliminated any lingering doubts about tyre choice: both of the Citroen Total World Rally Team's DS3 WRCs set off from the service park fitted with soft Michelin Pilot Sport tyres.

Sebastien Loeb had barely covered a few metres on Vignoble de Cleebourg before he saw just how little grip there was. Following the action intently on the screens showing live onboard and overhead camera footage, Citroen Racing's engineers broke out into a collective cold sweat as they watched the no.1 DS3 WRC flirt with the verge.
"We were aquaplaning a lot and, as there was more and more water on the road, I really took it easy on the last few kilometres. At a push, I don't have to win the rally to secure the championship," admitted the leader.

"This morning's conditions were very similar to those we had at the Rallye Vosgien, which I competed in as preparation for this rally," added Mikko Hirvonen. "I have been really cautious so as not to jeopardise the team's overall result. In normal racing conditions, I think it will be difficult to close the gap to Latvala."

After a regroup held in Haguenau, Sebastien Loeb's home town, the first ten in the overall standings were sent off in reverse order for the last three stages. In sunny but muddy conditions, the second run on Vignoble de Cleebourg counted as the rally's Power Stage with bonus points on offer. Once again, Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen didn't look to set the stage alight, as these points weren't necessary to win the Drivers' title.

Managing their lead until the final stop control on Haguenau 2, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena could finally relax and let go of the tension that had built up during the week:
"This is what we came to do, experience the feelings we enjoyed in 2010 again by winning the world title 'at home'. This year the feeling is even more special, because it is undoubtedly the last one. I drove carefully this morning, but it wasn't very easy due to the weather conditions. Even when it stopped raining, the roads were still extremely muddy. There were two rallies left where I could have won the title, but I'm really very happy to do it here for the fans in Alsace."

Mikko Hirvonen was all smiles after he racked up his eighth podium finish of the season:
"I had already felt the joy of winning the Manufacturers' title in 2007 and I'm excited to experience it again with Citroen. That's the most important thing this weekend, but for me personally, I'm also pleased with the progress I have made on tarmac. I have finished here in the same place as in Germany, but I feel like I have taken several steps forward on this rally. I'm looking forward to checking this in Catalonia, but before that, we are going to celebrate this great achievement!"

Frederic Banzet, Citroen General Manager, was on hand to share the joy of the team:
"Citroen competes in motorsport events in to win, and once again Citroen Racing has shown that it is the best team in the world. The engineers, technicians and crews have all done a fantastic job this season. These successes support the Brand's determined and energetic commercial strategy."

DETERMINATION DELIVERS AS TANAK TAKES POWER STAGE GLORY

Posted: November 23, 2016 6:54 AM

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team's Ott Tanak and Evgeny Novikov showed real composure through the final all-asphalt round of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) this weekend. Showcasing flashes of speed and regularly challenging the more experienced drivers, the pairing finished Rallye de France-Alsace in a creditable sixth and seventh place.

Tanak also made history when he won the coveted Power Stage. Indeed the Estonian is the first genuine privateer ever to claim all three bonus points since the scheme was introduced in 2011.

With over-cautious pacenotes restricting a similar performance to his inspired drive on last month's Rallye Deutschland, Tanak kept his cool as he and co-driver Kuldar Sikk ensured they gained maximum experience from the asphalt tests. Rarely out of the top-ten through the 22 stages, the Estonian regularly matched the more accustomed Tarmac specialists to secure another good result for the M-Sport team.

Despite being disadvantaged without the benefit of a gravel crew, Novikov and co-driver Ilka Minor did well to judge the grip through the first days of competition. Demonstrating some impressive speed, the Russian posted a flurry of encouraging times ? including a second fastest time through SS16 and another that was a full two seconds clear of Sebastien Loeb on the newly-crowed nine-time World Champion's home soil (SS13).

As the rain poured down on the final day at Rallye de France, M-Sport's young guns had to tackle some tricky conditions. With no midday service break between the six stages, the crews had an added challenge. Yet despite being caught out on occasion, the pairing's determination and maturity shone through to deliver yet another strong result.

Losing 15 seconds with a spin on SS18, Tanak recovered well to claim sixth place when an ailing Dani Sordo was forced to retire with power-steering problems.

Getting to grips with the treacherous conditions, the Estonian came alive with a resurgent comeback to secure his first Power Stage win. Claiming victory by 0.9 seconds over Belgian driver Thierry Neuville, a return to his impressive form on Tarmac secured Tanak the additional three World Championship points.

Concluding his accomplished drive with another horde of top-five times, the Estonian brought his Ford Fiesta RS WRC home in sixth and climbs to ninth position in the Drivers' Championship ? just one point behind Sordo in eighth and three adrift of fellow Ford driver Martin Prokop in seventh.

Elsewhere, it was an eventful morning for Novikov ? running wide into a corn field on SS17, and then damaging the bodywork of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC with a spectacular roll on the following test (SS18). Making some temporary repairs to see him through to the end of the morning loop, the ever-determined Russian maintained his position, almost 50 seconds clear of Chris Atkinson in ninth.

Despite the damage, Novikov held his seventh place over the afternoon loop. Following a string of top-ten times, the Russian had the edge over nearest rival Atkinson to secure his position with a 50.8 second advantage. The Muscovite now lies sixth in the Drivers' Championship.

Ott Tanak (6th) said:

"The rally has been quite difficult. It was really hard to find a good rhythm straightaway because this was our first time on Tarmac since Germany with no testing in-between. Also the pacenotes weren't perfect so we didn't always have a lot of confidence going into some of the corners.

"Today was quite tricky with the stages being really wet and muddy ? it was just about making sure we had a clean run through all the stages. That was how we were able to set some good times.

"Of course I am very happy with the Power Stage victory ? again I think this was because we had a really clean run through with no mistakes which was good.

"OK, I am quite sure that I was better in Germany than I was here! The stages through the forest are really fast and if the pacenotes are not quite right, it is difficult to get the feeling. But during the event it got better and all in all I think we have to be happy with what we achieved this weekend."

Evgeny Novikov (7th) said:

"It was very difficult today. The stages were very slippery with a lot of rain and mud on the roads. We rolled on the second stage [SS18] ? in a fast right-hander that tightens towards the end. We carried a lot of speed into the corner and I didn't realise just how slippery it was there. But we were able to get back and finish the rally which is good.

"I think we learnt a lot this weekend and got a lot of experience from all of the stages which is good ? and in the end, the result was not so bad.

"This rally really is a great event. There are a lot of spectators, so thanks to Sebastien [Loeb] for bringing them all out to see us! There are not so many Tarmac events in the calendar, but I have to say that this one is definitely one of my favourites."

Sungkar Takes Victory For DMACK In France

Posted: November 23, 2016 6:53 AM

Indonesian driver Rifat Sungkar put in a solid drive to take victory in the production-based Group N category and the one-make Rally Class series on this weekend's tough Rallye de France. Round 11 of the FIA World Rally Championship proved a stern test with difficult road and weather conditions, but Sungkar used DMACK's DMT-RC asphalt tyre to rise above the opposition.

The event was based in Strasbourg but took competitors into the Vosges mountains in the Alsace region where they were greeted by a real mix of roads and conditions. Some of the asphalt stages wound their way through the hilly region while other narrower, bumpy tests threaded their way through forests. And it was this mix of conditions, and the changing weather, which dominated the event.

Sungkar, along with DMACK's other competitors, used a mix of hard and soft compound DMT-RC tyres to gain maximum grip and traction across the weekend. Although the event started off dry on Friday and Saturday, heavy rain showers left today's roads with standing water and extremely slippery muddy sections. While crews are not permitted to cut tyres, the soft compound was the best option in these treacherous conditions.

DMACK provided control tyres to the one-make Rally Class series, which uses identical production-based Subaru Impreza rally cars, and Sungkar delivered a controlled drive over the weekend to win Rally Class and finish top Group N competitor.

However, the event also delivered some useful technical information for the DMACK development team. With a focus on ongoing evolution and raising performance, DMACK is working hard to deliver improvements across the range. The performance data from world rally events is already starting to filter down to national championships with DMACK driver Darren Gass today crowned Irish Tarmac Champion.

Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
"The world championship throws up extremes in terms of weather, conditions and road surfaces, and it's the perfect platform to prove our products. We are gathering information from every event and this will ensure even more performance improvements for next season ? we've still got significant testing and development plans for the remainder of this year."

VICTORY SEALS THE DEAL FOR EVANS IN FRANCE

Posted: November 23, 2016 6:51 AM

The fifth round of the FIA WRC Academy at Rallye de France Alsace will be one to remember for Elfyn Evans as a fourth successive victory saw the Welshman claim the coveted 2012 FIA WRC Academy crown* in style. With championship rivals subject to misfortune over the weekend's competitive action, a mature drive saw Evans keep his cool to seal the deal with a win over Spain's Jose Suarez in second and John MacCrone who claimed the final podium position in third.

As the longest event on the WRC Academy calendar, and with the championship laurels at stake, Rallye de France was predicted to make history this weekend. And history was indeed made as the sport's latest star emerged victorious.

Moreover, although Evans may have provisionally wrapped up the championship, the fact that seven of the eight competing crews scored a stage win only goes to prove just how competitive the WRC Academy remains.

As the rally kick-started with a new-for-2012 special stage through the streets of Strasbourg, Alastair Fisher took an early lead. With both Evans and Brendan Reeves less than a second adrift, the scene was set for a close-fought battle between the three championship contenders.

Elsewhere however, there was early misfortune for Timo Van der Marel who was forced to accept a time penalty after running wide on a mixture of Pirelli's soft and hard compound tyre through the opening stage. Losing a wheel from his Ford Fiesta R2, the Dutchman was forced to restart under Rally 2 regulations.

Embarking on the first full day of competition, the crews tackled 146 km of stages varying in altitude and character. Evans was soon back in control ? claiming the first two stage wins, the Welshman eked out more than a 30 second lead through the opening loop.

But there was heartache for his championship rivals as Reeves suffered a puncture on SS2 and a season of cruel misfortunes and tortuous bad luck continued for former leader Fisher. Incurring problems with the engine of his Ford Fiesta R2 on SS3, the Northern Irishman was forced to retire from the event ? depriving fans of what was sure to be one of the most intense and exciting battles of the season.

With Fisher's retirement and Reeves' loss of time, Tarmac specialist Suarez was propelled into second position thanks to a string of top-three stage times during the morning action. Claiming a stage win through the first pass of Souitzeren ? Pays Welche, MacCrone was on course to repeat his podium finish in Germany with Swedes Fredrik ?hlin and Pontus Tidemand going well on the unfamiliar surface in fourth and fifth.

Returning for the second pass and the end of day dash through the town of Mulhouse, Evans extended his lead at the head of the field as both Suarez and MacCrone encountered trouble. Losing second gear on SS5, the Scot had to endure the remaining four stages at reduced speed. But as Suarez suffered a puncture on the final test of the day (SS8), the pairing were separated by just nine seconds going into the final day ? leaving the stage set for an ardent battle between the two Tarmac specialists.

Despite the two Swedes encountering some issues ? Tidemand losing time with a loose electrical connection on SS5 and ?hlin going off the road and damaging the windscreen of his Ford Fiesta R2 on SS4 ? the pairing were finding their feet on asphalt and showing some clear improvement from the previous sealed-surface round in Germany.

Recovering from his early puncture, Reeves claimed the stage win on SS8 to propel him back up to fifth. Just 0.7 seconds adrift of a championship point through the final stage, Van der Marel was setting a good pace and gaining confidence after his earlier off.

The final and longest day of competitive rallying was arguably the most challenging with crews tackling a mammoth 192 km of two loops of four identical stages ? including the 43 km of Pays d'Ormont that commands precise pacenotes and total commitment and concentration from the drivers.

However with SS10 and SS12 cancelled, the Academy crews would contest just two of the morning's four stages. As Evans backed off the pace to consolidate his strong lead in the hunt for championship glory, it was the Swedish pairing who impressed. Taking his first stage win on Tarmac, Tidemand collected the bonus championship point through SS11 with ?hlin just 1.3 seconds behind in second.

Embarking on the final four stages, and clearly getting to grips with the art of asphalt rallying, the Swedes impressed once again with another fastest stage time through SS13 for Tidemand and ?hlin claiming the victory on SS14 to leave him just 4.2 seconds adrift of a podium finish.

But disaster was to strike the two Scandinavians on SS15 when an earlier engine problem recurred to haunt Tidemand and a puncture put a sharp end to ?hlin's charge.

A stage win a piece for Suarez and MacCrone ? on SS16 and SS15 respectively ? secured the final two podium positions, but the final glory was to go to Evans whose fourth successive victory secured him the coveted championship laurels.*

With the co-drivers' championship yet to be decided, there will be more to play for as the WRC Academy ? supported by Ford Racing in Europe and with control tyres from Pirelli ? journeys to the season finale in Spain next month.

Elfyn Evans (1st) said:

"Today has gone fine. We have been pretty cautious through the day and certainly through the afternoon we were running at a very safe pace, just to bring it home. We concentrated on keeping it clean and obviously the end result was well worth that!

"I feel absolutely fantastic. To think where we were back in Portugal, and now to turn it around with four wins on the trot is just amazing!

"Everyone has worked so hard and I have to say a big thanks to the whole team and everyone involved."

Jose Suarez (2nd) said:

"We have had a few problems this weekend, but all in all it has been a good rally. I am happy with the second place, but I would have preferred the win!

"This has been a good result for the championship and I think we are in a good position for Spain now.

"Elfyn [Evans] is a very good driver ? he never makes a mistake ? and I am very happy for him today."

John MacCrone (3rd) said:

"It was a good day, the only problem we had was on the long stage [SS14] where we had to stop for a car on fire which cost us about 15 seconds and meant that Fredrik [Ahlin] caught right up to us.

"But we set some good stage times, got a few stages wins, and I'm happy with another podium on Tarmac. It was good to rack up the miles and get some experience of the stages."

Brendan Reeves (4th) said:

"It was a tricky day. We started back in sixth position, trying to claw our way back from the puncture yesterday. But we pushed on and set some really good stage times. Pontus [Tidemand] and I had a really great battle and then Fredrik [?hlin] came in on it as well which was good fun.

"We had a little bit of rain on the last stage [SS16], and I thought it was going to be interesting. But then 500 metres in it was bone dry! We pushed hard to see what we could do but about 10 kilometres in we had a spin and lost about 28 seconds which is why the time maybe wasn't so great.

"We're improving all the time, but it is just not consistent enough yet. We need to be more consistent on the variety of [Tarmac] surface because there are five or six types of roads on one stage here and in the more open stuff we're still not getting it quite right. But we're working on it!"

Fredrik Ahlin (5th) said:

"Today was going very well. We won the long stage [SS14] and we had a bit of a tactic not to go too fast on the first stage so that we could save our speed for the later ones and see how close we could get to John [MacCrone].

"We managed to get within 4.2 seconds of him, but then on SS15 there was a very long flat-left and it was like we hit a curb with the rear wheel and almost spun. I managed to save it but we got a puncture. We drove with it for four kilometres but we were just losing too much time so we had to stop and change it.

"It is a real shame because third position was definitely in sight and it would have been a great result for us after the season we have had! OK, we have proven our speed on Tarmac now, but maybe this year was just not to be."

Pontus Tidemand (6th) said:

"We had some trouble with the engine this morning, but we also secured our first stage wins on Tarmac which was a really good result and really promising for us.

"Then on SS15 the problem with the engine came back and it was cutting out on almost every left-hand corner ? we had to restart the car every time. But this rally has been great experience and I think we have learnt a lot.

"A big congratulations to Elfyn [Evans], he has done a really good job all season. In Spain I think everyone will be flat-out now!"

Timo Van der Marel (7th) said:

"Today has gone pretty well. There is still a bit of a mental issue after our incident on SSS1 ? every stage you are trying to go as fast as you can, but with no fight to give you the extra momentum the times just aren't quite where they should be.

"We had a right-front puncture on SS14 and changed it immediately. I think we hit a rock in a cut which was a bit unfortunate.

"Other than that there were no other mistakes today and we just need to look forward to Spain."

*Subject to the official confirmation of the results by the FIA.

Latvala secures second in France after 'best performance'

Posted: November 23, 2016 6:49 AM

Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila matched their career-best performance on asphalt when they finished second in Rallye de France today. The Ford World Rally Team duo finished just 15.5sec from victory in a Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car, to equal the second place they secured in Germany in August.

Latvala won six speed tests and the 27-year-old Finn described the result as 'my best driving performance on asphalt'. Latvala has won once and twice finished second in the last three rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship to climb to third in the drivers' standings after a tough opening to the 2012 campaign.

Team-mates Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson finished 27th in a similar Fiesta RS WRC. After retiring yesterday following a spectacular accident which felled a telegraph pole and provided huge global coverage on TV and video sharing websites, they restarted today to ease through the final leg.

This 11th round of the 13-rally championship was based in Strasbourg, in the Alsace region of eastern France. Drivers tackled four days of competition covering 404.14km, most of it on slippery roads in the Vosges mountains and muddy lanes in the region's vineyards. Street tests in Strasbourg, Mulhouse and Haguenau provided a contrast and spectacular entertainment for the huge crowds.

Latvala won three special stages during Friday's first full day of action to pile the pressure on leader and Alsace hero Sebastien Loeb. The Ford driver lost 10sec early in the second leg when he briefly slid into a ditch but added another three stage wins. With no realistic chance of victory and no pressure from behind, he drove cautiously through today's rain-soaked final leg to secure second.

"My target was to improve on my performance in Germany and I achieved that," said Latvala. "I made one small mistake yesterday, and when you're trying to beat a nine-time world champion on his favourite surface over his home roads, that's one error too many. But I finished only 15sec behind Loeb so I feel there is just one more step to take. I really want to beat him on asphalt!

"This result has given me great hunger for the final two rallies in Italy and Spain. They are both great events, one on gravel and one on both gravel and asphalt. I feel very motivated to finish the season on a high note," he added.

After initially struggling to find a rhythm, Solberg bounced back to end the first day in fourth. However, he went off the road in the opening kilometres of the second leg, ploughing through dense vines before coming to an abrupt halt against a telegraph pole. Nobody was injured in the incident but the impact damaged the front right of Solberg's Fiesta RS WRC too severely to continue.

With a 40 minute penalty added, the 37-year-old Norwegian eased through today's final leg, comprising six stages and 61.54km north of Strasbourg, to secure manufacturers' points for Ford.

"I enjoyed a good first leg but then the accident happened yesterday," said Solberg. "I had nothing to gain today so I drove for the fans as much as anything. Conditions were difficult and I knew it would be hard to score bonus points in the Power Stage because I started down the order. There was so much mud on the road.

Ford World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson agreed that this was Latvala's best asphalt performance. "He kept the pressure on Loeb until the end and that is something he hasn't been able to do previously. The pace of the Fiesta RS WRC was there for all to see ? it was a very strong display from both driver and car," he said.

Ford Racing senior manager Gerard Quinn said:
"In my opinion this was Jari-Matti's best performance on asphalt. His pace and commitment were fantastic and it was great to see him on the podium. Petter had a difficult rally but his accident yesterday provided the WRC with the best global TV coverage of the season! I would also like to congratulate Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena on retaining their title."

News from other Ford teams

Adapta World Rally Team's Mads ostberg / Jonas Andersson finished fifth, one of the Norwegian driver's best asphalt results. M-Sport Ford World Rally Team's Ott Tanak / Kuldar Sikk won the inter-team battle with Evgeny Novikov / Ilka Minor to finish sixth. Tanak also claimed maximum bonus points by winning the Power Stage. Novikov was seventh after losing almost three minutes when he rolled this morning, while Martin Prokop / Zdenek Hruza were ninth in the Czech Ford National Team car. French pair Julien Maurin / Nicolas Klinger claimed 13th, but Brazil World Rally Team's Daniel Oliveira / Carlos Magalhaes retired today after going off the road and damaging his car's suspension.

Elfyn Evans / Phil Pugh won the penultimate round of the Ford Racing-supported FIA WRC Academy. Evans' victory at the wheel of a Fiesta R2 was his fourth consecutive triumph and guaranteed the Welshman the Academy title* with one round remaining.

Next round

The penultimate round of the series in Italy marks the final all-gravel event of the championship. Rally Italia Sardegna is based in Olbia, on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, on 18 - 21 October.

Results

Posted: November 23, 2016 6:47 AM

1 Loeb / Elena Citroen DS3 WRC 3:32:53.0B
2 Latvala / Anttila Ford Fiesta RS WRC +15.5
3 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citroen DS3 WRC +44.1
4 Neuville / Gilsoul Citroen DS3 WRC +1:07.3
5 ostberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1:16.4
6 Tanak / Sikk Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2:27.9
7 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5:51.6
8 Atkinson / Prevot Mini JCW WRC +6:42.4
9 Prokop / Hruza Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8:46.8
10 Chardonnet / de la Haye Citroen DS3 WRC +8:59.7

Prodrive targeting podium after test

Posted: October 2, 2012 11:17 AM

Prodrive WRC Team principal, Dave Wilcock, believes that Dani Sordo can achieve his second podium of the year this week in France, following a successful pre-event test in Alsace today.

Last year, Sordo led Rally France after day one and missed out on both his and MINI's first WRC victory by just six seconds. In Germany five weeks ago, Sordo was on course for a podium before an unlucky split wheel rim deflated the tyre and effectively put him out of contention.

Wilcock said: "In Germany we showed that Dani and the MINI has the pace to compete at the head of the field. Dani particularly likes the faster flowing, high speed stages we find here around Strasbourg and with the important benefit of now having a gravel notes crew, he will have the extra confidence to really push the car. In Germany it was often difficult for him to really commit without the updated notes."

Since Rally Germany, the team has introduced a new engine software calibration and enhanced the gear cut to improve shift speeds.

Sordo said: "It's the first time I have driven the car with these changes, but it feels much better and stronger. I am also really pleased the FIA has agreed all WRC cars can have gravel notes. I am sure the times will be close this week, so every little bit of time we can find will help."

World Touring Car champion, Yvan Muller, will drive the second MINI WRC. The Frenchman spent 60km behind the wheel of his car at Prodrive's proving ground in Warwickshire last week.

"Of all the rallies Yvan could compete on, then I would say that France or Spain, would best suit him," said Wilcock. "I both rode in the car with him and watched him drive last week and you could see him steadily adapting his driving style to suit the MINI's four wheel drive chassis. I'm sure that after a few stages to settle in, he will be regularly setting top ten times and against the best rally drivers in the world that would be quite an achievement."

In France there will be five MINI John Cooper Works WRCs, with Motorsport Italia running cars for Chris Atkinson and Paulo Nobre while French racing driver Romain Dumas will be run by Automeca. All the teams will be based next to each other in the service park.

Breen/Nagle ready for French SWRC fight

Posted: September 30, 2012 3:53 PM

A rejuvenated Craig Breen takes on SWRC France next weekend with new confidence. The current FIA WRC Academy Champion is back in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship title fight after his victory on Wales Rally GB three weeks ago.
"Rally GB has given me a huge amount of confidence and our win has put us right back in the championship battle." said the Irishman as he looks ahead to the penultimate round of the season. Breen's win lifted him to joint second in the overall standings, level with Hayden Paddon and just eight points off class leader, P-G Andersson.

As we now reach the penultimate event of the season, P-G Andersson (Sweden) tops the table with 76 points. In joint second place Craig and Hayden Paddon (New Zealand) are both on 69.

Preparing for next week’s Strasbourg based event, Craig said
“Our win in Wales was the only result that would have given us any hope going into the final two rounds and with P-G and Hayden failing to score significant points, it’s all to play for in France."

Based on the outskirts of Strasbourg, Rallye de France sees the championship return to tarmac for round seven of the SWRC season. In total the rally will consist of 22 stages over a competitive distance of 404.14 kilometres, an increase of 20 per cent compared to 2011.

Talking about his chances, Craig said,
“We’re back on tarmac but it’s a tough rally. The nature of the stages allow for a lot of dirt to be dragged out making conditions difficult and of course the weather will play a factor. I competed on the event last year in the (WRC) Academy and having that experience will be an advantage. We also have last year’s (pace) notes but they will need to be adjusted to the speed of the S2000 car. I did win on the Monte but P-G was very unlucky. It’s Hayden’s first tarmac event of the season but he’s a great driver and I expect him to be quick. I can only drive my own rally and for sure will be giving my all for the win.”

FORMER PIRELLI STAR DRIVER AIMS TO EXTEND ACADEMY LEAD

Posted: September 30, 2012 3:52 PM

Former Pirelli UK Star Driver Elfyn Evans is eager to extend his 35-point lead over Australia’s Brendan Reeves when the penultimate round of the Pirelli-backed WRC Academy takes place in Strasbourg next week (4-7 October).

Rally de France Alsace will mark the second all-asphalt round of the WRC Academy calendar and is an event that requires high levels of concentration due a mix of narrow and fast road conditions, as well as constantly changing road surfaces. Based in the city of Strasbourg, north-west France, the three-day rally uses stages close to Haguenau: the home of eight-time world rally champion, Sebastien Loeb, and Colmar: a town which houses the world’s largest replica of the Statue of Liberty.

The fifth round of this year’s WRC Academy will challenge 10 young drivers over 16 special stages and Pirelli will be on hand to supply the crews with its highly competitive RX5 and RE7 asphalt tyres.

The RX family of tyres is among the most versatile in Pirelli’s competition range thanks to a lightly grooved tread pattern, a square profile and a particularly rigid structure. These characteristics help steering precision and provide a rapid response, while maintaining the strength and durability to cope with prolonged high speeds and longer stages. The RX5 will be used in dry conditions with the RE7 available in the event of cold and damp conditions.
Following an outstanding season so far including three back-to-back victories, former Pirelli Star Driver Elfyn Evans is leading the six-round WRC Academy by 35 points. Evans is also leading his home championship: the Pirelli-supported British Rally Championship but has elected to skip the closing round this weekend due to his WRC Academy commitment.
Proving the success of the prestigious Pirelli Star Driver programme, former Pirelli-backed driver Brendan Reeves is second in the standings. The 23-year-old Australian has enjoyed a superb season having claimed four top four finishes. Only 10 points behind Reeves is Briton Alastair Fisher who took the spoils on the championship’s opening round in Portugal and who will be feeling extra confident having won last year’s WRC Academy round in France.

Spaniard Jose Suarez is currently fourth in the standings, three points clear of Swede Pontus Tidemand, who rounds off the top five.

Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery commented:
“With uncertain weather quite common in Alsace at this time of year, Rallye de France will be a tough test for our Academy drivers. We have the same tyre selection as we did for the previous round in Germany but this time conditions should be more inconsistent. France is a rally that is won by using the head as much as the right foot but the versatility of the RX tyre in particular means that the drivers will retain optimal levels of control despite the unpredictability of the surfaces. The WRC Academy is all about finding champions of the future, which is a key priority for Pirelli underlined by our GP2 and GP3 campaigns in circuit racing: the feeder series for Formula One. In the same way, we hope that the experience the WRC Academy drivers gain of running on our tyres and making the right decisions about how to use them will prepare them effectively for the very top of the sport.”

NEUVILLE AND AL-ATTIYAH TAKE ON THE CHALLENGE IN ALSACE

Posted: September 30, 2012 3:43 PM

Continuing their season of new experiences, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Citroen Junior World Rally Team) and Nasser Al- Attiyah/Giovanni Bernacchini (Qatar World Rally Team) will be competing at the Rallye de France-Alsace in their Citroen DS3 WRCs. Faced with an extremely talented field and an itinerary renowned for being difficult, the two crews will be aiming to secure a top 10 finish.

Since it first appeared on the WRC calendar in 2010, the Rallye de France-Alsace has gone on to become one of the championship's unmissable events. Based in Strasbourg, the French round of the WRC attracts several hundred thousand fans, most of whom are there to support the local hero, Se?bastien Loeb! In a region with longstanding ties with the PSA group – which produces DS5s at its Sochaux plant – Citroen is also extremely popular with the local crowds. In addition to the stages that have now achieved legendary status such as Pays d’Ormont, Valle'e de Munster or Vignoble de Cleebourg, the route of the 2012 Rallye de France also features a few new tests, such as the Soultzeren/Pays Welche or Pays de la Haute Bruche stages. The roads in Alsace and the Vosges are very quick and often slippery, providing the crews with genuinely challenging conditions.

Competing in the no.8 DS3 WRC, Thierry Neuville has already enjoyed some success at this event. In 2010, the Belgian claimed a podium finish in the JWRC in his C2 Super 1600. After his flawless performance in Wales, the Citroen Junior World Rally Team driver hopes to match his result in the Wales Rally GB here in France.
“You have to look at this season as a whole, with a series of steps to be taken to make progress,” he explained. “In Wales, the team told me not to worry about times and to try and complete the rally without making the slightest mistake. I know that I wasn’t always on the pace of the leaders, but I still set some good times on the stages where I felt the most at ease. In France, my aim will be to do the same thing... but do a little better. I’d be pleased if I could get close to the level of performance I enjoyed at the Rallye Deutschland, without overstepping the limits.”

Although Nasser Al-Attiyah has also competed once before in Alsace – last year – the Qatari doesn't have such fond memories of the event.
“I lost a lot of time on SS1, after going off into a ditch. We ended up retiring soon afterwards due to a mechanical problem, so I can’t say I know this rally particularly well,” explained Nasser. “I expect the rally to be complicated, much the same as the Rallye Deutschland. It’s very difficult for me to find the right pace on the first few stages. With the advice of the team, I know that gradually I can make progress. I’ll have the same aim as ever in France: I want to gradually gather momentum whilst covering as many miles as possible.”

Currently eighth and eleventh in the Drivers’ World Championship standings, Thierry and Nasser would love to improve their points tally with three rounds remaining this season. Both of their respective teams are in contention for fourth place in the Manufacturers' standings.

Citroen Racing Technologies will be entering additional Citroen DS3 WRC for Sebastien Chardonnet/Thibaut de la Haye. After beginning the season in a DS3 R3, the FFSA French team’s crew will be aiming to showcase their talents at the highest level in world rallying.

CITROEN SETS ITS SIGHTS ON TWO TITLES

Posted: September 30, 2012 3:38 PM

Held for the third time this year in Alsace and the Vosges, the Rallye de France should see the Citroe?n Total World Rally Team enjoy great support from the home crowds. As was the case in 2010, Loeb and Elena return to Seb’s native region with a chance of being crowned World Champion there. Given that their team-mates, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, are the only ones standing between them and a ninth consecutive title, everyone in the team is in a very relaxed mood. A strong overall performance would also enable Citroe?n to win its eighth Manufacturers’ title, so the stakes are high for this home round!

Ever since it moved to Alsace in 2010, the Rallye de France has enjoyed a level of popularity that compares favourably with the enthusiasm generated by the WRC in Argentina, Mexico, Finland or Spain. Several hundred thousand fans looked on as Se?bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena won the first edition and with it, their seventh world title. Forced out of the rally prematurely last year, the crew returns this year highly determined to add to their tally of 74 wins.

“Like the fans who turned out to support me, I was disappointed to retire last year, but that kind of thing is also part and parcel of racing,” confirmed Seb. “I feel that there’s some sort of revenge to be had! This year, we can secure the outcome of both championships. In the Drivers’ championship, there is only Mikko and me that can win the title. Obviously, I’d prefer it if I won and I’m going be trying very hard to do just that. The maths isn’t very complicated, as I will win the title if I finish ahead of my team-mate next weekend. Just like the other rounds, this rally has specific features that give the event its complexity. However, even with the artificial chicanes that you sometimes find on the itinerary, the stages are among the quickest that we have ever completed. The constant changes in road surface make the tarmac difficult to ‘read’ and the work of the gravel crews is essential given that the road can become very dirty between the two runs. Especially if it rains...”

Rain, fog, the racing line made slippery by mud: Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are all the more familiar with these factors following their winning performance at last weekend’s Rallye Vosgien. “It was a great learning experience for me. I don’t think I have ever driven in such difficult conditions on tarmac,” admitted the Finn.
“We tested different set-ups to adapt the DS3 WRC to the road conditions, which varied between being wet, drying and totally dry.”

Third in Germany at his first ‘proper’ tarmac rally in the Citroe?n, Mikko believes he is gradually improving:
“Although it is not my favourite surface, I like tarmac and I can’t wait to compete in the Rallye de France! In Germany, gradually I understood how to change my driving style to suit the characteristics of the DS3 WRC. I made even more progress last week, so we’ll see where how far I have come. To be honest, I'm not thinking about the Drivers' title at all. Seb has ?been as strong as ever this year and he has such a big lead that I don’t see how I can beat him in normal racing conditions. My goal is to continue to improve and score the points needed by Citroe?n to win the Manufacturers’ World Championship.”

In order to be crowned World Champion after this rally, Se?bastien Loeb will need to hold onto 56 of his 61-point lead over Mikko Hirvonen. In the Manufacturers’ championship, the Citroe?n Total World Rally Team needs to maintain a lead of over 86 points, compared with its 111-point lead ahead of the French round of the WRC. THREE QUESTIONS FOR... SE?BASTIEN LOEB

Citroe?n Racing outlined plans for its future in motorsport in an announcement at the 2012 Paris Motor Show. So, you are not intending to defend your title next year?
“I have been asked about it so many times, so it had to happen eventually! It wasn’t an easy decision to take. On the one hand, I have to admit that I am little tired of the schedule imposed by the World Rally Championship. What with the test sessions, reconnaissance and the various other things, I spend a lot of time away from my family. Having said that, I still love driving and winning. This season seems to show that I still have the pace, but I didn't want to stop after competing in one season too many either. I'll still be around in 2013, but not as consistently as now, competing at rallies that I like and which are important for Citroe?n. I couldn’t not include the Rallye Monte-Carlo in my diary, so I’ll be starting the season on January 15 along with everyone else!”

The Brand has also announced that it is considering entering the WTCC with you. Who decided that you should go down that road?
“In the last few months, I have held lots of discussions with Fre?de?ric Banzet1 and Yves Matton2. Over the last ten years, I could have taken up offers to go elsewhere, but I have always preferred to stay with the team that gave me my chance. When we started talking about the role of ambassador that I might have in the future, I quickly felt that I would need an active role to feel completely satisfied. Given that I wanted to pursue my career in track racing, we came up with this idea together. After considering the various racing categories, the WTCC emerged as the best option. There are still a number of variables and imponderables in the equation, but I am excited about the prospect of competing in this championship.”

Before all that, there is the small matter of the upcoming Rallye de France. Many people think it will be a mere formality...
“Well, they couldn’t be more wrong! Our rivals showed in Wales that they were more than capable of matching us, although I think we should be quicker than them on tarmac. But first and foremost, we’ll have to contend with the itinerary itself! There are some stages that we know very well, and others that are new and we'll have to get to grips with. If it rains, I think the race could be very complicated, with some very tough tyres choices to make. I’ll be going for the win and the world title, but nothing can be taken for granted before the finish...”

NOVIKOV AND TÄNAK TAKE TO THE VOSGES

Posted: September 30, 2012 3:36 PM

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tänak will be out to impress once again as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) travels to the 11th round of the season in France next week. The duo have shown some impressive speed over the course of the year and will be looking to replicate their previous successes with a strong result at the 2012 Rallye de France Alsace.

Based around the border-city of Strasbourg, Rallye de France forms the final all-asphalt round of the season with crews tackling 404.14 km of competitive stages through the Vosges Mountains. The fast and narrow country lanes are littered with cuts and technically challenging corners that demand perfect precision and total commitment from the drivers. The M-Sport duo will also have to have their wits about them as they contend with the likelihood of inclement weather having the potential to make the stages perilously slippery and tyre choice vital.

But with Novikov on a high from his best ever finish on the previous round in Wales and Tänak boasting an impressive track record on the French event, the pairing will be well placed for a good result.

Following his sixth place finish at Wales Rally GB earlier this month, Novikov will be looking for another strong result next week. Despite a string of misfortune on last year’s event, the Muscovite set some competitive times behind the wheel of his ALM Russia supported Ford Fiesta RS WRC and will be looking to put the experience gained into good practice. After establishing a good relationship in Wales, Austrian Ilka Minor will once again be reading the notes as Novikov’s regular co-driver Denis Giraudet continues his rehabilitation following injuries incurred to his back in Finland earlier this year.

Celebrating his 22nd birthday last week, Novikov remains one of the youngest and most promising talents in the sport and, despite missing out on a pre-event test, will be out to challenge the top-runners once again.

Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk have had an impressive string of results in the Vosges since the region first played host to the French round of the WRC in 2010. Contesting the event for the first time two years ago, the Estonian clinched second place in the P-WRC and a creditable 19th place overall. Returning as part of the S-WRC in 2011, Tänak did one better – dominating the event with a victory of over two and a half minutes which also saw the 24-year-old secure 11th place overall behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta S2000.

Making his debut on the event with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC next week, Tänak has been continuing his training and will be hoping to replicate the strong performance he showed on the WRC’s previous asphalt outing in Germany where he secured two stage wins and was running in a strong fourth place.

Evgeny Novikov said:
“I am feeling very good ahead of this event. I like the rally a lot and it will be good to have Ilka [Minor] back in the car as we worked well together [in Wales].

“The stages can be very quick and twisty in places, but really it is an [asphalt] event that has a bit of everything!

“I am sure we will be fine. I am feeling good, and I hope we can get a good result. As usual we will just try to do our best and see how we go.”

Ott Tänak said:
“The feeling is pretty good ahead of this event. In Germany we had a really good feeling on Tarmac so I hope we can do the same and set some good times [in France]. I have done this event two times before and we have always gone quite well here, so the confidence should be OK.

“The stages through the forests can get quite dirty and there are quite a lot of cuts in places but they are really enjoyable to drive – really fast in places and a lot of fun. Of course they are always easier when the weather is dry, and if it does rain I think the event could be quite tricky with much more mud and gravel being pulled onto the stages.

“For us, we will just do our best as usual and hopefully we can get a good result for the team.”

FIA WRC ACADEMY CREWS READY FOR THE FIGHT IN FRANCE

Posted: September 30, 2012 3:33 PM

As the FIA WRC Academy crews embark on the second asphalt round of the season next week, Rallye de France Alsace is poised to be one of the most closely-fought to date. With championship leader Elfyn Evans capable of mathematically winning the championship*, the Welshman will face stiff competition from his nearest rivals as well as a number of Tarmac specialists hungry for victory.

Based in the border-city of Strasbourg, the rally route through the Vosges Mountains is far removed from the open military ranges and broken Tarmac synonymous with the previous round in Germany. Having to adopt a different style, competitors will tackle 342 km through narrow country lanes interspersed with flat-out speed tests. With tricky corners that require total commitment and supreme precision, the WRC Academy crews will have to be on top of their game from the city-centre start on Thursday to the close of play on Saturday evening.

Championship leader Elfyn Evans will be hoping to seal the coveted championship crown* next weekend, and having piloted the Ford Fiesta R2 to its most impressive finish in a FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) event when he secured 16th place overall on the event last year, few would bet against him. Partnered by Phil Pugh, the Welshman has elected not to contest the final round of the British Rally Championship this weekend – forfeiting his chance to battle for the national crown in favour of being fully prepared for the Academy’s penultimate round. After securing the championship laurels in the Fiesta SportTrophy UK series last month, Evans was rewarded with a ride in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC and one-to-one tuition from Ford World Rally Team’s Jari-Matti Latvala and will be hoping that the Finn’s expert advice holds him in good stead as he tackles what could be the biggest event of his career.

Swapping the steering wheel for the commentator’s microphone, Brendan Reeves has spent the time since Rallye Deutschland putting his media skills to the test. The Australian travelled to Rally Barum to conduct stage end interviews for iRally before joining the Rally Live team for the tenth round of the WRC in Wales. Reeves also attended the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy’s final session in Sachsenring and co-driver Rhianon Smyth – who is incidentally leading the Co-driver standings – has been working hard to secure the budget for the brother-and-sister pairing to complete a pre-event test ahead of the French event.

Having secured his maiden WRC Academy win at Rallye de France last year, Alastair Fisher is well versed in what it takes to win on the narrow asphalt roads around Strasbourg and will be a strong contender for the victory as he looks to get his championship campaign back on track. The Northern Irishman contested Wales Rally GB as a guest driver in the S-WRC earlier this month and, partnered by regular co-driver Dan Barritt in an M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta S2000, the youngster showed some impressive speed to keep in touch with 2011 FIA WRC Academy champion, Craig Breen. Fisher will be looking to clinch the victory next week and bring the title fight to the season finale in Spain.

After securing his best result of the year in Germany last month, Tarmac specialist Jose Suárez will be looking to do one better in France as he and co-driver Candido Carerra hunt down their first WRC Academy win. The Spaniard will contest Rallye Villa de Llanes as part of the Spanish Tarmac Championship this weekend and will be hoping the added competitive seat time gives him the edge as he contests the final all-asphalt round ahead of his home-coming at the season finale in Spain. Claiming second place on the event last year, Suárez is another driver who knows just what it takes to shine on the French stages.

The break between rounds four and five has been a busy one for Pontus Tidemand. As well as attending the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy’s final session – in which he and Porsche Carrera Cup driver Jonas Gelzini won the final kart-race – the Swede joined forces with fellow Even Rally supported driver Andreas Mikkelsen, acting as the Škoda UK driver’s weather crew at the Barum Rally in the Czech Republic. Rejoined by regular co-driver Stig Rune Skjæmoen, Tidemand also contested Rallye Vosgien last week and travels to Belgium to contest the East Belgium Rally this weekend. The youngster will be hoping the added running on Tarmac sees him well prepared for the round on his least preferred surface.

Following a strong showing on asphalt last time out in Germany, John MacCrone will be looking to prove his worth once again in France. Impressing rally fans around the world with his performance on Tarmac, the Scot was leading the event until he bent the rear beam of his Ford Fiesta R2 which put an untimely halt to his leading charge. Despite losing over a minute to the leaders, MacCrone and co-driver Stuart Loudon recovered well to claim the first podium of the year for Rally Team Scotland. Working on his fitness and pacenotes ahead of the penultimate round of the season, the Scot will be well placed for a podium and will be a strong favourite for a class victory when he contests his home-event at the Tunnock’s Mull Rally the following week.

Narrowly missing out on a podium in Germany, Timo van der Marel and co-driver Erwin Berkhof will be hungry for a taste of Champagne next week. The Dutchman has had a busy few weeks since Rallye Deutschland – attending the final session of the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy and contesting the Conxion Omloop van Vlaanderen Rally in Belgium to prepare for the narrow asphalt roads of Rallye de France. Van der Marel also participated in Gymkhana Grid Europe when the series visited his native Holland. Claiming second place, the Dutchman has qualified for the finale in the UK where he will be rubbing shoulders with the hoonigan himself, Ken Block.

Elsewhere, when not behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R2, Fredrik Åhlin has been continuing his work as a driver trainer with Audi and is currently in the UK putting the Audi R8 through its paces at Silverstone. With help from his sponsor, TrainingPartner, Åhlin also completed an asphalt test ahead of Rallye de France on a newly built track close to Stockholm Arlanda airport and he and co-driver Morten Erik Abrahamsen will be hoping the added training translates their clear speed into some strong points on the penultimate round of the season.

With a whole host of drivers capable of claiming victory on the thrilling mix of forest, mountain and vineyard stages that make up the fifth round of the season, the WRC Academy – supported by Ford Racing in Europe and with control tyres from Pirelli – is once again set to provide some of the most competitive rallying in the field.

Elfyn Evans (GBR) said:
“For me, the championship is still wide open – anything can happen and there are a lot of quick guys in the field. We won’t be thinking too much about the championship on the rally itself, it will be just be about doing a good job and getting through the stages. We will just have to see where we are at the midday point and judge our pace and approach from there really.

“We did France last year and got a really good result so hopefully we will have another good run this year. I really enjoy the stages but last year it was totally dry. OK, there was quite a bit of dirt and gravel that was pulled onto the stages, but if it rains this year I think we could be in for a really tricky event. It really will be anybody’s game!”

Fredrik Åhlin (SWE) said:
“The feeling is pretty good ahead of this event. OK, our championship campaign is over and we have not had the best of luck this season, so this rally will be all about trying to regain some confidence.

“Of course I am more comfortable on gravel, but I feel that I have really improved my performance on Tarmac. We set some good times towards the end of this rally last year, and I hope we can do the same again this year.

“For us, the most important thing will be to finish and complete all of the stages with no problems. But once we have found our rhythm, we can certainly try and push a little more and just have some fun!”

*Subject to the official confirmation of the results by the FIA.

DMACK Continues Asphalt Progression In France

Posted: September 30, 2012 3:32 PM

The DMACK team travels to France for next week’s Rallye de France in search of another strong result after a successful asphalt outing on Rallye Deutschland five weeks ago. The Strasbourg-based event will host round 11 of the FIA World Rally Championship and is expected to attract a phenomenal turn-out of rally-mad spectators.

While it has been a busy week with lots of exciting developments for the 2013 world series, DMACK has also been busy strengthening its programme for next year. And this weekend’s action will again deliver another important assessment of the British brand’s asphalt development.

DMACK will provide its DMT-RC tyre in both hard and soft compounds for crews in France. The E-marked tyre should be well-suited to the mixed-surface roads, which make up one of the newest additions to the world rally championship, after having performed well on similar surfaces in Germany.

P1 and P2 competitors will be allowed to use a maximum of 30 tyres from an allocation of 24 hard and 20 soft tyres. P3 crews can use a maximum of 25 tyres from a pool of 20 hard and 16 soft.

DMACK continues to supply the one-make Rally Class series, which has its fourth round in France, and crews will be limited to a total of 20 tyres as per the series’ specific regulations to help reduce costs and enhance competition.

Crews will race across a real mix of road surfaces next week. The Alsace region hosts some challenging tests for drivers with narrow, uneven forest roads mixed with fast, smooth asphalt stages through the countryside. There will even be some vineyard stages and no less than three super specials to whet the appetite of the huge numbers of fans that are expected.

But the biggest challenge for competitors and tyre manufacturers will be making the correct tyre choice in the unpredictable weather conditions. Accurate road and weather information will almost certainly be vital in deciding victory.

Outside of the world rally championship, DMACK driver Darren Gass will be hoping to seal victory in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship next weekend. He has a commanding lead going into the final round at the Cork 20 International Rally in Ireland.

Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
“The challenge, events and competition provided by the world rally championship has really helped DMACK in its ongoing technical development and strive for ongoing improvement in performance. We’ve made significant strides with our asphalt compounds this year and are hoping next weekend’s event will continue that positive theme.”

Event Details

The rally is again based at Strasbourg’s Zénith concert arena and features a new street stage, which finishes outside the European Parliament, to kick off the action on Thursday afternoon. Friday’s route takes crews to mountain stages near Colmar for two loops of three stages before another street stage through Mulhouse. Saturday provides a mammoth 192km including two runs through the 43km Pays d’Ormont test while Sunday sees the weekend come to a close with the Power Stage through Sebastien Loeb’s home town of Haguenau.

Ford keen to carry momentum into Alsace asphalt adventure

Posted: September 30, 2012 3:28 PM

The final all-asphalt round of the FIA World Rally Championship season in France next week allows Ford World Rally Team the opportunity to further improve its sealed-surface performance. Twelve months after the squad first showed the Fiesta RS World Rally Car’s pace on its least-favoured surface at Rallye de France, the team returns eager to build on a series of podium results.

After leading Rallye Monte-Carlo in January before securing third with Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson, Ford held a comfortable second and third during Rallye Deutschland last month before Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila eventually claimed a career-best second.

This year’s Rallye de France (4 - 7 October) provides a tougher challenge. The Alsace-based event, round 11 of 13, contains almost 70km more action than in 2011 and nearly half the competitive distance is new. Strasbourg, nestled on the German border between the Vosges mountains to the west and the Black Forest to the east, remains the rally hub for a third year.

The Vosges feature strongly in the route as the opening two legs take in speed tests there. The roads vary hugely, blending narrow and bumpy sections through forests with fast and wide parts where speeds top 200kph. In contrast, vineyard tracks and three street venues in the regions towns and cities offer a totally different challenge.

As always on asphalt, accurate tyre selection will play a huge part. A combination of early autumn and the unpredictability of the weather in the mountains means rain is a distinct possibility. Precise forecasting from Ford’s weather experts and data on conditions from the team’s route note crews, who drive the special stages before the competitors, will be vital in picking the correct tyre compound.

Latvala prepared for the rally with a day’s single-seater race car training from sports car and ex-Indy Car driver Didier André at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit in France on Wednesday. André, who finished fourth in the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours, worked with Latvala on braking and driving lines before the Finn journeyed to Alsace for a two-day test in a Fiesta RS WRC, which ends tomorrow.

“The weather was mixed which meant I had the advantage of driving on both dry weather slick tyres and wet rubber,” explained 27-year-old Latvala. “I was happy about that because I had to adapt my usual driving line in the rain and that’s something I can use in rallying. When you come across a ‘black top’ shiny surface in stages, you must take a different line to avoid it.”

Latvala, who finished fourth in 2010 and 2011, starts the rally full of confidence after victory in Britain earlier this month and second in Germany in the previous round.
“Good results provide confidence and I had strong speed in France last season. I would like to challenge for the top placing. I’m a realist and know how hard that will be on asphalt, but that’s the target,” he said.

“The stages are a mix, quite similar in that respect to the rally in Germany, but the characteristics don’t change as much. There are long corners in the mountains while the French vineyards are wider than those across the border and follow more of a natural line. They’re generally quite grippy and set-up is always a compromise for the different types of road,” added Latvala.

Solberg has a Rallye de France win to his name, having triumphed in 2003 when the event was based on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. His best result in Alsace is third in 2010.

“The roads are quite fast and the surface is good, so tyre wear won’t really be a problem,” said the 37-year-old Norwegian.
“The only issue surrounding tyres is understanding the weather and ensuring we make the correct compound choice. It’s not easy, but if conditions are changeable the right tyre options can make the difference between winning and losing here.

“Our speed on the previous asphalt round in Germany was strong. I expected the car to be fast, and it was. I hope we can maintain that progress and be faster still in France to give the fans something to cheer. The crowds have been huge since the rally moved to Strasbourg. There’s a great atmosphere surrounding the event and that’s something that I certainly feel,” added Solberg.

Team News

* Michelin’s Pilot Sport asphalt tyres will be used by the Ford drivers and will be available in hard compound for dry conditions and soft compound for wet or cold weather. Each driver has an allocation of 24 hard and 20 soft tyres, and can use a maximum of 25 during the rally. Teams are not allowed to hand-carve additional cuts into the tyres and each car can carry two spare wheels.

* Six privately-entered crews have also entered Fiesta RS WRCs. Ott Tänak / Kuldar Sikk and Evgeny Novikov / Ilka Minor are nominated by M-Sport Ford World Rally Team. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson represent Adapta World Rally Team and Martin Prokop / Zden?k Hr?za crew the Czech Ford National Team car. Daniel Oliveira / Carlos Magalhaes have been entered by Brazil World Rally Team while French duo Julien Maurin / Nicolas Klinger will drive in their home round.

* The rally also incorporates the fifth and penultimate round of the Ford Racing-supported FIA WRC Academy. Eight young drivers will campaign identical Fiesta R2 cars over the opening two legs of the main event. The series is led by Elfyn Evans / Phil Pugh.

Rally Route

The rally is again based at Strasbourg’s Zénith concert arena but has undergone big changes. The action covers four days, the competitive distance is almost 20 per cent longer and nearly 44 per cent of the stages are new, including two previously-unused tests. A new street stage in Strasbourg, which finishes outside the European Parliament, starts the action on Thursday afternoon. The opening two legs have been switched from 2011, so the first full day heads deep into the Vosges mountains for high altitude tests near Colmar, which hosts a short service midway through. It ends with a street test in Mulhouse. The second leg offers a massive 192.80km of competition through vineyards and mountains closer to Strasbourg, including two passes of the daunting 43.45km Pays d’Ormont. The short final day journeys north and includes two runs through the streets of Haguenau. Drivers tackle 22 tests covering 404.14km in a route of 1404.89km.

Rallye de France Alsace preview

Posted: September 30, 2012 3:23 PM

PROTON Motorsports arrives in France for its first asphalt round of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship since January's Rallye Monte-Carlo this week - with the Malaysian manufacturer hoping to extend its advantage at the top of the table.

P-G Andersson (Sweden) continues to lead the SWRC standings and remains in confident mood going into Rallye de France Alsace. Despite this week being Andersson’s first time competing on the Strasbourg-based event, the lead Satria-Neo S2000 driver has a wealth of experience on sealed surfaces, having won asphalt events on his way to two Junior World Rally Championship titles earlier in his career.

PROTON Motorsports has only been off the podium once in the five SWRC rounds run so far this season - an exceptional achievement for the team in its first year at the highest level of Super 2000 world rallying.

In preparation for Rallye de France Alsace, PROTON Motorsports tested extensively in the same region earlier this month, dialling the Satria into the precise requirements of the wide variety of French roads which will be used next week.

Starting from Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace and seat of European Parliament, this penultimate round of the SWRC runs along the French-German border and includes a variety of stages. The crews will face fast roads running through the Vosges Mountains, with twisty sections when the stages dive deep into the Black Forest. Also in the mix will be tricky vineyard tests and the challenge of driving through the urban streets on spectator stages in Strasbourg, Haguenau and Mulhouse.

While this might be the first all-asphalt round of the SWRC series, the crews did contest largely dry sections of asphalt on the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo back in January – where Andersson built a seven-minute lead in PROTON’s debut in the world championship for Super 2000 cars.

The priority for PROTON and Andersson in France this week is to maintain – and further –the SWRC lead ahead of the final round of the season, November’s Catalunya Rally.

Joining Andersson in the team for France will be another FIA World Rally Championship title winner in the shape of Austrian ace Andreas Aigner. Aigner won the 2008 Production Car title and is looking forward to making his debut in the SWRC series with PROTON Motorsports.

The event gets underway with a superspecial, which starts outside the European Parliament building in Strasbourg on Thursday (October 4) and runs through a city first discovered in 12BC.

Quotes:

P-G Andersson said:
“After all the gravel we have driven on this year, it will be interesting to get to the first real asphalt round. We know the car has good pace on this surface and our pre-event test went well. But this is a long, long rally. What we have seen more than anything this season is that all the points are at the finish; trying to win this rally on every corner is not the way to go about it. It’s the first time we have competed on this rally and we have to make sure we have a good recce and then start the event sensibly – we need points and we need good points to try and extend our lead in the SWRC.”

Andreas Aigner said:
“The first thing I felt at the test with the PROTON is that it is a real rally car made for just this job. I drive a Group N car for a lot of years and coming to the Super 2000 car is a real difference – you feel it every time you go on the accelerator and the brake: it’s a great car to drive. I have been waiting for an opportunity like this for a long time now. We had a good test, it was good to get experience of the car and to meet the team. These roads will be new for me, I haven’t been on this event before, but I can’t wait to get started.”

MEM team principal Chris Mellors said:
“We want to win this championship, there’s nothing surer than that. We’ve had a very good test and the changes we made to the car in the summer are working very, very well with the car in asphalt specification. This is the first all asphalt event we have done this season and finding the right set-up for the car is all about a compromise. During the test, we went to the most extreme set-up for the car – essentially making it into a racing car – and the speed P-G was able to carry through the corners was extraordinary. While you get the best performance from the car in that set-up, it’s uncompromising and there’s no margin for error – if you hit a bump unexpectedly then you’re likely to be thrown into the scenery. So, the optimum set-up is a compromise; we found the ultimate settings and then came back a little bit from that. We have seen some asphalt stages – in Monte Carlo – earlier this year and the car was very, very competitive there, so we’re looking forward to this week.”

Entry List

Posted: September 11, 2012 10:34 PM

Yvan Muller to drive MINI WRC in France

Posted: September 11, 2012 2:55 PM

Reigning World Touring Car champion, Yvan Muller, will compete in the MINI John Cooper Works WRC at Rally France in October.

The Prodrive WRC Team will run Muller alongside Dani Sordo in identical MINI WRCs at the Strasbourg-based tarmac event from 4-7 October.

Muller is a three-time World Touring Car champion and is currently competing in the 2012 series. While circuit racing is his speciality, he has also competed in the Dakar Rally, as well as competing at Rally France in 2010 and 2011.

Muller tested the MINI WRC at Prodrive's proving ground in July and will spend a further day in the car at Prodrive's track the week before Rally France.

Yvan Muller said:
"I am really looking forward to competing in my home event in a top level world rally car after last year's run in an S2000. I have only had a day to familiarise myself with the MINI, but the balance of the chassis immediately gave me a great deal of confidence. As both my Chevrolet touring car and the MINI use similar 1.6 turbo engines, the performance was nearly the same. I am sure it will take me a little while to get used to driving with pace notes again, even so my target would still be a finish in the points."

Dave Wilcock, Prodrive WRC Team principal, said:
"In Prodrive's British Touring car days in 98, 99 and 2000 I engineered several cars and we had great battles with Yvan. This will be the first time we have been on the same side. He is a tremendously talented driver with great sympathy for a car and I think the MINI WRC chassis will suit him perfectly for the fast flowing stages in France. He has competed here twice before and once he has settled in for a few stages I can see him setting some impressive times."

Event Website / Details

Posted: August 29, 2012 3:09 PM






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