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Rally GB - 13-16 Nov 14

Posted: November 21, 2014 8:36 PM - 9189 Hits

Round 13 - 2014 World Rally Championship

A PERFECT END TO THE SEASON FOR ALASTAIR FISHER

Posted: November 18, 2014 4:51 PM

Already assured of the FIA Junior WRC and FIA WRC3 titles*, Stéphane Lefebvre was competing at Wales Rally GB in a DS3 R5 in the WRC2 category. Alongside experienced co-driver Stéphane Prévot, he ended the event in eleventh place, after rejoining under Rally2 rules.

In their DS3 R3s, the seven crews competing in the final round of the FIA Junior WRC battled it out in the heart of the Welsh countryside. British driver Alastair Fisher, the Frenchman Quentin Giordano and the Slovakian Martin Ko?i were all still in contention to finish as runner-up in the championship.

On the opening stage, Alastair Fisher wasted no time in establishing an early lead. Winner of the last round in France, the Brit was the first out of the blocks here, beating Finnish newcomer Henri Haapamaki, Martin Ko?i, Quentin Giordano and Simone Tempestini.

And although Martin Koci responded on SS2, Alastair Fisher then claimed two further stage wins before the midday service period to put himself 13 seconds clear of Ko?i and 41 ahead of Tempestini. Haapamaki picked up two punctures, meaning he trailed the leader by over a minute.

In the afternoon, Alastair Fisher extended his lead. After stopping on a stage for a minute, Martin Ko?i dropped down to fourth place before going back on the attack. At the end of the first day of racing, Alastair Fisher was more than a minute clear of Henri Haapamaki, Martin Koci and Simone Tempestini, who were all bunched together, separated by less than six seconds.

Unfortunately, Quentin Giordano’s day came to a premature end. The Frenchman broke a wheel after a roll and had to rejoin under Rally2 regulations.

Alastair Fisher kept his rivals at bay throughout day two. With a lead of more than a minute, he kept an eye on the scrap for second between Martin Ko?i and Henri Haapamaki. The Slovakian and the Finn claimed almost all of the stage wins between them. However, a minor mistake by Haapamaki saw him drop down to fourth on Saturday evening, behind Fisher, Ko?i and Tempestini.

Third ahead of Sunday’s final leg, Simone Tempestini was quickly forced to retire due to a problem connecting the waste gate’s solenoid valve tube. Haapamaki thus inherited third position. The overall standings remained otherwise unchanged after the final day’s stages.

Alastair Fisher, leader from start to finish, secured the win ahead of Martin Ko?i, Henri Haapamaki, the Australian Molly Taylor, the Pole Aron Domzala and Quentin Giordano.

Thanks to his second consecutive win, Alastair Fisher ended the season as runner-up in the FIA Junior WRC, just one point behind the champion, Stéphane Lefebvre. With three podium finishes, including one win, Martin Koci ended the year in third position, ahead of Quentin Giordano.

France won the Nations Trophy, with Great Britain second and Slovakia third. QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Alastair Fisher:
“We achieved the target that we had set ourselves for this rally. We didn’t make any mistakes. That was the key to winning here in Wales. This 2014 season has been very positive. We’ve shown that we had the pace to win. It’s just a shame that we made a mistake in Portugal. But we’re very pleased to win in France and here at home, they have definitely been the highlights of this year. I hope I can keep improving next year; I feel I’m ready to step up to the FIA WRC2 championship.”

CITROËN FINISHES AS RUNNER-UP IN WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP*

Posted: November 18, 2014 4:26 PM

After two solid days, the two DS3 WRCs set off this morning for the final six stages of the season in third and fourth positions in the overall standings.

Whilst pushing to try and grab second place, Kris Meeke ran slightly wide into a ditch on the day’s opening stage. Despite being faster than Mikko Hirvonen on the opening three stages of the morning, a puncture at the front and a blistered tyre at the rear made matters difficult for the rest of the final leg.

Full of confidence, Mads Østberg secured several stage wins. The Norwegian’s performances ensured he pull clear of his nearest challengers to consolidate his position.

In the second half of the leg, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle looked after their tyres. Concentrating on making it to the end of the rally, they dropped just over a minute to finish in sixth place.

Mads Østberg took advantage of Meeke’s misfortune to grab third place in the overall standings. With co-driver Jonas Andersson, he collected another podium finish to add to those secured in Sweden, Portugal and Italy.

The 23 points scored by the crews in Wales, the joint second best result of the season along with Sweden, ensured that the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team finished as runners-up in the Manufacturers’ World Championship*.

After rejoining under Rally2 rules, Stéphane Lefebvre continued to add to his experience in the DS3 R5. He finished in eleventh place in the WRC2 category. He concluded his season with the FIA Junior WRC and WRC3 titles*.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Mads Østberg:
“The aim was to finish on the podium. We fought a lot at the start of the rally. But intercom and tyre problems left us down in fourth position. This morning, I had a very good feeling again. We were able to win a couple of stages and we have finished the rally on the podium. I’d like to thank the entire team. This first year in the DS3 WRC has been especially rewarding and the atmosphere in the team is fantastic. I have never experienced anything like it before!”

Kris Meeke:
“I made a minor mistake when we were fighting for second place in the rally. After that, I sacrificed the result to make sure Citroën finished as runner-up in the Manufacturers’ World Championship. I’m disappointed but it’s an experience I’ll take forward with me into the future. We have got quicker and quicker throughout the season, and that’s very positive.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal):
“It’s a very good end to the season. Mads’ podium finish is an excellent performance to round off the year. Second place in the championship means we have achieved one of the goals we set ourselves. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the team and our partners for their investment in 2014. The challenge was a big one given that we were competing in two World Championships.”

Osian seals heroic Wales Rally GB drive

Posted: November 18, 2014 4:25 PM

Welsh rally star Osian Pryce delivered the drive of his life to clinch an incredible top-20 position overall on Wales Rally GB, which finished in Llandudno this afternoon.

The 21-year-old had never competed in a four-wheel drive car before the start of this week’s final round of the World Rally Championship, but drove like a seasoned professional, eclipsing the effort and result of many of the world championship stars around him.

Despite only having driven the car for 30 miles before the start, Osian and co-driver Dale were immediately on the pace and at the front of their class – which is the main feeder series into the WRC. And, having grabbed people’s attention with their exceptional effort, they then went one better and won the fourth stage of the event, setting fastest time for the WRC2 and RC2 crews.

Backed by THORUtilities, Red Kite (Manufacturing), Swift Group, G&M Pryce, Morris Plant Hire, S. J. & S. Williams Ltd and DMACK, Pryce consolidated his star performance through Saturday and today’s final six stages close to Ruthin.

The only issue for Osian over the weekend was being forced to run further down the road in more unfavourable conditions than the World Rally Championship regulars, who were prioritised ahead of him in the running order. But that wasn’t about to put a dampener on a result on a rally he wasn’t even sure he’d be entering a month ago.

The cheer which erupted as Osian and Dale crossed the finish ramp in the centre of Llandudno matched the feeling of elation in the car.

And their efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

Malcolm Wilson OBE, team principal M-Sport World Rally Team said:
“I have been very impressed with what Osian did. The times he was setting, certainly the times early in the rally, have really caught my eye. Given that he had so little knowledge of the car before the start, he’s done very, very well.”

Elfyn Evans, M-Sport World Rally Team driver and fellow Welshman added:
“Osian was mega impressive. His main competitor Jari Ketomaa knows the car inside out and for Osian to be anywhere near, let alone beating him, was fantastic. He’s just jumped in the car and got on with it. The times he has done have been mighty impressive.”

Osian said:
“A few weeks ago, I wasn’t even doing this event. Just getting to the start was a real achievement. So, to do what we have done, I’m over the moon. It’s fantastic. A dream come true! We made some great times on the first day, that fastest time in Maesnant was awesome and a real highlight.

“Since then it has been a bit tougher running further down the field, the road was deteriorating and getting quite a bit more slippery the further back you got. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are here, at the finish with a result from a rally which has been just incredible. I have loved every minute of driving this car and the job now is to make this result count for something as we move forward into next season.”

Job done.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED FOR KUBICA IN WALES

Posted: November 18, 2014 4:24 PM

It was mission accomplished for RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica at Wales Rally GB – finishing the event with a controlled drive to gain a wealth of vital knowledge and experience.

The FIA World Rally Championship’s traditional finale is renowned as one of the season’s most daunting tasks. The stages themselves may not be as technically difficult as some, but the conditions make it one of the most challenging events of the season.

This year’s edition was to be no different. The stages were coated with mud which made the gravel tracks treacherously slippery but the Pole adopted a cautious approach that played to his advantage.

Making it through all of the stages unscathed, Robert should be pleased with his driving. Having made a vast improvement in such difficult conditions, he ends the season with the experience that will only aid any future rally ambitions. Robert Kubica (11th) said:

“It’s been a difficult weekend with very difficult conditions, but I think we drove well with no mistakes and no big moments. I was determined to finish this rally because it is so unique and you don’t get many chances to gain experience from these kinds of conditions, so I am glad that we managed to do that.

“I’ve been really starting to enjoy rallying on gravel. Okay we had some difficult moments towards the beginning of the season, but I think that we have improved a lot throughout the year and I want to thank all of the mechanics who worked on my car. All we need is to be a bit more consistent, and that will come with experience.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“We’ve seen a really solid drive from Robert [Kubica] in what were some very challenging conditions this weekend. He adopted a sensible approach and because of that he will be much better placed to progress should we see him here again next year. This is one of those events where experience can count for a lot and I think he can be very pleased with the job he has done. He has progressed a lot – especially on gravel – and I think you can see that from the last couple of events.”

MIKKO SIGNS OUT IN STYLE

Posted: November 18, 2014 4:22 PM

M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen brought their FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) careers to an end in style today – securing second place at Wales Rally GB.

The Finns were locked in an intense battle for the final podium positions throughout the weekend. Ultimately however, their speed, experience and determination saw them over-shadow all who threatened to disrupt a near-perfect weekend.

In true Wales Rally GB style, the stages were treacherously slippery but Hirvonen controlled the situation brilliantly. Conserving his pace when necessary and pushing when comfortable, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver adopted an effective mix of speed and consistency – setting a string of competitive times including the fastest time through yesterday’s second pass of Clocaenog Main (SS15).

Their podium finish was the perfect way to say goodbye to the championship which has given them so much and the sport which they have given so much to themselves.

Having dedicated thirteen years to the WRC, Hirvonen has secured 15 wins, 69 podiums, and six FIA Champions' trophies. Ironically however, Lehtinen has picked up one more FIA trophy than his driver – their result this weekend securing third place in the 2014 co-drivers’ standings.

Both men will be greatly missed, not just by the M-Sport family, but by the entire WRC community.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Elfyn Evans secured fifth place on his world rally car debut on home soil. The Welshman, who is partnered by co-driver Daniel Barritt, didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend and displayed real strength of character; unwilling to be pressurised into any unnecessary battles. Concentrating on his own event, Evans upped his pace considerably throughout the weekend to produce what has been one of his best performances on gravel. Securing a joint second fastest time through the second pass of Kinmel Park (SS21), the youngster was reigning in fourth-placed man Thierry Neuville.

Despite having to settle for fifth, Evans goes into 2015 with his confidence high – ready to show more of his true potential.

Mikko Hirvonen (2nd) said:
“I couldn’t really think of a better way to end my career. We had a great fight all through the weekend and to finish with the second place is absolutely fantastic.

“Today it was a bit emotional for sure. Before this morning I manage to be pretty on it and concentrate on the rally, but today it was a bit more difficult!

“I just feel really good about the whole weekend. I really couldn’t have asked for anything better and it was the perfect way to end this very special chapter of our lives.”

Elfyn Evans (5th) said:
“I think we would have taken fifth place at the start of the event for sure. We knew before the rally started that even bettering our result from last year would have been a good achievement given the depth of the entry. To come away in fifth is strong and I think we’ve managed to show some good speed along the way.

“All in all it’s been a good weekend and a good way to finish off the year. I can’t wait to start next season now. We’ve got a lot more experience and I’m looking forward to what I hope will be another successful season at this level.

“Finally, I want to wish Mikko [Hirvonen] all the best. I really couldn’t have wished for a better team mate this year. He and Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] have been so willing to share their experience over the year and if I can achieve anything like his CV at the end of my career then I would be very proud indeed. It was great to see him end such an influential career with such a positive result and I know that the whole team will really miss him and Jarmo next year.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It is such a pleasure to see Mikko [Hirvonen] and Jarmo [Lehtinen] end their careers with such a positive result. It’s hard to put into words, but I can certainly say that they have made a lasting impression on the team. They are liked by everyone and will be dearly missed. All of us were immensely proud to see him take such a result away from what has been a very special weekend.

“Elfyn [Evans] has had a really good weekend too. He did exactly what was asked of him and came away with a strong fifth place. He didn’t let the pressure of being at home get to him at all and showed some really encouraging speed along the way. I think it’s fair to say that this has been one of his best performances on gravel and we’re all looking forward to seeing what he can do with a year of experience under his belt next year.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT WRC DRIVERS

Ott Tänak (7th) said:
“I think it’s been a good event for us. The plan was to get used to driving a world rally car again on the first day and then get closer to our best times on day two. That was what we did. Okay we were a bit rusty in the beginning, but we had a good feeling yesterday afternoon. We managed to set some good times and were getting close to the top five. Unfortunately we picked up a puncture this morning so we had to be a bit careful after that as we only had one spare.”

Matthew Wilson (14th / 3rd WRC 2) said:
“It’s been a really good weekend and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Okay it’s been tricky and we’ve had to contend with some difficult conditions at times, but it’s just been brilliant fun from start to finish.

“This morning we had a real good battle and to finish the last stage with another fastest time was a great way to end the weekend. It’s been spot-on and I want to thank Michelin for their support in bringing this iconic livery back to the stages – the response from the fans has been unbelievable.”

Quentin Gilbert (21st / 8th WRC 2) said:
“We had a difficult start to the weekend without much confidence in the conditions but as the weekend went on we got a lot more comfortable and were able to set some really good times. I’ve been quite happy with the pace although experience counts for a lot here. This was only my second time at this event – my first in a four-wheel-drive car. It was difficult at times but we’ve learnt a lot for sure.”

Nicolas Fuchs (23rd / 9th WRC 2) said:
“Every day it got better and better and I learnt a lot about this rally – mainly about how to set-up the car. I know that if I come back next year I need to do a good test to get the best set-up for the car and to work on my pacenotes because they were not 100 per cent correct for all of the slow corners.”

SOLBERG STARS FOR PIRELLI ON WALES RALLY GB

Posted: November 18, 2014 12:07 PM

Just as he did on the snow-covered Rally Sweden earlier this year, privateer Pirelli driver Henning Solberg broke Volkswagen’s domination of the stage times on Wales Rally GB, going fastest of all on the Chirk Castle stage.

The 41-year-old Solberg was a late entry, using M-Sport’s re-prepared test car but not having the chance to test the car or the tyres before the rally. Despite this handicap, and an extremely limited budget, he was able to top the time sheets and seemed set for a points finish for the fifth time this year – before a mechanical problem on the final day stopped him in his tracks. As a committed enthusiast as well as a professional competitor, rather than return to the service park after his retirement, Solberg headed out into the forests to watch the rest of the rally that his brother Petter has won four times.

Solberg, along with the rest of the Pirelli runners, used the reinforced K8 and K4 tyres, with a tread pattern that is renowned for its abilities to evacuate the mud, gravel and loose stones that are a regular feature of Wales Rally GB.

“The tyres were really, really good,” said Solberg. “I’ve never driven on them before and the only test I had was the shakedown, but still I felt a lot of confidence from the beginning and I was able to push. Once again, on Pirelli, I set a fastest stage time in world rallying. In the conditions that I manage to do these rallies it shouldn’t really be possible at all, but we still manage to do it. I’ve always had a very good feeling with Pirelli and this feeling is still the same now.”

Solberg was not the only Pirelli privateer to be in contention with the factory teams. Czech driver Martin Prokop also kept up his 100% points scoring record with Pirelli, while fighting with some of the factory cars. “There was almost too much grip!” said Prokop on the opening day, before finishing ninth overall in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

In WRC2, Lorenzo Bertelli – who led the championship for much of the year – also showed frontrunning pace, eventually finishing second in the class on the rally, to underline a consistently impressive season. Bernardo Sousa also showed plenty of pace on the Italian tyres in Wales before being forced into retirement.

Pirelli’s senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga said: “It’s always a pleasure to watch Henning drive, for his speed, commitment and passion. Once more, he has highlighted the quality of our products by becoming the only genuine privateer to have set a fastest stage time on the rally, under challenging circumstances. Our aim this year was firmly to cater for our priavte customers, and we have succeeded in our goal of providing them with a competitive product to take on established rivals. This can be seen from the very strong performance from Martin Prokop as well, not to mention Lorenzo Bertelli – with whom we led the WRC2 championship for the majority of the year. So this has certainly been a very successful comeback for us so far.”

GRAND NATIONAL WOWS RALLY FANS

Posted: November 18, 2014 12:05 PM

One of the many major attractions of last weekend’s hugely successful Wales Rally GB (13-16 November) was the star-studded National Rally, which ran alongside the FIA World Rally Championship main event.

Using the same legendary stages in the Welsh forests, it attracted an over-subscribed entry with no fewer than 95 amateur crews lining up alongside their WRC counterparts for three days of world class competition. The entry not only included current top guns from the UK rallying scene but also five-time British Rally Champion Jimmy McRae plus a couple of notable rookies.

Ashes-winning cricketer Graeme Swann experienced a different sport for the very first time while a team from BBC Top Gear Magazine also jumped in at the deep end.

It was Mike Faulkner and co-driver Peter Foy, however, who won the 2014 Wales Rally GB National in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. They led the rally from the second stage on Friday morning and finished 30 seconds ahead of Andrew Gallacher and Jane Nicol. It was a Lancer Evo 9 top three with Barry Groundwater and Neil Shanks finishing third.

The National section of Wales Rally GB followed the main World Rally Championship crews. While the WRC entrants tackled each stage twice across the three days, the National rally drivers attempted each stage once. That gave a total of 13 stages and 98 competitive miles.

Fastest on the first stage was Ieuan Rowlands. Usually seen in a Ford Escort Mk2, he switched to a Subaru Impreza for this rally and it was the first time he’d driven a four-wheel-drive car for seven years. But he was instantly on the pace.

Faulkner and Foy, though, took the lead on the second stage and number one seed Roger Duckworth moved into second, but on the Sweet Lamb stage he took the big jump slightly too fast and stalled at the following hairpin. Unfortunately co-driver Mark Broomfield had been turning a page in his pacenotes as they hit the jump, and suffered whiplash as he was unable to brace himself.

“The marshals wanted to be very careful with the injury,” said Duckworth, “so they airlifted Mark to hospital but discharged him later in the evening. There’s no lasting damage but he’ll be a bit sore for a while.”

Fuel worries for Faulkner slowed him slightly on Saturday, but he went on to build up a healthy 30-second advantage by the end of the day, and then consolidated it on Sunday.

“I’m really pleased with this result,” the winner said. “It was hard work and this is a tough rally to complete. We thoroughly enjoyed the event from start to finish. The stages were fantastic and a huge challenge, with so much grip variation. They were smooth, fast and flowing, tight and technical and rough and muddy – but what was consistent was the huge amount of spectators cheering us on.

“The atmosphere has been unbelievable – the rally had a pre-event buzz, the Service Park at Deeside was electric and it was great to follow the WRC crews over the podium in Wales. This is as good as it gets.”

Rowlands suffered a puncture on the Clocaenog Main stage on Saturday morning and that dropped him from second to fifth. It left Gallacher in second place from then on. He reported a clean rally and was comfortably ahead of Groundwater at the finish. “The whole three days weren’t too bad for us,” said Gallacher. “The only problem was on the penultimate stage when we overshot a right-hander. We’ve really enjoyed the rally and thanks to everyone who has volunteered and helped to put this event together.”

The secret to finishing well on the National Rally was all about having a straightforward run through the stages. “We didn’t encounter any problems,” said third-placed Groundwater. “The last stage was difficult because some fog had set in but it didn’t slow us down. It’s been a great event and we’ve loved driving on these stages, they flow so well.”

Jimmy McRae was behind the wheel of a mighty Vauxhall Firenza Can Am V8 in the historic section with Pauline Gullick in the co-driver’s seat. He survived a problem on Friday’s final stage and eventually finished in 31st position.

“I was completely amazed by our popularity,” admitted the 71-year-old Scot, father of Colin McRae, Britain’s first World Rally Champion. “Having competed in my first RAC Rally 37 years ago in a Vauxhall, it was great to return again in a similar car. I think the fans appreciated the glorious noise of the V8 and the age of the driver!”

Adding to the sense of history, BTRDA Rally Series Champion Steve Perez competed in his iconic Lancia Stratos. Despite problems with a ceased wheel bearing on Friday, he and co-driver Paul Spooner continued to entertain the big crowds with the sight and sound of the Italian machine. They finished 46th of the 70 classified cars.

Cricketer Graeme Swann rolled his Ford Fiesta R2 on the very first stage on Friday morning, but continued for the rest of the day. He and co-driver Stuart Loudon had to kick the windscreen out after two further stages because their vision was impaired by the broken ’screen. They achieved their aim of reaching the finish and came home in Llandudno in a highly creditable 45th place and third in class.

Assisted by Hyundai UK, Top Gear Magazine built their own car specifically to compete on Wales Rally GB and to provide readers with a great insight into the sport. Chief road tester Ollie Marriage was given the task of driving the Hyundai i20 and, despite his very limited experience, won his category.

“We were a bit lucky when the leader retired on the final day but it has been a truly fantastic experience,” reported a delighted Marriage.

Retiring from the event on day one was Luke Francis. A favourite to win, he and co-driver John H Roberts rolled their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 on the second stage and later retired with the resulting radiator damage.

Alex Allingham, the Pirelli MSA Welsh Rally Champion, endured a difficult event in his Subaru Impreza. He and co-driver Chris Williams ran out of fuel on stage two and their fightback was hindered by brake trouble. They eventually climbed to 23rd after they set a string of top four fastest times. For them it was a case of what might have been.

Raftery secures podium position on his inaugural World Rally Championship event

Posted: November 18, 2014 11:38 AM

23 year old Galway rally star Dean Raftery secured a fantastic second in class RC4 on his maiden outing in a World Rally Championship event last weekend as he contested the final round of the series, Wales Rally GB. After tackling over 300 stage kilometres throughout three long days of competition, Raftery and co-driver Karl Atkinson crossed the finish podium in the North Wales town of Llandudno a very happy duo, finishing well inside the top 45 crews and harbouring a gap of around two minutes to his nearest rival.

The 2014 Billy Coleman Award nominee from Craughwell in Co Galway has had a successful year in the MSA British Rally Championship, securing many titles throughout the year and now Raftery can add a World Championship class podium to his already impressive list of results. Competing against some of the best drivers in the business, Raftery had a tough task ahead if he was to even finish the event, often classed as the toughest in the 13 round calendar. But a sensible and mature approach from the youngster led to a fault free drive throughout the event and a dream result for the Ford Fiesta R2 pilot.

“We had a clear goal at the beginning of the event which was to get to the end” he commented at the finish podium. “Ultimately we have achieved that but I am really pleased with my performance throughout the whole event. We had a good set of notes from the recce earlier in the week which helped, but it was important to know where we could attack and where we could back off. We had really consistent stage times and aside from a few battle scars, the car emerged unscathed. It’s been an extremely tough event and to come away with a second in class is a dream end to a dream year.”

With the conditions on the Welsh forest stages some of the worst in recent history thanks to the heavy rain before the event; the road surface became a mixture of slippery mud with large ruts, rocks and holes. But Raftery took them all in his stride and he put his successful negation of the challenge which often caught out some of the world’s best drivers, down to his mind-set ahead of the event.

“We knew we could not attack each and every stage on this event like we have been doing all year in the British Championship” he said. “Karl has had lots of world championship experience so it was good to learn from him and play the long game really. We knew we had to find a comfortable pace and stick with it, take no risks and keep it in the middle of the road. That worked really well and I’ve learned so much about myself this weekend, it’s been an amazing experience. I’d like to thank all my sponsors, Bluebird Care, Craughwell Tyre Centre, Black Hawk Fuels and King Car Parts for enabling us to compete against the world’s best. Also a huge thanks to my team for all their hard work this week ensuring the car was perfect throughout the event”.

But Raftery has no time to sit back and relax after his confidence boosting result. His attentions will now turn to the Billy Coleman Award selection process which takes place later this week, where he is in the running for the best prize in Irish rallying. He will face a panel of judges from Motorsport Ireland and the Award committee, where he will vie for a chance to win €50,000 worth of support to contest events nationally & internationally in 2015 along with the support of Billy Coleman co-ordinator, Tom Walsh.

Whilst his plans for 2015 are still under development, Raftery will certainly look to expand on the success he has gained from this year and continue to climb the rallying ladder of progression towards top flight motorsport.

For more information on Dean, updates from the event and his rallying career, visit www.deanraftery.com

Fighting performance for Karl on Wales Rally GB

Posted: November 18, 2014 11:29 AM

Karl Kruuda, the winner of the Finnish Rally Championship this year, put in a fighting performance in Wales to end the rally fifth and finish the WRC2 championship – just one step below the main World Rally Championship – joint fourth. However, as is often the case, the numbers do not quite tell the full story.

This year, Karl has been driving a Ford Fiesta Super 2000, a normally aspirated two-litre car that does not have the torque offered by the turbocharged latest-generation R5 or Regional Rally Cars, also eligible for WRC2. As a result, the Estonian starts each rally with a distinct disadvantage, but this only increases his motivation.

Karl has taken two victories in WRC2 this year (in Sweden and Finland), which means that only the newly crowned WRC2 champion, Nasser Al-Attiyah, has taken more wins than him throughout the season.

As expected, Wales was one of the most challenging rallies of the year, with mud, night stages and slippery surfaces all adding to the challenge. With many sharp rocks littering the route, avoiding punctures was a big struggle as well. Nonetheless Karl and his co-driver Martin Jarveoja managed to stay out of trouble, pushing as hard as possible from start to finish.

“We gave it a good go and I think we achieved the maximum that we could,” said Karl. “Look at it this way: I was squeezing the orange as hard as I could and there weren’t many more drops of performance of performance left to come out! Most of the time was spent either at the limit or very close to it. Unfortunately we knew we were at a disadvantage here before we started: it’s only the really fast events, like Poland or Finland, where the Super 2000 car might have an advantage now. Everywhere else you struggle a bit, because the game has moved on. But I still enjoyed myself a lot last weekend. Wales is one of the classic rallies; a real driver’s event, so it would be strange if you didn’t like it…”

For the WRC2 championship, seven scoring events have to be nominated, with Karl choosing Sweden, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Finland, Spain and Britain. He showed impressive speed even on the rallies that did not yield big results: on the previous rally in Spain, for example, he set just as many fastest stage times as the eventual winner. It’s statistics such as those that mark Karl out as a champion of the future, having already put a title in Finland behind him this year.

Now Karl will concentrate on defining his 2015 programme, which will be announced shortly.
“We’re putting a few plans in place and we’ve learned a lot from this year that will enable us to approach next season stronger than ever,” said Karl. “We still have a few details to sort out but I’m already looking forward to getting back on the stages next year. And don’t worry – our car livery is going to be as crazy as ever!”

Results

Posted: November 18, 2014 11:28 AM

International:
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:03:08.2
2. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +37.6
3. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1:03.6
4. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:14.9
5. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:24.3
6. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +2:03.0
7. Ott Tanak / Raigo Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:29.7
8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +2:47.5
9. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:43.3
10. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:48.5

National
1. Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9) 1h 45m 02.6s
2. Andrew Gallacher/Jane Nichol (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9) +30.1s
3. Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9) +1m 20.9s
4. Tristan Bailey/James How (Mitsubishi Lancer WRC 04) +2m 34.9s
5. Ieuan Rowlands/Emyr Hall (Subaru Impreza) +2m 58.8s
6. David Howells/Robin Hernaman (Subaru Impreza) +4m 14.3s
7. Paul Walker/Vernon Brown (Subaru Impreza) +5m 26.2s
8. John Morrison/Peter Carstairs (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9) +5m 31.2s
9. Phil Brown/Hamish Campbell (Subaru Impreza) +7m 15.2s
10. David Stokes/Guy Weaver (Ford Escort RS1600) +7m 15.7s

Tuthill Porsche R-GT ruled out of Wales Rally GB

Posted: November 13, 2014 11:57 AM

Tuthill Porsche completed 120 kilometres of trouble-free gravel testing this week with its new Porsche 997 R-GT rally car at Walters Arena in Wales. Driven by Richard Tuthill, the R-GT Porsche performed above and beyond all expectations.

"The car was born to be driven on gravel,” said Richard after the test. “It is well balanced, amazingly easy to drive and exceptionally fast with the wonderful 3.8-litre engine and sequential six-speed gearbox.

“We experimented with the setup throughout the day and will continue to develop certain areas, but I could not have imagined it could be so good from the very first turn of the wheel. It’s more than ready to hit the stages, be they gravel or snow.

“The car’s performance on asphalt is already well established, so this successful test confirms to us all that our Porsche R-GT is an accomplished all-rounder, ready to be used across the world in all regional championships where the regulations follow FIA guidance.”

Though the Tuthill Porsche R-GT was set to make its gravel debut on Wales Rally GB this coming weekend, the car has now been ruled out of the event as the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA), governing body of the World Rally Championship (WRC), has declined to sanction the car’s gravel specification.

Richard Tuthill attended a special meeting in Geneva with representatives from the technical department and WRC managers where, despite some positive outcomes for the future of R-GT, continued discussion could not pave the way for the use of the Tuthill Porsche 997 on this occasion.

“Within the existing R-GT regulations, there is the scope to allow modification to the suspension uprights fitted to the chosen model," explains Richard. “However, this only allows the fitment of gravel brakes. In the case of the 997 R-GT, the upright is too big to fit within a 15-inch gravel wheel, regardless of the size of caliper and disc fitted. The FIA needs to review how this issue can be resolved. Unsurprisingly, it is not willing to allow complete freedom for unrestricted modification, on grounds of safety.

“We found a production-based solution, which we tested to great effect. Despite detailed development by our chief engineer - one of the most experienced motorsport engineers in the world with experience of Le Mans, WRC and Dakar over 30 years – this was still not enough to convince the FIA technical department.

“The FIA has been exceptionally bold to push forward with the exciting R-GT project, and has also been most open-minded in many ways: Michèle Mouton and Jarmo Mahonen in particular. R-GT is a new class and we will all face challenges that need open discussion and thinking to get around. That said, I cannot hide my frustration at the way this decision has been made, given that we started this enquiry in May.”

THE DS3 WRCs LOOK TO CONFIRM

Posted: November 8, 2014 7:05 PM

One of the oldest events in world motorsport, Wales Rally GB was first contested in 1932. Since then, only World War II, the Suez Canal crisis and the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 1967 have prevented it from being held. For a long time, British, Swedish and Finnish drivers dominated the list of winners of the event, previously known as the RAC rally.

Although the Citroën Visa was driven to a few class wins at the start of the 1980s by Maurice Chomat and Mark Lovell, it was with the C4 WRC that the Brand scored its first overall win. Between 2008 and 2010, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena racked up three consecutive wins.

HIGH-SPEED MUD BATHS

“This thirteenth round of the season provides the crews with the final opportunity to showcase their talents. However, our main goal will be to retain second place in the Manufacturers’ World Championship. Our rivals aren’t too far behind, so we’ll need to ensure both cars are well-placed,” summarized Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal.

Last year, Wales Rally GB left Cardiff to set up base on the north coast of Wales. However, the majority of the stages are very familiar to the competitors. Rain, fog and mud… When the technical team and the crews talk about Wales and the month of November, these words always come up.

“No other round is particularly similar to it,” reiterated Didier Clément, the DS3 WRC’s Chief Operations Engineer. “It’s the rally where you can get the most rain and the most mud. The roads are therefore very specific. And the grip can change all the time! Sometimes, grip levels can be fine. But when the road surface features muddy, greasy stones, the grip can be virtually non-existent.”

The muddy gravel is therefore a very important aspect of this final round. It can become stuck to the side and underneath of the car in a matter of a few hundred metres: “There is no magic solution. The mud gets stuck to the car and cannot be removed without outside intervention. You can take on up to 100 kilograms of extra weight!”

Another challenge posed by this round concerns the set-up. This is because the average speeds reached on the stages mean that you need to keep maximum efficiency whilst also looking for grip: “There isn’t much vertical clearance and there are huge needs in terms of grip, but we can’t afford to sacrifice accuracy. It’s a difficult balance to get right, but we’ll be able to use our experience from previous years.”

MADS ØSTBERG AIMING FOR THE PODIUM

Mads Østberg has some very pleasant memories of his previous outings in Wales. The Norwegian has taken part in Wales Rally GB in a World Rally Car on six previous occasions. He was runner-up here in 2011: “It feels like I now have quite a lot of experience at this event. I can remember many good times on these roads. It’s a rally that I really enjoy and that I look forward to every year.”

Very competitive when the road surface is slippery, Mads and Jonas have already racked up podium finishes in Sweden, Portugal and Italy this season. They are expecting to fight for another top-three finish: “It’s a difficult rally. Bad weather and fog can add other risks. Starting with recce, we increase the details in the pace notes so we can maintain high speeds even when visibility is poor. The aim is to finish on the podium again. We have always been on the pace on gravel. So it’s up to us to round off the season with a good result. And I know that the DS3 WRC is fast!”

KRIS MEEKE “ALMOST” AT HOME

Northern Irishman Kris Meeke isn’t quite the local boy for the Welsh round. The British driver can nonetheless expect huge support from the local fans at this final round of the season: “It’s the closest I get to a home rally in the WRC. I even took part in my first ever rally, the Bulldog, in these forests. So I know the region very well even though I have only competed in Wales Rally GB once in the last eight years.”

Like the entire team, Kris can’t wait to be in Deeside: “The season has gone by very quickly… I love the atmosphere here, the tradition of the event, even the smell of the mud in the forests. These are some of the most beautiful stages in the world, and some of the most difficult as well. You need a car with a perfect set-up. You really have to get the balance right, because you need grip but you also need precision.”

“It would be great to finish the season on a positive note,” continued Kris. “I know I’ll get plenty of support from the many fans who would love to see me win. I’m going to do my best to acquire as much experience as possible, but I think that a podium finish is a realistic goal.”

23 STAGES SCHEDULED

Like last year, the service park will be based in Deeside, just a few miles from Chester which hosted the event on many occasions between 1979 and 1996.

The format has changed slightly this year, making it a more compact event. The ceremonial start will be held at Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay on Thursday evening. The action will get underway on Friday with a familiar loop taking in Gartheiniog (14.58km/7.44am and 1.03pm), Dyfi (21.90km/8.14am and 1.33pm), Hafren Sweet Lamb (23.55km/9.24am and 2.43pm) and Maesnant (12.86km/9.58am and 3.17pm). A midday remote service in Newtown will break the day up into two halves.

On Saturday, the stages will be held on roads close to the service park. Two spectacular stages are scheduled in the famous Clocaenog forest, Clocaenog East (8.25km/7.52am and 3.00pm) and Clocaenog Main (13.74km/8.08am and 3.16pm), alongside Aberhirnant (13.87km/9.18am and 4.26pm) and Dyfnant (19.98km/10.10am and 5.18pm). Before heading back for the midday service, a short stage designed for the fans, Chirk Castle Rallyfest (2.06km/12.00pm), will be included in the itinerary. The day’s final two stages will be held after dusk.

On Sunday, the route has changed this year. Two new stages make their first appearance: Brenig (10.81km/8.33am and 12.00pm) and Alwen (10.04km/9.00am and 10.51am). There is no service on Sunday, but sandwiched between first and second runs on these two tests there will be two runs on another Rallyfest stage at Kinmel Park (2.21km/9.55am and 10.04am).

After the Power Stage, held on the second pass on Brenig, the crews will head directly for Llandudno to celebrate the end of this 2014 season on the podium in Mostyn Street from 1.19pm.

Tom Cave aims to end season on a high on Wales Rally GB

Posted: November 8, 2014 7:00 PM

Welsh rally driver Tom Cave is aiming to end his season on a high on next weekend's Wales Rally of Great Britain, the finale of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship. Having narrowly missed out on this year's Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy, 22 year-old Cave will return to his native Wales to contest the event for the sixth time since his debut in the WRC at the age of 17 in 2008.

The traditional season closer is one of Cave's favourite events; hardly surprising since it was one of the first he spectated on and was also the first he competed on, in 2008 at the wheel of his Group N Ford Fiesta ST. Since then he has driven his own Proton Satria Neo S2000 as well as one of the official Proton team's cars, finishing second in S-WRC in 2012.

His best performance was in 2013, when he drove a Ford Fiesta R5 for the first time. He was denied the result he wanted by lateness penalties incurred by the service team but still won five of the six stages that made up the first full day of competition, beating fellow Welshmen Elfyn Evans and Mark Higgins in the process.

For 2014, he will again be driving a Ford Fiesta R5, this time run by the vastly experienced Dom Buckley Motorsport team. With decades of experience, particularly on Ford models, the team will ensure that Tom and co-driver Craig Parry have the right tools and support to be able to show their best performance.

Commenting, Tom said;
"We have one goal in Wales and that is to win the class and show that we can compete at the highest level of the sport. Last year we showed we had the speed to be able to do that and with the Buckley team behind us, I think we can push for the WRC2 win.

"I want to show that we are fast in four wheel-drive as well as two and demonstrate the progression from the DDFT this year to WRC2. I know there will be a fair bit of pressure, with it being our local event but I believe we have the speed and tools to be able to win the class."

Tom will again be supported by Morris Lubricants for Wales Rally GB, as he has been throughout the 2014 DDFT season as well as in 2013. Another major supporter will of course be the family-run Trefeddian Hotel, perched on the stunning west Wales coastline and overlooking the Irish Sea. His campaign will also be supported by HN Nuttal Ltd Foodservice, which supplies dry, chilled and frozen foods to many different sectors of the catering industry.

Tom will also be using DMACK tyres for the second year, having competed on the brand in Wales in 2013 and throughout the course of the 2014 DDFT series.

Competition is likely to be high, with WRC2 leader Nasser Al-Attiyah needing to finish seventh or better to take the 2014 title. However, there is a host of drivers also keen to finish their seasons on a high, with regular drivers Lorenzo Bertelli, Yuriy Protasov, Jari Ketomaa and Karl Kruuda all vying for the title. Tom will also be up against one of his DDFT rivals, Quentin Gilbert, who will be at the wheel of the Fiesta R5 for another outing.

There is also a brace of local talent switching to R5s for the event on a one-off basis, including the return of Matthew Wilson and former British Rally Championship sparring partners David Bogie, Osian Pryce and Martin McCormack, all in Fiesta R5s.

The event begins with a ceremonial start and autograph signing session at the Eirias Stadium in Colwyn Bay on the evening of Thursday 13 November before the first full day of competition on Friday 14, with eight stages run as two loops of four. Based around a remote service halt at Newtown, these include the Sweet Lamb and Hafren stages, favourites from previous years.

Saturday sees the crews based at the service park in Deeside all day and with nine stages; two loops of four with the Chirk Castle superspecial at the end of the first loop. These stages are located closer to the base in Deeside and include Dyfnant and the two Clocaenog tests.

The third and final day comprises six stages, including two runs around the Kinmel Park spectator special and ends with the 11Km Brenig 2 Power Stage before the finish ceremony on the seafront at Llandudno.

The long range weather forecast predicts typical Wales Rally GB weather; a week of wet leading up to the start of the recce, several days of brighter sunlight before the return of the rain in time for the rally itself.

Sunrise is typically 07.40 with sunset around 16.15 throughout the event.

DMACK Celebrates 50 Events With Exciting GB Entry

Posted: November 8, 2014 6:57 PM

Next week’s conclusion to the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship will see an exciting celebration of number-related successes for British tyre firm DMACK. Building on a short but intense history at the highest level of the sport, DMACK will celebrate its 50th WRC event with a powerful line-up on its home round of the world series.

Since joining the WRC as an authorised tyre supplier in 2011, competitors using DMACK tyres will have competed on 50 world rally events when Wales Rally GB returns with its traditional mix of mud, rain and fast Welsh forest roads.

To celebrate the achievement, DMACK will field Estonians Ott Tänak and Raigo Molder in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC as they step up to the top ranks after a season in WRC 2. Tänak is the hottest property on the WRC scene and this is the second time he has tackled the UK event in a DMACK supported car. In 2011, on his debut drive in a WRC car, he set a third fastest stage time on his way to finishing sixth overall.

Alongside Tänak, DMACK will supply 10 Fiesta R5 cars – a record number for the firm. Heading the pack is the Drive DMACK crew of Jari Ketomaa and Kaj Lindstrom – one of only two competitors still in with a chance of lifting the WRC 2 title. They are joined by a trio of local stars including British Championship front-runner Osian Pryce, Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy runner-up Tom Cave and multiple Scottish Rally Champion David Bogie.

DMACK will supply crews primarily with its DMG+2 gravel tyre in the soft S6 compound. It’s a proven pace-setter, designed to provide traction in the damp, muddy forests, and helped competitors top the WRC 2 time sheets on last year’s event. A maximum of 24 are permitted.

Tänak, however, will race on DMACK’s new S6A tyre. Introduced as part of the joker regulations earlier this season, the new gravel tyre has been developed exclusively for use by world rally cars and features an upgraded construction.

Alongside the international runners, DMACK will also supply Ollie Marriage in the Top Gear Hyundai i20 – a special project which sees the popular motoring magazine editor tackle the national element of the event.

The final round of the 2014 championship is always a tough battle. The classic forests of north and mid-Wales boast some fast, flowing and unforgiving gravel roads, making the event a favourite with both drivers and fans. And the wicked Welsh weather can throw rain, fog and even snow into the mix to make the conditions even more demanding.

The classic event benefitted from a revival in 2013 with organisers refreshing the route and moving the event north to provide easier access for spectators. This year’s edition retains a similar feel. After a Thursday evening ceremonial start in Colwyn Bay, crews head south early on Friday morning to tackle a four-stage loop, including the famous Hafren Sweet Lamb test – the longest of the event at 23.55km.

After a remote service in Newtown, the loop is repeated before the trip north to the service park in Deeside outside Chester.

Saturday morning features five stages around Llangollen including two runs through the demanding Clocaenog forest and a sprint around Chirk Castle. Four of the stages are repeated in the afternoon. Sunday brings the event to a close with a compact loop of three stages tackled twice before the finish podium celebrations in Llandudno.

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:
“It’s always special to compete on your home round of the WRC but the fact it’s our 50th WRC start makes it even more memorable. When Ott first competed here with DMACK it was our first season in the championship and we’ve progressed enormously since then. The conditions should favour our gravel tyre and we wish all DMACK crews the best of luck, especially Jari and Kaj, as they push for a strong finish in WRC 2.”

Ott Tänak said:
“It’s great to be back in a WRC car again, we’ve had a good test this week and both the car and tyres feel really positive. Most of the stages are new for me so it will be a little difficult to know what to expect. Usually the first pass is quite nice with good grip but the surface in Wales can get polished and shiny for the second pass. But the plan is to go out and try to really enjoy the rally. Once we settle in then maybe we can push a little more and see how the times look.”

Jari Ketomaa said:
“I like Rally GB a lot. We know our tyre is competitive from last year and I like the stages in the north – they are more technical and great driving stages. We have a small chance of the championship but my complete focus is on my performance. I know we have the pace to challenge in WRC 2 so hopefully things will go our way with no problems or technical issues.”

DMACK’s Wales Rally GB In Numbers

    1000: The number of gravel rally tyres DMACK will transport to the event
    305: Competitive kilometres of high-speed action
    50: FIA World Rally Championship events for DMACK
    24: The maximum number of DMACK gravel rally tyres permitted for the event
    23: The number of competitive special stages
    10: Ford Fiesta R5 cars running on DMACK tyres
    8: DMACK team personnel at Rally GB
    2: Ott Tänak’s second drive in a DMACK-supported Fiesta RS WRC
    1: The first event for DMACK’s new S6A gravel tyre exclusively for WRC cars

We will fight tooth and nail – Volkswagen prepared for battle at the rally classic in Wales

Posted: November 8, 2014 6:53 PM

An open battle at the final rally of the year: Volkswagen duos Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) go into the Rally Great Britain with one common goal – victory. The destinations of the World Championship titles and the top three places in the Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ competition may already have been decided ahead of the 13th and final round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in north Wales, but the drivers in the blue, grey and white are as hungry for success as ever. After all, the Rally Great Britain is a genuine classic on the WRC calendar.

Ogier and Ingrassia, who successfully defended their World Championship titles* in Spain three weeks ago, are determined to end their WRC-winning season on a high – just as they did last year. Runners-up in the World Championship, Latvala and Anttila, also have their sights set on a perfect end to the season – as do the third-placed pair of Mikkelsen and Fløene: Latvala/Anttila are gunning for their third victory in Wales, while Mikkelsen/Fløene, who also started out on their rallying career here, will be going flat out for their maiden WRC victory. However, the Volkswagen drivers are not alone in that regard: Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen will face another eleven strong opponents from Hyundai, Ford and Citroën in their World Rally Cars in Great Britain.

“The Rally Great Britain promises to be a spectacular finale for fans, drivers and teams alike,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “This classic is one of those rallies that everyone wants to win at least once over the course of their career. The rally in Wales is right up there with the ‘Monte’, the Rally Sweden and the Rally Finland. Unique special stages in unique weather conditions, which are sometimes difficult to judge – these are real challenges. There can be absolutely no doubting the motivation of our Volkswagen drivers. As always, Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen will be given free rein as they look to satisfy their desire to win. Once again: may the best man win.”

Rain, fog, mud – Wales in November

The Rally Great Britain is probably the only rally on the WRC calendar, at which fans would be disappointed if they did not have horizontal rain driving into their faces. The weather and the ensuing drama and heroic tales have made the Rally Great Britain world famous. Classic stages like “Gartheiniog”, “Dyfi”, and the section through Clocaenog Forest will once again form the core of the 305.64 kilometres against the clock. The rain usually to be expected in mid-November transforms the gravel roads into a mud-bath, while the fog that hangs menacingly over the forests can severely hamper visibility. In total, the teams face in Wales 23 special stages.

Record-breaking: Volkswagen out to make it a round dozen

Full steam ahead at the 13th rally of the year, with eleven wins already in the bag: Volkswagen’s World Championship-winning team is hell-bent on ending its superlative season on a high. Even before the start of the Rally Great Britain, eleven of a possible 13 victories in one season has seen the Wolfsburg manufacturer equal the record set twice before by WRC rival Citroën (2005 and 2008) – but with a far better win percentage. In Wales, Volkswagen now has the opportunity to surpass the previous best and set a new record for the number of wins in one season.

The latest facts and figures from Volkswagen’s WRC season

Volkswagen also equalled a WRC record at the recent Rally Spain: coming into this season, only Peugeot in 2002 had previously achieved eight one-twos in one season. Volkswagen matched this total this year, claiming the top two positions in Sweden, Mexico, Argentina, Poland, Finland, Australia, France and Spain. Volkswagen is as proud of this achievement as the Polo R WRC has been quick throughout the entire season: Since the Rally Monte Carlo in January, 179 of 226 stage wins have gone to Wolfsburg, as well as 417 of a possible 678 top-three times. The Volkswagen drivers have also won ten of the twelve Power Stages so far in 2014. With bonus points on offer for the fastest three cars, the Polo R WRC has so far scored extra points on 23 occasions.

Duel of the year without any tactical implications: Ogier vs. Latvala – with a bonus

The duel that just keeps on giving: the battle between Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala was already regarded as one of the closest in the history of the World Rally Championship, even before Volkswagen entered the fray. In 2014 the two were separated by under twelve seconds on no fewer than three occasions: Latvala won in Finland, finishing 3.6 seconds ahead of Ogier; in Australia it was Ogier who came home 6.8 seconds ahead of Latvala, and Ogier recently defeated Latvala by just 11.3 seconds in Spain. Coming into the rally in Wales, Ogier has already secured the World Championship title* – and the season’s top two drivers enter this prestigious duel without any tactical considerations. But don’t write off Andreas Mikkelsen: their team-mate has already joined his two more senior colleagues in their battle for victory on at least one occasion this season. He finished just behind Jari-Matti Latvala in Sweden and Sébastien Ogier in Poland. And they are not the only serious contenders: the men driving for the rival teams also have their sights set on victory – particularly Kris Meeke (Citroën) at his home WRC event.

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

? Quotes ahead of the Rally Great Britain

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“We achieved the biggest goal of the season at the Rally Spain, so the pressure is off. I want to enjoy the last rally of the season, which means getting a good result. Our tests in Wales mean we have prepared perfectly for the complex conditions. The unpredictable weather, in particular, makes the Rally Great Britain very complicated and a real challenge. Experience shows that every driver wants to end the season as strongly as possible at the final rally of the year, before heading into the well-earned break. I can well imagine that Jari-Matti will be looking to celebrate his third win of the season in Wales.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“Last year I finished runner-up behind Sébastien. I want to go one better this time around. That would be a really nice way to end the season. I like the Rally Great Britain, because it is so demanding. The special stages are very quick, and demand a flowing driving style. They head through forests, in which there is often a lot of fog, which hampers vision. It rains a lot there at this time of year, which often makes the gravel roads into a real mud-bath. We have even had snow on one occasion in the past, which made it even more slippery. Because the rally is so demanding, you can make up an awful lot of time with a good drive. The Rally Great Britain is the perfect way to end the season.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I want to end the season with a really good result. The Rally Great Britain is particularly dear to my heart, as this is where my career began back in 2006. Since then, it has been like a home rally for me. I feel right at home in Wales, and am very familiar with the conditions. I am optimistic that I might even claim the first WRC win of my career here. Despite this, I will not risk everything to get my first victory. This will come anyway sooner or later. However, the current situation in the championship means I will take a few more risks than usual. Having said that, I must also consider my co-driver Ola Fløene in Wales, who is currently fourth in the Co-Drivers’ Championship, just two points behind Mikko Hirvonen’s co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen. Hopefully we can do something about that.”

? Did you know that ...

... the Rally Great Britain was held for the first time in 1932 and was known as the “RAC Rally” until 1997?

... the spectacular Group B cars made their final appearance in the World Rally Championship here in 1986? The turbo-charged monsters were banned after the season finale, because they had become too fast and dangerous for drivers and spectators alike.

... Volkswagen claimed a one-two at the 2013 Rally Great Britain, courtesy of Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala? This was the second of ten one-twos so far for the Polo R WRC.

... Andreas Mikkelsen finished fifth in 2013 to complete Volkswagen’s best team result at that time? Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen have matched, or even surpassed, the first, second and third they achieved in Wales on four occasions already in 2014: in Argentina (1-2-4), Poland (1-2-5), Finland (1-2-4) and Australia (1-2-3).

... Jari-Matti Latvala is the Volkswagen driver who has enjoyed the most success at the Rally Great Britain? He claimed back-to-back victories in Wales with Ford in 2011 and 2012.

... Andreas Mikkelsen launched his WRC career at the Rally Great Britain in 2006? Back then, he was in action at the wheel of a Ford Focus.

... two rally legends share the record number of wins at the Rally Great Britain? Hannu Mikkola (FIN) and Petter Solberg (N) both won four times in Wales.

... the Rally Great Britain has always formed the final round of the season in recent years? With one exception: the final rally of the year was held in Spain in 2012, when the Rally Great Britain was moved to mid-September.

... the Rally Great Britain was cancelled in 1957 due to the Suez crisis and the fuel shortage?

... Germany’s Armin Schwarz made an impressive World Championship debut at the Rally Great Britain in 1988? Driving an Audi 200 quattro, he finished fifth.

... Richard Burns became the first Englishman to win the World Rally Championship title at his home event in 2001? ?

The number for the Rally Great Britain: 1,064

The boss sits on the left, the man on the right is in charge: the “Dyfi” special stage at the Rally Great Britain is 21.9 kilometres long and identical to last year. In just over two minutes 50 seconds, world champion Julien Ingrassia will give world champion Sébastien Ogier exactly 1,064 instructions. Co-driver Ingrassia will read 28 pages of pace notes to his driver during “Dyfi”, each of which contains between 34 and 42 (the maximum is 52) symbols. Each symbol stands for a command.

Welshman Osian Pryce ready for the week of his life

Posted: November 8, 2014 6:50 PM

Welsh rally star Osian Pryce will start the biggest week of his life on Monday, when he steps aboard his Ford Fiesta R5 to test the car for Wales Rally GB.

Since confirming his entry on Wales’ foremost sporting event and Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship, the 21-year-old Machynlleth driver’s feet haven’t touched the ground. As well as his usual commitments to a rigorous fitness regime, the four-time British Rally Championship event winner has been working closely with CA1 Sport, the Cumbrian team running the Fiesta R5 on next week’s Deeside-based world championship finale.

Pryce and co-driver Dale Furniss spent yesterday (Thursday) working on the car livery to ensure the decals of sponsors THORUtilities, Red Kite (Manufacturing), Swift Group, G&M Pryce, DMACK, Morris Plant Hire and S. J. & S. Williams Ltd were in prime position and ready to be captured by the attending media who will beam pictures into millions of households around the world.

Pryce and Furniss are now readying themselves for a weekend in front of the computer screen as they scan cyberspace for as much onboard footage from the stages on last year’s Wales Rally GB as possible. While Osian lives just down the road from the start of the first stage and knows the corners through the Dyfi complex reasonably well, the likes of Clocaenog and Aberhirnant are far less familiar.

And then comes Monday. The big day: the first time Osian gets to push the ‘start’ button, select ‘stage’ mode and launch the R5 between the trees. Monday’s pre-event test is vital for him to acclimatise himself to the car and to find a set-up with which he is confident, comfortable and quick.

Tuesday and Wednesday are the days for the recce, when Osian and Dale join the world’s finest and fastest rally drivers to practice the stages in a standard car at speeds restricted to 50kph. The entire field makes two runs through every stage, writing a set of notes to describe every inch of the route. These notes are written in code, making it easier for Dale to read them out quickly when the crew are coming back down the stage at three times the speed during the rally.

Thursday morning’s shakedown stage offers one final test to make sure CA1 Sport and Osian are happy with everything on the car. After that, it’s off to Colwyn Bay and Eirias Park for the ceremonial start.

Finally, Friday. Good morning Gartheiniog and hello Hafren.

Wales Rally GB is go.

Osian said: “It’s getting closer. And I’m definitely getting more and more excited with each day that passes. I’m quite glad that I’ve been really busy with everything – there’s no time to get too nervous! This is a big opportunity for me and I’m determined to grab it with both hands.

“It was brilliant to be back with CA1 Sport again and it made everything so much more real once we saw the car looking lovely with THORUtilities, Red Kite (Manufacturing), Swift Group, G&M Pryce, DMACK, Morris Plant Hire and S. J. & S. Williams Ltd on the side. It took Dale and I eight hours to put the livery on the car, but it really was time well spent; it looks awesome.

“Now it’s time to start looking at some onboard footage, which will give us an indication of what’s to come when we start the recce next week. We will have an onboard camera in our recce car which, once we’ve finished driving the route, we will be spending as much time as possible watching again and again. Before the recce, we get to drive the car on Monday. And it would be a bit of an understatement to say I’m looking forward to that…”

A HOME EVENT WITH SIGNIFICANCE

Posted: November 8, 2014 6:48 PM

M-Sport’s home event has always been a season highlight but this year’s Wales Rally GB will be all the more momentous. Not only will the team have the opportunity to fight for the runner-up spot in the manufacturers’ championship, but the rally also holds special significance for both of the squad’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC drivers.

Having announced his retirement from the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), next week’s event marks Mikko Hirvonen’s last appearance at the pinnacle of the sport; the legendary stages of North Wales providing the perfect backdrop for the Finn’s final farewell.

On the other side of the M-Sport World Rally Team service area, Elfyn Evans will be making his world rally car debut on home soil – the first Welshman to pilot a top-specification rally car on the event since his father took to the stages in 2001.

Wales Rally GB is one of the championship’s most iconic events and is widely recognised as the season’s traditional finale. The gravel stages may not be as technically challenging as some, but the conditions make it the ultimate test of a driver’s ability.

A familiarity of the stages will see the crews well placed, but it is an understanding of the surface which will be the biggest advantage next week. The Welsh fixture is notorious for its unpredictability; rain, fog, ice and even snow all to be expected.

The grip levels can vary considerably from one corner to the next and it is the crews with a sixth sense for judging the available traction that reap the rewards. Hirvonen has a vast knowledge of the event. Having contested the rally on 11 previous occasions, he claimed the coveted gold trophy as part of Ford and M-Sport’s championship winning year in 2007.

Coming off the back of a podium finish at the previous outing in Spain, he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen will be looking to end their professional partnership on a high. The pairing has all the tools to affect a strong result and will be looking to do just that as they bid a fond farewell to the series in which they have competed for over a decade.

For Evans, this is an event that he has been looking forward to all year. There can be no bigger thrill than piloting a world rally car through the Welsh forests, and the experience will be all the more exhilarating in front of his home fans.

This will be the Welshman’s first taste of the power and performance of the Fiesta RS WRC on home soil and the youngster will be keen to better last year’s eighth place finish. With the experience of co-driver Daniel Barritt behind the notes, Evans is well placed to finish a highly impressive debut season with another strong result.

Wales is also home to Ford’s Bridgend Engine Plant and the Blue Oval’s globally successful EcoBoost technology. Ford’s ultra-modern engine plant produces close to 3,000 four-cylinder engines each day; equipping Ford’s hugely successful production range as well as sharing technology with the Fiesta RS WRC.

Mikko Hirvonen said:
“This is going to be a very special event for me, my last in the FIA World Rally Championship. It was actually my first WRC event in a world rally car and I can’t wait to get out there and experience it all for the final time. The stages are really nice – fast and flowing – and I’m sure that I’m going to enjoy every single corner.

“I’ve always enjoyed this event. It’s a tough one, but I think that’s one of the reasons why I like it so much. The conditions are really challenging and the grip is changing all the time. There can be mud, fog, even snow and that makes it one of the biggest tests of the year for the drivers.

“It felt really good to be on the podium in Spain, and to do it again at my last event would be amazing. I think we’re going to have an emotional day on Sunday, and it would be great to say our final farewell from the podium.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“The event itinerary and the route look really good so I think it’s going to be an exciting weekend. To have the opportunity to drive a world rally car for the first time so close to home will be a fantastic feeling.

“The stages themselves aren’t overly technical; the challenge comes from the changeable conditions. If we get fog or heavy rain it can make it really difficult and that changes the surface of the roads quite a lot. There’s also an element of being able to judge where the grip is and that’s one of the things that makes this event such a challenge. It’s always been a rally of high attrition and it’s almost about getting to the end as much as it’s about performing well.

“I learnt how to drive a rally car in the Welsh forests and I’ve always really enjoyed driving there. Needless to say it will be pretty special to come back to these stages in a world rally car for the first time.

“There will be a lot of competitive drivers at this event so I think we need to be realistic. We were eighth here last year, so it would be good to better that – although it would be nice to be at the higher end of the top-eight. Let’s wait and see. It will be a difficult event and anything can happen.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS

It’s another bumper entry for M-Sport’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars with close to 50 per cent of the entry list. Five Ford Fiesta RS WRCs have been entered alongside four Ford Fiesta RRCs, three Ford Fiesta S2000s, 12 Ford Fiesta R5s, six Ford Fiesta R2s, one Fiesta R1 and three Ford Fiesta STs – the most complete range of Ford Fiesta rally cars to contest a WRC event to date.

In addition to Hirvonen and Evans, M-Sport will also run the Fiesta RS WRCs of Robert Kubica and Ott Tänak as well as the Fiesta RRCs of Matthew Wilson and Yuriy Protasov, the Fiesta R5s of Nicolás Fuchs and Quentin Gilbert and the Fiesta R2 of cricket legend Graeme Swann.

WILSON AND MICHELIN REUNITE FOR WALES RALLY GB

Posted: November 8, 2014 5:13 PM



In 1994 Malcolm Wilson OBE piloted the Michelin Pilot Escort RS Cosworth to championship glory in the MSA British Rally Championship. Twenty years later, the iconic livery will be reunited with the Wilson family as Matthew Wilson takes to the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RRC at the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) similarly iconic finale - Wales Rally GB.

Built and prepared by Malcolm Wilson Motorsport, the Michelin Pilot Escort secured victory on four International rallies during its championship winning year. Tackling the WRC2 series with a Michelin Pilot Sport Fiesta, Wilson Jnr. will be looking to emulate that performance with a successful outing on home soil.

Wilson Jnr. has a vast knowledge of the Welsh fixture having contested the event on nine previous occasions – the majority of which alongside long-term co-driver Scott Martin. Having made their WRC debuts at the event in 2004, the pairing will be reunited for the 10th anniversary of their first appearance on the world stage.

In their WRC careers, Wilson and Martin contested 57 events together and secured fourth place finishes at Rally Japan in 2007 and again at Rally Australia in 2011.

Making a return to the stages, Wilson Jnr. is looking forward to entertaining the home crowd with one of the sport’s most celebrated and recognisable liveries.

Matthew Wilson said:
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been behind the wheel of a rally car in competition and I can’t wait to get out and experience some of Wales Rally GB’s most legendary stages. Scott [Martin, co-driver] and I are really looking forward to entertaining the home fans and to be able to do it with such a well-known livery is a real honour.

“The Michelin Pilot Sport car is an important part of British rally history; as well as for us in the Wilson family. It is recognised all over the world and I would like to thank Michelin for their support in bringing this iconic livery back to the stages.” M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“I had two fantastic years driving the Michelin Pilot Escort RS Cosworth and enjoyed wonderful support from Michelin. It’s great to see that Matthew [Wilson] is able to bring the livery back to the stages in celebration of the 20th anniversary of our [BRC] championship winning year.

“It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since I was driving the Michelin Pilot Escort. I still get asked about it today which I think goes to prove how fondly it is remembered within the rally community.

“It’s been a while since Matthew [Wilson] has contested a WRC event, but I have no doubt that he and Scott [Martin, co-driver] will have a lot of fun and give the spectators another British crew to support.”

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN TO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ACTION

Posted: November 8, 2014 5:03 PM

The legendary Welsh forests are ready to welcome a capacity and star-studded 160-car entry into Wales Rally GB, the 13th and final round of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.

Building on the huge success of last year’s event, this year’s spectacular rally features a slightly more compact three-day route. It compromises 23 competitive special stages – totaling 191 miles – all run against the clock on a mix a traditional gravel forest tracks and fan-friendly parkland roads.

After a dazzling Opening Ceremony in Eirias Stadium, Colwyn Bay on Thursday evening, the intrepid crews face a marathon leg in mid-Wales on Friday. The weekend’s action is closer to the Deeside Service Park and includes RallyFests at Chirk Castle on Saturday and Kinmel Park on Sunday. The deserving winners will be crowned on Mostyn Street in Llandudno on Sunday afternoon.

Heading the entry list is the newly crowned 2014 World Champion, Sébastien Ogier. Having just clinched back-to-back titles, the gifted Frenchman will be the one beat on an event he won last year. Ogier, though, isn’t the only past winner targeting further success. His VW Motorsport team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala and M-Sport’s Mikko Hirvonen have both lifted the coveted Peall Trophy and are sure to provide stiff opposition. Hirvonen has an extra incentive, he’s just announced his retirement from the sport and will want to leave on a high.

No British driver has won the event since the late Richard Burns’ completed a hat-trick of triumphs back in 2000 but, with Elfyn Evans and Kris Meeke among this season’s front-runners, another famous home victory may not be that far away.

Adding the competition, the new Hyundai Motorsport team makes its Wales Rally GB debut and its top gun Thierry Neuville has already made his mark by winning in Germany. Ex-F1 star Robert Kubica is another to watch.

While the battle for the outright championship has already been decided, there are plenty of other scores to settle on the Welsh forest stages, notably in the WRC2 category where Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar and Finland’s Jari Ketomaa are still dueling it out for the title.

Following the huge popularity of last year’s event, every effort has been made to increase car parking capacity in advance of next week’s season finale. Moreover, the organisers have re-introduced a dedicated Wales Rally FM radio on 87.7FM to further enhance the spectator experience.

“The excitement is really building towards next week’s event and not just among the rally fans,” says Ben Taylor, Managing Director of Wales Rally GB. “There is a real sense that this is a world class sporting event coming to the region and everyone is looking forward to it. It’s a great day out for all the family, with opportunities to get involved throughout mid and North Wales. We can’t wait to get started.”

Welsh Government Minister for the Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart, said:
“We’re looking forward to welcoming Wales Rally GB next week and to build on the success of last year’s revitalised event which provided the region with a multi-million pound boost, attracted thousands of spectators. It's widely recognised that Wales has some of the finest rally stages anywhere in the world. The spectacular scenery and landscapes of north Wales will again provide the perfect backdrop for the 2014 event and I look forward to attending the ceremonial start and to wish everyone well for another successful Rally in north Wales.”

BIGGEST BRITISH CHALLENGE FOR MORE THAN A DECADE

Not since the heady days of Colin McRae and Richard Burns have British fans had so much to celebrate on their home round of the World Rally Championship.

With Kris Meeke on the verge of his maiden WRC win and Elfyn Evans fast becoming a serious challenger, there are two British drivers in the hunt for glory. Since joining Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT at the start of this season, Meeke has notched up four podiums and taken the fight to Ogier on many occasions.

“I’ve really enjoyed my first full season in the WRC, and competing on Wales Rally GB will be the icing on the cake,” admitted the 35-year-old Ulsterman. “I don’t have a great deal of experience of Wales Rally GB, having only entered it once over the past eight years, but it’s always been a legendary event. My first-ever rally was actually through Dyfi Forest, so I feel at home on these stages – I can’t wait!”

Evans is a local hero in his native north Wales and, while the 25-year-old from Dolgellau is still being groomed for future stardom, he’s already proved his potential with stage wins and no fewer than five top six finishes to date in 2014. Last year, he sent the fans home happy taking WRC2 honours and finishing eighth overall – now armed with an M-Sport prepared Fiesta RS WRC a podium isn’t out of the question.

“There’s something special about contesting your home event with a world rally car and I am really looking forward to it,” said Evans. “The itinerary looks fantastic – I can’t wait to get out there and I’m sure we’re going to enjoy every minute of it.

“We’ve had a pretty good debut season, and it would be great to finish on a high at home. Of course there will be a lot of very quick drivers so we will just have to wait and see what happens. If we can show some positive speed and be challenging on occasion I’ll be happy; but more than anything I just want to enjoy the experience and put on a good show for the home crowd.”

While Meeke and Evans will spearhead the home guard, there’s plenty of other British talent on show. Matthew Wilson – once the UK’s top WRC star – makes a welcome return while young Welsh stars Tom Cave and Osian Pryce will be among those battling for WRC2 honours. David Bogie, the multiple Scottish Rally Champion, is another of those trying to enhance their reputation with a strong performance in Britain’s premier rally.

RALLYFESTS PROVIDE FUN FOR ALL THE FAMILY

Introduced to provide a full day’s high-octane entertainment for those who didn’t want to venture into the Welsh forests, RallyFests were an instant success, particularly with the family audience – so it’s no surprise that they are back on this year’s bill at Chirk Castle and Kinmel Park.

Indeed, such was their popularity that car parking and spectator areas have been massively increased for 2014 and a special traffic management system introduced at Chirk.

Enhanced facilities include live commentary, big screens, special parades and displays, trade stands, catering plus some special activities and showcases kindly provided by Hyundai UK.

Specially priced family tickets are available for just £42.

PUBLIC OFFERED FREE WRC OPPORTUNITIES

While access to all 23 special stages is ticketed, there are several great opportunities for the public to savour the presence of the World Rally Championship in north Wales absolutely free.

Visitors are welcome to come to the packed Service Park in Deeside on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Here they not only will see all 160 cars being prepared for action but also be treated to some impressive entertainment including live bands, stunt shows and on Saturday evening a fireworks display. Entrance to the floodlit Opening Ceremony in Eirias Stadium and the Ceremonial Finish in Llandudno are free of charge. For those in mid Wales, Newtown offers a giant screen to watch the action and the chance to see the rally cars and stars up close in the town on Friday morning. STARS SHINE ON NATIONAL RALLY The Wales Rally GB National Rally is an integral part of the WRC show. Aimed at enthusiastic amateur crews keen to be part of the UK’s biggest rally festival, the National Rally follows the same route providing spectators with even more top class action. As well as including some iconic rally cars from yesteryear including a Lancia Stratos, MG Metro 6R4 and large numbers of Escorts, Mitsubishi Evos and Subaru Imprezas, the National entry also includes a few stars of its own. Jimmy McRae is rolling back the years behind the wheel of an historic Vauxhall Firenza while former England test cricketer Graeme Swann is trying his luck in new sporting arena.

HYUNDAI SHELL WORLD RALLY TEAM PREPARES FOR SEASON FINALE AT WALES RALLY GB

Posted: November 8, 2014 5:00 PM

The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team is set to embark on the last challenge of its maiden season in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Wales Rally GB – the 13th and final round of the series - next weekend.

The Deeside-based event marks the return of the WRC to full gravel after a mixed-surface round at RallyRACC – Rally de España last month. For the last event of the season, the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team will once again field three Hyundai i20 WRC cars with Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul as lead crew in car #7. Finns Juho Hänninen and Tomi Tuominen will join the team for the final round of the WRC behind the wheel of the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC, while Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard will be representing the Hyundai Motorsport N team with the #20 car.

With a new base in Deeside in North Wales since 2013, Wales Rally GB is one of the oldest and most legendary rounds of the WRC, having been run for the first time back in 1932. It has been part of the Championship’s calendar since its inaugural season back in 1973. The Welsh roads are characterised by their fast, muddy, slippery nature and form some of the most technical and challenging stages of the entire calendar.

The Alzenau-based team was in Wales last week to prepare for the rally with a five-day test with all three drivers to ensure the trio of Hyundai i20 WRC cars have the best set-up possible to tackle the rally next week.

With the end of the season rapidly approaching, the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team will be looking for another positive result, to continue the development of the Hyundai i20 WRC car and the team for the future.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said:
“Wales Rally GB is a difficult event with a lot of parameters that can be hard to predict. It can be very muddy and very foggy and when the conditions are tricky it can suit better our Hyundai i20 WRC. We have seen that when it’s down to pure performance and speed we have, perhaps understandably, lacked a little bit in our first season but when the conditions are more demanding we can close the gap and play a little bit more at the front –we will then aim for a top five finish. With Thierry, Juho and Hayden entered for Rally GB we have three drivers with a good level on gravel. We have seen in the past that Juho goes well when the conditions are not so easy. Thierry had a very strong result in GB last year and Hayden is showing more and more speed as he continues his progress. Wales Rally GB is an event he knows well so we would like to think he’s capable of doing something special.”

This will be Neuville’s third appearance at Wales Rally GB, a rally which holds special memories for the young Belgian as he clinched second place in the WRC there last year.

Neuville said:
“It feels special to go back to Wales Rally GB for Nicolas and I, as we were crowned vice-Champions there last year. For this year, we will make our best to finish the event without any problems but also trying to keep a good rhythm and set some good times with our Hyundai i20 WRC. Wales Rally GB is certainly not an easy one; the grip is changing constantly and it’s very important to have a good recce and pace notes. Sometimes it’s wet and there’s a lot of grip, which can make it muddy hence very slippery straight away. We could also have some ice patches at this time of the year so all in all it’s a big challenge.”

Finn Hänninen returns to Wales Rally GB after a few years away but he’s well aware of what to expect from the Welsh forests and after a good test to prepare for the event, he’s ready for another outing with the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team.

Hänninen commented:
“It feels good to be back in the Hyundai i20 WRC after a couple of months. We had a really good test for Wales Rally GB and I think we’re well prepared to tackle the stages next weekend. My last time in GB was back in 2008 and I had almost forgotten the variety of surface conditions you can find there due to the constant change of grip. The stages are fast and flowing and you can keep a good rhythm but it’s important to have a smooth and clean line to keep the speed on –I really like these stages. Of course I haven’t competed in most of them – as the rally now is much northerly - but we will try to have a good recce and prepare as much as we can.”

Wales Rally GB brings some good memories to young Paddon as well being the first event he contested outside New Zealand back in 2007. After winning his first WRC stage at Rallye de España last month, the Kiwi is well-determined to continue his progress in the WRC.

Paddon said:
“Wales Rally GB has some similarities to New Zealand. Generally the stages are similar to some of the forestry roads we have back home, flowing and not rough. Because it’s primarily a winter sport in New Zealand it’s often a bit cold and wet like what we tend to find in Wales. We had a good test in Wales last week to get the Hyundai i20 WRC dialled into the slippery conditions we are anticipating. I do like Wales Rally GB because the grip levels are quite consistent although it’s always hard to judge until you get on the stage and compare times.”

A compact three-day route divided up into 23 challenging stages, totalling just over 305 kilometres, makes Wales Rally GB a perfect ending for the 2014 WRC season. The main features of the rally include a ceremonial start in Colwyn Bay on Thursday 13th November, a remote service in Newtown on Friday 14th November as the drivers tackle some familiar stages in mid-Wales. Two spectacular stages will be run after sunset on Saturday 15th November as well as one of the three Super Special Stages included in the itinerary (Chirk Castle and Kinmel Park).

RECORD ENTRY FOR PIRELLI ON WALES RALLY GB

Posted: November 8, 2014 4:52 PM

Pirelli will have a record number of entries since returning to the World Rally Championship at the start of this year, on the season-closing Wales Rally GB next weekend. No fewer than 50 cars will use the Italian tyres from November 13-16, including competitors on the fully subscribed national event, which follows behind the main field.

This underlines the popularity of the latest rally products from Pirelli for asphalt and gravel, which have proved to deliver both performance and reliability.

Wales Rally GB runs all over the forests of Wales in Great Britain, giving the tyres plenty of work in order to evacuate challenging quantities of mud and water, sometimes with a risk of ice in the early mornings too.

In the leading World Rally Car class, Pirelli will equip the Ford Fiesta RS WRC of Martin Prokop. In WRC2, the Italian tyres will appear on the Ford Fiesta R5 of championship frontrunner Lorenzo Bertelli, while Mitsubishi Lancer driver Max Rendina has already won this year’s Production championship so will not be present. In the two-wheel drive WRC3 category, competitors include the Citroen DS3 R3T of newly crowned British Rally Champion (and Pirelli UK Star Driver) Daniel McKenna.

Leading Pirelli drivers in Great Britain
Pirelli is represented in all the classes, including the historic section of the rally. This is just a selection of some of the drivers who will run with Pirelli next weekend:

    21 Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)
    37 Lorenzo Bertelli/Mitia Dotta (Ford Fiesta R5)
    40 Valeriy Gorban/Korsia Volodymyr (Mini John Cooper S2000)
    42 Bernardo Sousa/Hugo Magalhaes (Ford Fiesta RRC)
    81 Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Ford Fiesta S2000)
    87 Daniel McKenna/Arthur Keirans (Citroen DS3T)
The tyres available
For the demanding gravel stages of Wales, Pirelli will bring the reinforced Scorpion K8 soft compound, as well as the reinforced K4 hard compound. The K has always been a very versatile tyre, capable of covering a wide range of conditions, with a well-known tread pattern that is extremely efficient when it comes to evacuating mud, water, gravel and loose stones. The K8, with its softer compound that is designed to work best in cold and muddy conditions, will be the default choice with the harder compound tyre used in case of warmer conditions with a harder base.

The rules
A maximum of 40 tyres in total, including four for the shakedown, can be used by Priority 1 and 2 drivers for the duration of the rally, which totals 23 stages. Drivers have 24 of the soft compound tyres available and 16 of the hard compound.

Quotes
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director:
“Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship is an event that’s very special to me personally, as it’s really what first got me into motorsport: heading out into the forests as a youngster, watching the likes of Markku Alen. The sport has changed but the challenge of Rally GB is no different now: mud, rain, fog, and slippery surfaces. It’s one of the events that asks the most from tyres, which is why we’re delighted that we have our record entry here. Our intention in coming back to the World Rally Championship this year was to support privateers and give our existing customers the opportunity to go rallying at the highest level. Using the experience we’ve gained from rallying in the past – a sport we’ve been involved in from the very beginning – as well as Formula One, we’ve been able to come up with a product that is both reliable and fast, on every surface. More evolutions are in the pipeline, and we look forward to another strong performance this weekend on some legendary stages.”

Irish Corner

Posted: November 7, 2014 10:12 PM

Going to Rally GB from Ireland?
Then check out this:

CHIRK CASTLE READY FOR RALLYFEST

Posted: November 4, 2014 9:13 AM

The FIA World Rally Championship roars back into Chirk Castle for another family-friendly RallyFest on Saturday 15 November.

The National Trust property will provide a stunning backdrop to one of the centre pieces of this year’s eagerly anticipated Wales Rally GB (13-16 November). A festival of top class motor sport action is guaranteed alongside a host of entertainments and activities for the whole family.

RallyFest stages were introduced in 2013 specifically aimed at those spectators who wanted to experience all the excitement of the premier World Rally Championship without venturing into the forests. They featured enhanced facilities and all-day entertainment for all ages – and were an instant success, particularly among those who might have been new to the excitement of rallying.

Indeed the RallyFest at Chirk Castle proved so popular last year that significant upgrades have been implemented by the organisers for 2014.

A substantial increase in car parking together with a completely revised traffic management plan will ensure that visitors can get in and out of the historic mediaeval venue.

Spectator viewing areas have been significantly increased, too, to ensure that everyone is able to find a good vantage point to enjoy the action of up to 160 cars blasting their way around the specially constructed rally course.

Toilets and catering facilities have also been substantially increased after the experience of last year and visitor access around the site has been completely changed to ensure that those facilities are in the right place for the spectators to use.

The feast of non-stop entertainment includes eye-catching displays and demonstrations by supercars and historic rally cars, stunning aerobatics by the jaw-dropping Red Bull Matadors (weather permitting), two giant screens showing the live action, a funfair featuring a number of rides for all ages, plus some very special attractions courtesy of Hyundai Motor UK. Hyundai returned to the WRC in 2014 and will be celebrating its comeback in style at the RallyFest.

“Chirk is going to be amazing this year,” extolled Ben Taylor, Managing Director of Wales Rally GB. “It is a fabulous setting and we’ve packed a huge amount of quality entertainment into the schedule. It’s definitely one of the ‘must see’ stages of the rally.

“There were a number of things that went wrong last year. I know; I was there in the crowd and in the traffic. But we have had a proper look at everything and addressed all the areas that caused problems. The biggest issue was that 4,500 people turned up on the day and we simply weren’t geared up for them.

“This year we are much better prepared. Everything is ready and I am certain it will be a fabulous event. We just need to remind everyone that we have made it advanced ticket only to give us a better idea of numbers, so please don’t try to turn up on the day without a ticket.”

In order to control spectator numbers, tickets must be purchased in advance (before 11.59pm on Friday 14 November).

The carefully planned traffic management means that a ‘tidal’ one-way system will be in operation. Access to the car parks will be one-way IN only until 11.30am, at which point the direction of travel will be reversed to allow spectators to leave without unnecessary congestion.

Car parks will be open at 8am and all visitors are advised to arrive early to savour the many other activities and attractions in the build-up to the arrival of the WRC superstars at noon.

Full details of arrangements can be found in the on-line Rally Planner available via the official www.walesrallygb.com website which also has full ticket information.

SUPERCARS AND RALLY LEGENDS ROAR INTO CHIRK CASTLE RALLYFEST

Posted: October 23, 2014 12:15 PM

Excitement is building ahead of the special RallyFest at Chirk Castle (Saturday 15 November). Alongside the extensive family-friendly entertainment activities, organisers have confirmed that the high octane event will include parades and displays of supercars and historic rally cars.

The family-friendly RallyFest is one of the highlights of this year’s Wales Rally GB (13-16 November), the UK’s concluding round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Visitors of all ages will be treated to a wealth of fun-fuelled entertainment topped by dramatic WRC action as the world’s top drivers blast their turbocharged machines around a special competitive section laid out on the private roads around the medieval castle.

The RallyFest, though, has been created to deliver more than just the thrills and spills of the dramatic rally stage. To whet the appetites of spectators, parades and displays of both supercars and historic rally cars are also on the eye-catching bill.

A tasty line-up of dazzling supercars will arrive at Chirk at around 10am in the morning. They will complete two laps of the stage before parking up for visitors to get a closer look. Among the pin-ups already confirmed are icons from magical marques such as Aston Martin, Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche as well as one of the superfast and ultra rare BAC Monos.

Once all the exotica is on public display, the stage will host evocative demonstration runs by selected rally cars from past eras. Arranged by the ever-enthusiastic Slowly Sideways UK, visitors are promised the sights, sounds and smells from the sport’s golden ages.

These amazing power shows performed by both supercars and famous classics are designed to ensure that visitors arrive in good time for the WRC action.

After the huge popularity of last year’s RallyFest at Chirk Castle, the organisers are providing increased car parking as well as extra viewing areas and facilities for spectators.

Moreover, numbers are being restricted to those buying tickets in advance (before 11.59pm on Thursday 13 November). A carefully planned traffic management system has been introduced and access to the car parks will be closed at 11.30am. The direction of travel will then be reversed to ensure spectators can leave the venue without unnecessary congestion. Car parks open at 8am and the advice is to arrive early and savour the supercars and other attractions.

MAXIMUM ATTACK – WALES RALLY GB ATTRACTS FULL ENTRY

Posted: October 23, 2014 12:00 PM

Next month’s Wales Rally GB (13-16 November) will feature a maximum 160-car field after organiser, International Motor Sports, confirmed it had received a substantially over-subscribed number of entries for the first time in many years.

Entries for the International rally closed last week with no fewer than 72 teams representing 26 nations lining up to face the 23 challenging special stages run against the clock in the legendary Welsh forests.

These will be complemented by 88 crews contesting the National event, which provides amateurs with the chance to tackle the same timed sections immediately after their WRC counterparts. In total, 105 entries have been received for Wales Rally GB National – these have been accepted on a first come first served basis with those not currently successful being placed on a Reserve list.

“This is great news on many levels,” enthused Ben Taylor, Managing Director of Wales Rally GB. “We set out to create a great sporting spectacle and a fitting finale to the FIA World Rally Championship – to have this full-capacity entry is a major component in achieving those two goals. It underlines the event’s massive appeal both at home and abroad, but it’s also fantastic news for the fans who will be treated to some truly memorable top class action.”

The regular WRC teams top the International entries. These include Volkswagen Motorsport’s reigning World Rally Champion and last year’s Wales Rally GB winner, Sébastien Ogier, plus the two top home hopes: Elfyn Evans, lining up for the Cumbrian-based M-Sport World Rally Team, and Kris Meeke, representing Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT.

Other notables targeting success in Wales are Rallye Germany winner Thierry Neuville, spearheading Hyundai Motorsport’s exciting new three-car team, and former F1 star Robert Kubica (RK M-Sport World Rally Team).

There’s plenty of additional British interest, too. Matthew Wilson makes a welcome return in another of the M-Sport run Ford Fiestas but will face a stern test in the ultra competitive WRC2 category from multiple Scottish Rally Champion David Bogie, and two promising young Welsh pretenders: Tom Cave and Osian Pryce.

Wales Rally GB National is not without its own stars, with Jimmy McRae ensuring that Britain’s most famous rallying family is back on the entry list; the five-time British Rally Champion is turning back the clock behind the wheel of an historic Vauxhall Firenza. There are plenty of other crowd-pleasing classic rally cars as well including Steve Perez’s wonderful Lancia Stratos, Stuart Larbey’s great sounding MG Metro 6R4 as well as numerous Ford Escort RS1600s, Subaru Imprezas and Mistubishi Evolutions.

There’s also a significant rallying rookie among the National ranks. BT Sport presenter and former England cricketer Graeme Swann will be searching for rather less spin on the hallowed forest tracks than he looked for on the test pitches at Lords!

With a sell-out and star-studded entry, this year’s Wales Rally GB is not to be missed. A comprehensive ‘Rally Planner’ guide for spectators can be found on-line via the official www.walesrallygb.com website which also has full ticketing information. Tickets are also available via the ticket hotline on 0844 847 2251.

Entries Received - WRC

Posted: October 23, 2014 11:30 AM

Entry List - National Section

Posted: October 23, 2014 11:27 AM

WRC Looms In More Ways Than One For Josh

Posted: October 23, 2014 11:24 AM

Josh Moffett will make his WRC debut next month when he takes his Group N Mitsubishi Lancer across the Irish Sea to tackle the final round of the championship, Wales Rally GB.

The 22-year-old Monaghan driver, who is a nominee for this year’s Motorsport Ireland Young Rally Driver of the Year Award, has been a front-runner in the Valvoline Irish Forestry Championship this season and is hoping to try and build on his gravel experience on the challenging Welsh stages.

“I really enjoy driving on gravel,” said Josh speaking last week. “I suppose the only downside is that forestry rallies in Ireland tend to be quite short which is no fault of their own, that’s just how it is. I’d love to challenge myself by doing a full 3-day gravel rally and gauge my pace against new Group N competitors. Competing against professional drivers on the Circuit of Ireland this year has given me the confidence to try and push myself and I’m really looking forward to Wales. It might be my last rally in a Group N car for a while so I’d love to get to the finish and gain as much experience as possible.”

Josh will be the second Combilift Rallying driver to sample the WRC this season after elder brother Sam finished 15th overall on Rallye Deutschland in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC back in August. Josh has already driven the Fiesta WRC in competition himself when he won the Sligo Stages in July and this weekend he plans to use that Fiesta again on the Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally. ”I was actually surprised how quickly I adapted to the Fiesta in Sligo and I’m really looking forward to driving it again in Skibbereen. There may be more outings next year but nothing is set in stone yet.”

Josh will be partnered on both occasions by regular co-driver, John Rowan. Wales Rally GB takes place from November 13-16.

Daniel McKenna accelerates along the 'Road to Wales' pursuing prestigious Wales Rally GB entry

Posted: August 14, 2014 11:16 AM

Building on the success of last year’s Road to Wales initiative International Motor Sport (IMS), the organisers of Wales Rally GB, have added even more opportunities for Britain’s up-and-coming rally stars to compete against the world’s best teams on Wales Rally GB, the concluding round of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (13 – 16 November).

There are now seven prize drives up for grabs on the International event for national crews to compete head-to-head with the best rally drivers and cars in the world. These prize drives are on offer for the top three drivers in the MSA British Rally Championship (BRC), the BRC Rally Two champion, the BRC British Junior champion, BRC Challenge winner and the BRC Stars of the future winner.

Currently fighting it out for the top spot in the BRC are County Monaghan’s Daniel McKenna (27) and Machynlleth’s Osian Pryce (21). It had been extremely tight until Pryce had a points damaging end to the Scottish Rally, retiring with gearbox issues. Consistent McKenna capitalised by winning the rally and moving twenty points clear in the title fight. With just two rounds left, it’s all to play for and Pryce has vowed to push for wins. Just four points behind, Gus Greensmith (17) from Manchester and Callum Black (22) from Brackley are tied for third place for the final prize drive on Wales Rally GB.

Incredibly Gus Greensmith, not content with fighting for third in the BRC, is also leading both the British Junior Championship and the Rally Two Championship! In the lead so far for the BRC Stars of the Future prize drive is Hatfield’s Niall Moroney (18).

Richard Sykes (48) from Stourbridge is currently leading the BRC Challenge Trophy. He competed in Wales Rally GB last year and he hopes to stay at the top of the championship to guarantee his place again for 2014.

In addition, IMS is also partnered with the British Trial and Rally Drivers Association (BTRDA) to offer a free drive in the three-day Wales Rally GB National event which runs alongside the main WRC field, covering all 12 of the stages and using the same Service Park in Deeside. Currently leading the BTRDA Gold Star Championship is Ripon’s Matthew Robinson, with Bishop Auckland’s Stephen Petch (30) and Clitheroe’s Russ Thompson (26) close behind. There are 23 points covering the top three and three rounds still to go, so it’s all to play for.

For the first time this year, IMS will also be awarding prize drives in Wales Rally GB National for the winners of the MSA English Rally Championship, the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship and the McGrady Insurance MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship. The current leaders are Matthew Robinson (also leading the BTRDA Gold Star Series), Rhuddlan’s Luke Francis (25), Duns’ Euan Thorburn (27) and Belfast’s Derek McGarrity (24) respectively.

Managing Director of Wales Rally GB, Ben Taylor said: “Last year’s Road to Wales initiative proved a great way of rewarding the brightest rally prospects competing in Britain with a platform to showcase their driving skills on a global stage against the world’s best drivers. We have added a further five prize drives for this year’s Wales Rally GB taking the total up to 12 and it’s extremely exciting seeing the competition hotting up. We hope that the opportunity to contest the event will have a positive impact in nurturing and developing the careers of young rally drivers.”

Current BRC leader Daniel McKenna commented: “The Road to Wales initiative is a great incentive for me competing in the BRC as it gives me the opportunity to enter a WRC round and compete against the best drivers in the world. Without the Road to Wales prize I probably would not consider competing in Wales Rally GB as a one off WRC round. I did the event last year as part of Road to Wales for winning the R2 championship in the BRC and it was a fantastic experience. It really opened my eyes to the commitment required in all aspects of the sport to compete in WRC events.

“I am currently leading the BRC with the Support of Pirelli, Citroen Racing and DGM Sport and I hope to have success in clinching the Championship later in the season. If I win one of the Road to Wales entries for Wales Rally GB through the BRC, I plan on competing in the event again this year using the Pirelli backed Citroen DS3 R3T to compare my pace with the drivers in the Junior WRC.”

For more information on the Road to Wales initiative and to view the leaderboard please visit the Wales Rally GB website

AMATEURS OFFERED FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY TO COMPETE ON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STAGE

Posted: August 14, 2014 11:14 AM

Rallying is one of the few major international sports where amateurs can compete alongside the world championship elite and, once again, non-professional crews are being offered the rare opportunity to pit their skills against the very best on this year’s Wales Rally GB (13-16 November).

The full route for Britain’s concluding round of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) was announced last week and today (Tuesday) comes confirmation of two options for amateur crews wanting to be part of UK rallying’s blue riband event.

For more ambitious entrants there’s the chance to contest Wales Rally GB in its entirety, or the option of the three-day Wales Rally GB National Rally. The latter provides a cost-effective alternative with reduced stage mileage but still runs right alongside the main event ensuring all participants take full advantage of the WRC’s presence in north Wales.

As proved so popular last year with both competitors and fans, all the teams competing in the National Rally will be based next to the premier world championship outfits in the Service Park situated in Deeside.

“It’s probably the best rally I’ve ever done,” said last year’s winner Euan Thorburn. “The stages were great, the event was so well supported with lots of spectators and the atmosphere was really terrific. It was the first time I’ve done the National Rally and it was just fantastic to be part of the WRC. I’m certainly planning to do it – or perhaps even the full event – again in November.”

Guaranteeing the Wales Rally GB National’s appeal, this year’s itinerary features all 11 of the classic Welsh forest stages tackled by the WRC crews as well as the two exciting fan-friendly RallyFest stages at Chirk Castle and Kinmel Park. What’s more, finishers will receive their trophies on the official WRC podium in Llandudno on Sunday afternoon. Awards will be presented for a wide number of categories including FIA and historic classes.

Providing spectators with extra value and added interest, the National Rally fills the gap between the WRC’s two passes through the legendary Gartheiniog, Dyfi, Hafren Sweet Lamb and Maesnant stages in mid-Wales on Friday. Over the weekend it then follows the International route through Clocaenog (East and Main), Aberhirnant, Dyfnant and Chirk Castle timed sections on Saturday, then through Kinmel Park, Alwen and Brenig stages on Sunday. It all adds up to 97.64 miles of spectacular competition on some of the world’s finest gravel roads.

“One of the most important aspects of Wales Rally GB is that it is not an exclusive event only for the international crews,” said Ben Taylor, Managing Director of Wales Rally GB. “It is also a valued part of the domestic rally calendar, and the inclusion of a thriving and affordable National rally is a key ingredient in event’s success. It not only encourages crews from all levels of the sport within the UK to be a part of a World Championship event, but also adds enormously to the spectator experience both out on the stages and in the service park. Last year’s Wales Rally GB National was a complete sell-out attracting a capacity 100-car entry and we fully expect this year’s to be similarly well subscribed when entries open in the autumn.”

The final number of places available and the entry fee will be announced at a later date, but organisers have already guaranteed that participation will not cost more than last year’s £900 fee for the three-day event.

Seven free places have already been reserved for the winners of key UK rally championships, as part of the highly praised ‘Road to Wales’ initiative. The names of those currently on target to win these free ‘Road to Wales’ entries can be found – along with all the latest event information – on the official WalesRallyGB.com website.

For further updates follow Wales Rally GB on Twitter @walesrallygb or join the conversations on Facebook at www.facebook.com/walesrallygb.

WORLD CLASS SEASON CLIMAX

Posted: August 14, 2014 11:13 AM

This year’s Wales Rally GB (13-16 November) will build on the huge success of last year’s revitalised event. In 2013 a move to north Wales proved to be a huge draw for both fans and competitors, attracting record numbers of spectators plus a full capacity entry from right around the globe.

Not resting on those laurels, November’s revised route – announced today (11 June) – features a more compact and fan-friendly three-day schedule comprising all the classic ingredients that make Wales Rally GB such a fitting finale to the season-long FIA World Rally Championship.

The concluding round of the 2014 WRC will be fought out over 23 competitive Special Stages totalling 191.27 miles (307.82 km). To meet the event’s spiralling popularity every effort has been made to ensure that these stages have the best possible spectator access, based out of the widely-praised new Service Park in Deeside.

The majority of the exhilarating timed sections are set on some of the world’s finest rally tracks in the legendary Welsh forests, while two stages held in darkness on Saturday evening will increase both the challenge and spectacle. Night stages were re-introduced last year and have been increased for 2014 (from around 15 to 22 competitive miles).

The itinerary on both Saturday and Sunday includes a family-friendly RallyFest event designed to provide families and casual rally fans with the opportunity to experience the excitement of world championship action in more accommodating surroundings with enhanced facilities.

With building works underway on Conwy Quay, the Thursday evening Ceremonial Start has moved to the Eirias Park Stadium in Colwyn Bay – a venue that is used to hosting top class sports events and outdoor concerts. Entry to Eirias Park will be free and will also feature the popular pre-event autograph session with the world’s leading drivers in attendance.

The dramatic high-speed action then blasts off early Friday morning to familiar Wales Rally GB territory close to Machynlleth. A long, challenging day in mid-Wales features double runs through the well-known Gartheiniog, Dyfi, Hafren Sweet Lamb and Maesnant stages, either side of a remote service in central Newtown.

Saturday’s action is closer to Deeside providing easier access for weekend fans travelling from Liverpool, Manchester and the Midlands. The schedule includes two spectacular stages in the famous Clocaenog forest plus morning and afternoon runs through Aberhirnant and Dyfnant – the final two after sunset. Before that the competitors return to the mid-day service in Deeside via Chirk Castle close to Wrexham for the first of the two RallyFest stages.

The picturesque Chirk Castle proved so popular when introduced last year that the number of spectators trying to access the venue created serious traffic and other issues. Responding to these, the organisers have created a completely revised traffic management system, increased parking and enhanced spectator facilities to ensure a truly family-friendly experience. Moreover admittance this year will be by advanced ticket only, which will help to control numbers and assist with event planning.

The rally will conclude on Sunday with another RallyFest Stage at Kinmel Park, easily accessible from the A55, plus two challenging new stages in north Wales: Alwen and Brenig. The final run through the breathtaking scenery of Brenig is the event’s dramatic, concluding Power Stage for which extra points are awarded. It could be the 2014 world championship title decider, too.

As last year, the winners will be crowned on Mostyn Street in Llandudno. Access to both official Start and Finish Ceremonies will be open to the public and totally free, as is admittance to the Service Park in Deeside.

World Rally Passes are already on sale priced at £99 and will provide access to all 23 special stages including the RallyFests at both Chirk Castle and Kinmel Park. Prices for day Forest Passes, RallyFests and individual stage access will be confirmed when they go on sale later in the year.

“Wales Rally GB is one of the truly great rounds on the world championship calendar,” said Ben Taylor, Managing Director of Wales Rally GB. “We are determined to build on the success of last year and ensure that this year’s rally brings the excitement to even more people.

“The 2014 event has been put together with the interests of both competitors and spectators in mind. We believe that this will provide a challenging test for the drivers and some fantastic viewing opportunities for the fans,” promised Taylor.

“It is fair to say that we were caught out last year by the sheer number of people wanting to get into the stages; we haven’t had that problem for many years. My message to everyone is that we have learned the lessons, we will have robust plans in place, and by going ticket-only on the RallyFest stages we will have a better control on the numbers. As ever, the best value will be in the World Rally Pass which gives access to everything, but we will set a limit on the number of these available.

“For the first time in many years, we have two British drivers – Elfyn Evans and Kris Meeke – at the forefront of the sport, so there is every likelihood that this will one of the best ever Wales Rally GBs.”

Welsh Government Minister for the Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart, said: “We look forward to building on the success of last year’s revitalised event which provided the region with a multi-million pound boost, attracted thousands of spectators and was watched by 600 million viewers world wide. I’m delighted that the return of the Rally to north Wales was such a success with both spectators and competitors alike. The RallyFest stages set against stunning backdrops such as Chirk Castle proved to be a big hit and extended the appeal of the Rally. We look forward to another Rally of Legends in November.”

WALES RALLY GB SUPPORTS THE UK’S MAJOR NATIONAL RALLY CHAMPIONSHIPS

Posted: August 14, 2014 11:11 AM

The winners of the UK’s premier national rally championships will all receive free entries into this year’s Wales Rally GB (13-16 November) as a key component of the on-going ‘Road to Wales’ initiative.

Introduced 12 months ago, the innovative and far-reaching Road to Wales scheme included a number of different programmes all of which combined to revitalise Britain’s concluding round of the FIA World Rally Championship in 2013.

Building on that success, which resulted in crowds returning to the legendary Welsh forest stages in record numbers, the top three finishers in the country’s premier 2014 MSA British Rally Championship (BRC) will again be rewarded with invitation entries into Wales Rally GB, as will the two crews that win the British Junior and RallyTwo categories within the BRC.

Adding to the incentive, both the 2014 BRC Challenge Trophy champion and winner of the BRC ‘Stars of the Future’ also will be offered free entries – this time into the three-day National Rally that runs alongside the star-studded international event and shares many of the same challenging special stages.

No cost entries into the National event will also be provided to the winner of each of the MSA English Rally Championship, the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship and McGrady Insurance MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship as well as the BTRDA Rally Series. This swells the number of prize entries to an impressive dozen.

“Wales Rally GB is the pinnacle of rallying in the UK and we are determined to maximise its preeminence to the full benefit of all those involved in the sport,” said Andrew Coe, Chief Executive of rally organiser International Motor Sports. “Whether it’s encouraging and rewarding those competing in our top national championships or providing those aspiring to be future world champions with vital WRC experience, the provision of these prize entries was extremely well received last year. That’s why we are delighted to be expanding the scheme to 12 by including both Scottish and Northern Irish Championships for the first time in 2014.”

Underlining the success of the scheme, the top three finishers in last year’s BRC all accepted their prize drives in 2013 and took full advantage of the opportunity to shine on the world stage. The newly crowned 2013 BRC Champion, Jukka Korhonen, underlined his talent by winning the competitive WRC3 class on Wales Rally GB while BRC runners-up Osian Pryce and Tom Cave further enhanced their reputations with outstanding achievements in the challenging Welsh forests. Another beneficiary, Euan Thorburn, won the three-day National event.

Rally Guide 1 / Website / Details

Posted: August 14, 2014 11:07 AM

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