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Spain (S/P) - 20-23 Oct 11

Posted: February 21, 2012 4:23 PM - 5857 Hits

Round 12 - 2011 World Rally Championship
P - Production Championship
S - S2000 Championship

MINI Report

Posted: February 21, 2012 4:23 PM

The MINI WRC Team was in a celebratory mood at the end of Rally RACC – Rally of Spain. Not only did Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) and Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR) finish fourth and fifth respectively, but the MINI John Cooper Works WRCs were also first and second fastest on the Power Stage. While it was Sordo’s home event, it was Meeke who took the honour and the three points for being fastest on this final stage. This was the first WRC stage win for the Northern Irish driver and, in fact, he has now scored his first ever WRC points.

The result was helped by an inspired tyre choice at the start of the day. The team’s weather forecast showed rain was expected later in the day, and so they chose to ignore what the other works teams were doing and opt for the appropriate Michelin tyres. Both cars left Salou after the mid-morning halt with two soft tyres on the right hand side, two hard tyres on the left hand side and two soft spares. This proved difficult for the drivers on the two long tarmac stages which were held in the dry, but as the first cars arrived at the final Coll de la Teixeta stage the promised rain came. This was vital and gave Meeke the fastest time, Sordo the second and the customer MINI of Daniel Oliveira the fourth. Third quickest was Sébastien Loeb (FR) who assured Citroen of the 2011 Manufacturers’ title.

Dave Wilcock, Technical Director:
“Obviously we started the day wanting to maintain our positions and keep Sébastian Ogier behind us. On the morning loop Dani picked up a puncture in one of the stages, and that cost 25 seconds so was really close. On the second loop all the weather forecast were showing various options, and it was a matter of which one you chose to believe. When the cars left no one had any idea what the other teams were running in terms of tyre strategy. Our call at the time was it was going to rain halfway through the second stage of the loop, so we took what we considered at the time a safer option and we went for four soft and two hard. We had the wrong tyres for the first stage, and then realised Ford had taken five hard tyres and Citroen four hard and two soft. They believed it was going to stay dry. After the first stage we took a big hit on time, as we were clearly on the wrong tyres. Going into the second stage Ogier’s engine let go, which was fortunate. Then fortunately our weather forecast came true and the power stage had rain just prior to the stage start. We were on the right tyre at the right time. We were one or two by a country mile. We just picked up and extra five points for the drivers in that stage. Credit has to go to Michelin for the durable tyre, because even with the soft tyre on the drying stages it was not that bad. Impressive as ever.”

Dani Sordo (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 37):
“It is okay to be fourth, but we lost a lot on the first day on the gravel stages and with the dust. We had hoped the rain would have come a little bit earlier today. For the first two stages we had the wrong tyres and the others had the right ones, then in the final stage we had the right ones. It was fun and a little bit slippery in some places. I am quite okay, but not totally happy as I really wanted to finish on the podium on my home rally, but it didn’t happen this time.”

Kris Meeke (MINI John Cooper Works WRC No 52):
"That was the perfect end to this rally for me. I knew we had made a good start to the stage, but then knew I had messed up on the last roundabout. I had a quiet word with my engineer, Teena (Gade), in service before the last loop and she was saying just get it home as we will be happy with a finish now. I was so frustrated and wanted to go fast, as I loved the power stage the first time through. To be quicker than Dani on the same tyres on his home patch is something pretty special. Over the whole rally I don’t have the experience to compete with the other guys yet, but this shows that when I know where we are going we can be with them."

Double podium in Spain sends Ford's title fight to final round

Posted: February 21, 2012 4:22 PM

Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen's quest for a maiden FIA World Rally Championship title will go to a final round shootout after Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team claimed a double podium in Rally de España today. They finished second in a Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car with team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila in third, ensuring the drivers' crown will be decided in Britain next month.

The 31-year-old Finn's title challenge was boosted when Latvala sacrificed second position shortly before the finish to ensure his team-mate maximised his points haul. Hirvonen will go to Britain eight points off the lead, with a maximum of 28 points available in the Welsh forests.

Rally de España was the longest round of the season with 406.52km of competition over three days and 18 speed tests in the hilly Tarragona region of north-east Spain. Friday's opening day was predominantly gravel, before the team switched the Fiesta RS WRCs to asphalt specification for two days of sealed-surface action on smooth and flowing roads near the holiday resort of Salou.

Latvala led the opening leg until a spin in the dusty final special stage cost almost 45sec and dropped him to second. However, the 26-year-old Finn produced the best asphalt driving of his career over the final two days to keep the pressure on leader Sébastien Loeb. He won four stages, to add to two gravel wins on the opening day, before selflessly incurring a two minute penalty to aid Hirvonen.

Hirvonen settled into third in the opening leg after a cautious drive in frequently poor visibility. Despite feeling happy with both his driving and the set-up of the Fiesta RS WRC, he struggled for pace during the second leg. After modifying his driving style, his speed increased and he won a stage during today's final leg, covering 102.62km, to be on hand to step up to second.

'It was a tough rally and initially I struggled for pace on the asphalt,' said Hirvonen. 'However, I made some changes to the way I drove, my times improved and my confidence increased. It took me a long time to realise what I needed to do, but I finished with a good feeling and thanks to Jari-Matti's great support, it means the championship is still wide open going to the final round.

'The asphalt rallies are behind me now and it will be an exciting finale in Britain in conditions that I like. I must win the rally but the destiny of the title is pretty much in my own hands and that's a good feeling,' he added.

Latvala was delighted with his asphalt pace, which made him the fastest driver in yesterday's second leg. 'It was a fantastic weekend and great to be on the podium after my best performance in Spain. I'll take plenty of positives away from the rally. I have so much confidence with the Fiesta on asphalt and I want to store up my asphalt speed and take it out of the bottle when I need it,' he said.

'I'm still annoyed about my spin on Friday when I lost the chance of victory. It was my mistake, and a painful one, but the conditions weren't the same for everyone. However, the positives from this weekend far outweigh that one mistake,' he added.

Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr finished 12th despite crashing into a tree in the opening leg. Al Qassimi blended caution with speed on his final rally of the season. The Abu Dhabi driver will miss the last round to fulfil commitments at the Formula 1 Grand Prix in his home country.

Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson praised a 'fantastic team effort'.
'Both drivers did what they needed to. Jari-Matti played a perfect team role and it was the best asphalt performance from him and the Fiesta RS WRC. Mikko was under huge pressure. He had to finish as far up the leaderboard as possible and he goes to Britain with a chance of the title,' he said.

"Today's result was obviously overshadowed by the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli in the MotoGP race in Malaysia. Marco visited M-Sport just a few weeks ago to test a Fiesta RS WRC. His enthusiasm and delight at being in the car were clear for all to see and we are all extremely saddened at the news. Our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues,' he added.

Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said:
'Knowing that asphalt is not the favourite surface of our drivers, we came to Spain to take as many points as we could. With Mikko and Jari-Matti on the podium, we achieved that objective. I'm encouraged by the huge increase in asphalt performance from Jari-Matti and the Fiesta and I look forward to the title showdown in Wales in three weeks.'

News from other Ford teams
Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson finished sixth for the M-Sport Stobart Ford team to claim his best asphalt result, while team-mates Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor finished eighth, both in Fiesta RS WRCs. Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin retired from 10th in the team's other car when they hit a barrier and ripped the front left wheel from the car. FERM Power Tools duo Dennis Kuipers / Frederic Miclotte were ninth, while Munchi's Ford's Federico Villagra / Diego Curletto were 16th, despite missing much of the pre-event recce due to flight delays in their native Argentina. Monster World Rally Team's Ken Block / Alex Gelsomino retired after crashing in the opening stage this morning.


Posted: February 21, 2012 4:18 PM

Dennis Kuipers was a on a mission during the last two days of Rally de España. On the final day the FERM Power Tools World Rally Team duo started their hunt for points in eleventh position and finished the rally ninth overall. "Today was about one thing: attack", said Kuipers.

On Sunday morning Kuipers and co-driver Frederic Miclotte had six stages left to reduce the 25 second lead of fellow Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver, Britain?s Matthew Wilson. This charge resulted in a spectacular finale. In the early morning the FERM team lessened the gap by 14 seconds.

The last three stages made the difference. On the penultimate stage the FERM team finally conquered their desired position.
"The plan was to already push on Saturday to get tenth position but it was not enough. So we had to charge again today," said Kuipers. "We were pushing today, we had only one thing our minds; attack. I am glad it was successful," said Kuipers.

It is already the sixth time that Dennis and Fred finish in the points and the eighth time that the FERM Power Tools World Rally team scores manufacturer points. It is a nice reward for the difficult event based in the coastal resort of Salou.
"We had a difficult opening day but to turn this around and conclude the rally in ninth position is just excellent," concludes Miclotte.


Posted: February 21, 2012 4:17 PM

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team driver Federico Villagra grappled with the challenges of a new co-driver, a car he had not driven for four months and missing the majority of the pre-event reconnaissance to make it to the end of this weekend’s RACC-Rally de España 16th overall in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

On the back of his sixth consecutive win from Rally de Concepcion del Uruguay in Entre Rios last weekend, Villagra was feeling confident ahead of his final WRC event of the season. The Munchi’s Ford team, however, were delayed in arriving to Spain when the Puyehue volcano range in southern Chile erupted and sent clouds of ash streams east over Argentina.

The disruptions to Villagra’s flights meant that that the nine-time Argentine Rally Champion missed Tuesday’s reconnaissance. The FIA granted the waiver allowing Villagra and co-driver Diego Curletto to recce two new stages (SS1 & SS4 Pesells and SS3 & SS6 Les Garrigues) in addition to some of the stages already scheduled for Wednesday.

After being absent from the world rally scene since Acropolis Rally in June, this weekend marked the first time since Greece that Villagra has driven the Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Spain also marked the first time Villagra has piloted the Fiesta RS WRC in a lower, more aggressive asphalt specification.

Despite a series of setbacks prior to the penultimate round of the WRC, the South American driver went onto set the second-fastest time at Thursday’s Shakedown. Friday’s unique mix of asphalt and gravel stages, however, proved troublesome for Villagra who struggled with brakes for the opening 80.18 km loop. The Munchi’s Ford service team changed the brake callipers, discs and pads at Service A and the driver climbed the WRC leaderboard to sit 23rd going into Day 2.

Friday evening’s 75 minute flexi service saw Villagra’s service team transform the Ford Fiesta RS WRC from a gravel set-up into full asphalt specification in order to tackle the remaining two days of competition which was set on Tarmac. Saturday posed no major problems for Villagra who improved his times to sit 19th at the end of Stage 12.

The final day of Rally de España saw the Munchi’s Ford driver move further up the leaderboard to finish the end of his seventh WRC event of 2011 16th overall.

Villagra will now return to his native homeland where he will concentrate on the final two rounds of the Argentine Rally Championship (ARC) which he leads by an incredible 125 points. With such a significant lead, it is expected that Villagra will be crowned the Argentine Rally Champion for the tenth time in December.

Federico Villagra said:
“It has been a difficult weekend but I am very happy to have made it over to Spain after the nightmare we had trying to get here earlier in the week! It was disappointing to miss the recce on Tuesday but at least we got to do some of Wednesday plus the organisers allowed us to drive Friday’s new stages. It’s always a big confidence boost doing the recce as it allows you to get to grips with the roads but I am lucky in some ways as it is an event I have done four times before so I already remembered some of the roads. On Friday we were more cautious on the first run so we could make changes to the pacenotes before we pushed on the afternoon’s repeat leg. Then we completely lost our brakes so it was a difficult day. Saturday and Sunday has gone much better but it has taken a bit of time getting used to driving the car in a different specification. I have enjoyed the challenge this weekend and now I will return home to concentrate on my championship back in Argentina.”


Posted: February 21, 2012 4:15 PM

M-Sport Stobart Ford’s Mads Østberg secured his best ever result on asphalt after finishing sixth at this weekend’s RACC Rally de España in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Team-mate Henning Solberg finished eighth but Matthew Wilson retired after he tore the front-left wheel off his Fiesta RS WRC on the penultimate stage.

Friday’s opening stages saw the Cumbria-based team travel west of the rally base in Salou where they tackled a unique selection of mixed gravel and asphalt stages totalling 160 km in the Tarragona region. Three minute gaps were introduced to eliminate problems with dust but the lack of wind meant lingering dust clouds hampered the M-Sport Stobart drivers’ visibility throughout the morning.

Østberg also had the added difficulty of being restricted to a Tarmac-specification differential which created handling problems on the day’s predominantly gravel stages. The 24-year-old, however, produced a polished performance to finish the day seventh, only 10.3 seconds adrift of Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke in sixth place.

After posting the third-fastest Shakedown time, Solberg was hoping to emulate his strong performance from last year’s outing in Spain. Intercom problems, however, hindered the Norwegian’s progress who was forced to rely on his memory rather than co-driver Ilka Minor’s pacenotes. The issue was fixed before the day’s closing night stage and Solberg went on to set the fourth fastest time.

Britain’s Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin had a difficult morning on Friday after a gearbox problem hindered their progress. The team made some small changes to the gearbox and engine map during Service A and the repeat afternoon pass fared better for Wilson who pulled into the end of a challenging first day to lie tenth overnight.

Friday evening’s 75 minute flexi service saw the squad’s Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Cars transformed into lower and more aggressive asphalt specification in order to tackle the remaining two days on Tarmac roads. After contesting Friday’s stages in gravel set-up, the WRC crews were challenged with tackling the second longest stage of the season, the 45.97 km El Priorat stage, on Saturday’s opening stage.

Overheating brakes hindered Østberg’s charge for sixth place on Saturday morning. The pedals and brake cylinders were changed during Service D and Østberg had a clear run through the repeat afternoon leg to finish the day in seventh place.

Fellow countryman Solberg was feeling unwell for most of Saturday but the Norwegian driver had a trouble-free day and was happy with his progress piloting the Ford Fiesta RS WRC on asphalt. Wilson reported heavy steering on Saturday afternoon so his service team changed the steering rack during tonight’s service. The Englishman held tenth overnight whilst Solberg remained in eighth.

The final day of competition proved unlucky for Wilson who hit a barrier 17 km into the event’s penultimate stage and tore the front-left wheel off his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. The 24-year-old driver was forced to retire and will now concentrate on putting in a strong performance at his home event, Wales Rally GB, next month.

Solberg battled with Russia’s Evgeny Novikov during the final day but narrowly missed out on eighth place by 8.3 seconds. Østberg had an impressive closing day despite a small problem with overheating brakes. The recently-crowned Norwegian Rally Champion took advantage of Sebastien Ogier’s retirement on the penultimate stage to move into sixth and Østberg pulled into the end of a challenging rally delighted with his best ever result on asphalt.

Mads Østberg said:
“Overall I am very happy with my performance and I’ve even had some fun today on the stages. The asphalt has been very enjoyable and I have been really happy with my pace compared to France and Germany. The last two stages today have been very good and I am feeling a lot more comfortable driving on Tarmac. We wanted to try to push for the Power Stage so we made some changes after the first run but at the same time we didn’t want to do anything stupid. Friday was a difficult day which is something that I didn’t expect going into this rally but it’s been an encouraging weekend and I think I have learned a lot of valuable lessons.”

Henning Solberg said:
“It’s been an OK weekend for me – not great, but not too bad either. I wanted to try and push to get that position back from [Evgeny] Novikov but he was going a lot faster than me and there weren’t enough stages to push and get that time back. Friday was a tough day, the intercom made it difficult but we made it through and that was the most important thing. I am happy to have brought the car home safely and now I will look forward to Wales where I will try my best to entertain the crowds.”

Matthew Wilson said:
“For sure, this isn’t the how I wanted to finish the rally but we were trying to keep ahead of Dennis Kuipers so we pushing quite a bit on the stage. I oversteered into a right-hand corner which left me running wide into a left-hander where I hit the Armco and ripped off the front left wheel. It’s not the way anybody wants to finish after getting so close to the end but this is sometimes the nature of rallying. Now I must concentrate on my home event in the UK next month where I want to put on a good show for the British fans.”

M-Sport Stobart Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It’s been a tough weekend for the team but Mads has done an incredible job to finish with his best ever result on asphalt. He’s been improving on every rally this year and his result is very well deserved. Henning has also done well over weekend, he had a difficult job on Friday without the intercom and considering he’s not been feeling well he has done a great job of bringing the car home in eighth place. Matthew was unfortunate today but he will have to put this weekend behind him in order to aim for a strong result on home soil next month. Today's result has obviously been overshadowed by the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli in the MotoGP race in Malaysia. Marco visited M-Sport just a few weeks ago to test a Fiesta RS WRC. His enthusiasm and delight at being in the car were clear for all to see and we are all extremely saddened at the news. Our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues."


Posted: February 21, 2012 4:09 PM

1 S Loeb/D Elena (Citroen DS3 WRC) 4 hours 05 mins 39.9 sec
2 M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) + 2 mins 06.9 sec
3 J-M Latvala/M Anttila (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) + 2 mins 32.4 sec
4 D Sordo/C Del Barrio (MINI John Cooper WRC) + 3 mins 24.1 sec
5 K Meeke/P Nagle (MINI John Cooper WRC + 5 mins 15.0 sec
6 M Østberg/J Andersson (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) + 5 mins 54.2 sec
7 E Novikov/D Giraudet (Citroen DS3 WRC) + 9 mins 31.8 sec
8 H Solberg/I Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) + 9 mins 40.1 sec
9 D Kuipers/F Miclotte (Ford Fietsa RS WRC) + 11 mins 13.8 sec
10 J Hanninen/M Markkulo (Skoda Fabia S2000) + 13 mins 49.2 sec

Videos: Colin Clark previews Rally Spain / iRally meets the WRC drivers at Recce

Posted: October 20, 2011 10:10 PM

iRally Interview with Craig Breen - Post IRC Scotland & Pre WRC Spain

Posted: October 18, 2011 9:25 AM


Posted: October 17, 2011 4:22 PM

The FERM Power Tools World Rally Team enters the longest rally of the season later this week in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Rally de Espana is 406.52 kilometres and is held on two different surfaces: gravel, on the opening day and thereafter, asphalt. "The transition from gravel to asphalt requires a completely different driving style," says Kuipers.

As a result of the historic fifth position in France both Kuipers and his navigator Frederic Miclotte made frequent media appearances. The duo did many interviews for newspapers, radio and television in the Netherlands and Belgium. Now they can focus again on Rally de Espana.

"We really enjoyed our fifth position and the attention from fans and the media. Now our full focus is on Spain,” said Kuipers. "In Spain we start again from scratch. The ceremonial start on Thursday is followed by six special stages on Friday, which are mostly gravel.”

The second day will change from gravel to asphalt including the infamous El Priorat stage, which is 45.97 km and will be driven twice. “The asphalt is almost like circuit asphalt,” says Miclotte: "The experience of last year will certainly come in handy as 75% of the special stage is the same as 2010.”

The FERM duo wants to improve the eleventh position of last year.
“The good result in France increased our confidence. We have grown this season on both surfaces, which are both on the agenda for Spain,” says Kuipers.


Rally de Espana is the only mixed surface race of the season. Since last year the WRC pilots compete on both gravel and asphalt.
"Driving on two surfaces means that we are actually driving two very different cars, everything is different ranging from tyres, suspension to brakes. On the first day the Ford Fiesta RS WRC is tuned for gravel then rebuilt for asphalt explains Dennis Kuipers. “The transition from gravel to asphalt requires a completely different driving style. It will provide an interesting challenge, I'm excited!”


Posted: October 17, 2011 11:34 AM

The stage is set for a thrilling title fight in Spain as Ford Fiesta S2000 crews vie for championship victory at the final Super 2000 World Rally Championship (S-WRC) round of the season, RACC Rally de España.

With only three points separating Ott Tänak and current championship leader Juho Hänninen, the young Estonian will be pushing his Ford Fiesta S2000 to the maximum in order to overhaul his Finnish competitor.

Czech driver Martin Prokop is currently third in the standings and lies 14 points adrift of fellow Fiesta S2000 driver Tänak. With a mathematical chance of snatching the championship crown, Prokop will be looking to take the lead from the outset in order to keep the pressure on Tänak and Hänninen.

Markko Märtin’s protégé Ott Tänak has had an outstanding debut season in S-WRC. The driver, who celebrates his 24th birthday on Saturday, has finished on the podium five times and is the only S-WRC competitor to have racked up three victories throughout the year. Tänak can also take confidence in the fact he has won the previous two asphalt rounds and will be looking to continue this trend in order to secure his third consecutive victory, and the series title.

Former J-WRC champion Prokop is one of the most experienced drivers competing in the series, and has been battling in the top three for the majority of the season. Power steering problems compromised Prokop’s challenge for last year’s title, but the driver can settle for nothing less than a victory next week if he is to have any chance of landing the 2011 title.

After a victory in Jordan and a fourth place finish in last month’s Rallye de France, reigning Portuguese Rally Champion Bernardo Sousa is fourth in the championship standings. The 24-year-old is 24 points adrift of third place and will be relying on mishaps for the top three in order to end this year’s championship with a podium position.

Six-time Middle Eastern Rally Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah has had a trying time in the S-WRC this season, and will be looking to end his unlucky streak as he tackles the final round of the championship with nothing to lose. The Qatari driver is eighth in the standings, eight points behind Hungary’s Frigyes Turan who will not contest Spain due to medical reasons.

Also registered to score points in S-WRC in Spain is Ford Fiesta S2000 competitor Craig Breen. Breen, fresh from finishing fourth at IRC Rally Scotland last weekend, is looking to continue his recent impressive form and show just how quick he can be against the other more experienced competitors in the series.

Ott Tänak said:
“I competed at a home event [Saaremaa Rally] last weekend with the Ford Focus RS WRC which was good experience, and even better because we won! The Focus and the Fiesta S2000 are very different cars but it was a good chance to get some competitive miles on the clock before next week. Spain will be a new event for me so that will be difficult, but I am going there to do my best and I really want to win. We still have a lot to learn on asphalt but it is getting better all the time. I hope we can do enough to win next week but I know it will be difficult.”

Martin Prokop said:
“It is going to be very difficult for me to win the championship now. There is a small chance I could still win but something would need to happen to both Ott and Juha, and I don’t think that is very likely as they’ve been really strong on the last few rallies. I’m feeling very similar to how I felt last year – it went down to the last couple of events and it was very close. For sure I will try my best and will push from the start, I have nothing to lose.”

Bernardo Sousa said:
“I’ve had a busy few weeks concentrating on Spain and then it’ll be straight off to Rallye du Valais for the last round of the European Rally Championship. I’ve had a good year in the S-WRC, I feel I’ve improved since last year and it was great to get the win we had in Jordan. The top three are quite far ahead now and it would not be possible for me to move any further up the standings unless I win in Spain. Of course I always aim for a victory going into a rally but I will also try to enjoy myself and set some fast stage times ahead of going to Switzerland.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
“I was disappointed after France, it was unfortunate what happened but it’s not been a good season for me in S-WRC. Since Strasbourg I’ve been back in Qatar and I’m now looking to put the last rally behind me to allow me to concentrate on Spain. It’s going to be a new event for me so I’m not sure what to expect with the change of gravel and asphalt surfaces, but it’ll be a good challenge. To be honest I have nothing to lose next week, so I will be planning to go flat out to try and finish the season with a podium finish.”

Craig Breen said:
“I'm really looking forward to returning to the S-WRC in Spain. We’ve have had an up and down season in the FIA WRC Academy with some great speed but the end result has not always been what I have wanted. On a positive note we have taken part in some recent international events in my Ford Fiesta S2000, both on asphalt and gravel, with good results on each. I hope to show some good speed next week to try and compare my pace with the S-WRC regulars. It's going to be a tough weekend.”

RallyRACC-Rally de Espana: Penultimate Event of the Season for Breen

Posted: October 17, 2011 10:38 AM

There has been a constant theme over resent events for Irish rally driver Craig Breen, it has been an alternating sequence of Gravel to Tarmac over previous rallies but both are combined next weekend as Craig takes on RallyRACC-Rally de Espana in the SWRC category.

In August the opportunity became available to add WRC Spain to Craig’s event schedule, taking on the rally as an SWRC entrant. At that time it also became available to take over the Super 2000 championship registration of Eyvind Brynildsen.

The 47th RallyRACC-Rally de Espana, based in the holiday town of Salou south of Barcelona, is unique in that it’s the only true mixed surface round on this year’s WRC with one day taking place on gravel and two days run on asphalt.

Looking forward to his trip to Salou, Craig said,
“Salou, holds some great memories for me from last year when the final of the Pirelli Star Driver Global Shootout was held there, so going back will be nice. I've really enjoyed my S2000 outings this year. WRC Sweden was a new experience for me and I loved every minute (apart from the cold), the Ravens Rock Rally at home in Ireland was a special win for both myself and my family, Rally Zlin broke new ground for me and to bring home 7th overall was amazing in the 50 degree heat. Over the three days of Rally Scotland I went through a lot of emotions, satisfaction with our Friday/Saturday pace, agony on Sunday when we were hit with mechanical problems, this however changed to delight when we managed to claim 4th by the end. WRC Spain will be my eighteenth event in 2011, it has been a long season and I’ve faced a lot of new challenges but finishing the year well has been a strong point over passed seasons. I’ll be hoping to gauge my pace against the SWRC regulars but I’m under no illusion, it’s going to be another tough three day event. The rally is mixed surface and the SWRC championship comes to a climax, I’ll be treating the event as another chance to gain experience.”

BTRDA and SRC winners ready for Spanish WRC fiesta

Posted: October 12, 2011 3:16 PM

The winners of the Junior Driver category in both the BTRDA and Scottish Rally Championship series are eagerly anticipating an early morning flight to Salou, thanks to Vital Equipment, the company that provides high-performance Carless Racing Fuel to each series. Vital Equipment launched its Run to the Sun competition earlier this year, to offer the winning driver and their co-driver a four-day trip to the penultimate round of the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship and with it, a chance to spend time with 2003 WRC champion, Petter Solberg.

In the BTRDA series, it was Tom Cave, the 19 year-old from Aberdovey that topped the tables, along with a convincing win in the Production Cup, thanks to four class victories during the course of the season. North of the border, after a season-long battle, it was Liam Harkness who triumphed on the final round, the Colin McRae Stages rally.

Therefore, Tom will be joined by Craig Parry and Liam by Tony Marchbank as they head for one of the key rallies of the WRC season.

Following the engine failure and subsequent retirement of championship leader Sebastien Loeb in France, Loeb and Ford's Mikko Hirvonen are now tied for the series lead, with Loeb's team-mate Sebastien Ogier a mere three points adrift. The title is now a three-way fight between the two Citroen drivers and Hirvonen and while it cannot be won in Spain, it could certainly be lost there.

Spain itself is widely regarded as one of the most exciting rounds, both when it comes to the level of competition and the overall atmosphere. The Spanish rally fans are incredibly passionate and the party feeling in Salou means fans from around Europe make the pilgrimage for the season's last tarmac event.

The winners will get to see some of the best action, thanks to their Vital Equipment guide, whose experience of providing the WRC control fuel will give unrivalled opportunities. They will also get the chance to see the Peter Solberg World Rally Team in action, as they join the crew for lunch during the event.

Commenting, Vital Equipment MD Alistair Roberts said:
"We have seen an incredible level of competition in the Junior categories of both the BTRDA and the SRC this season and it came down to the penultimate round of the BTRDA and the final round of the SRC before we knew who would be joining us in Spain.

"Now that has been confirmed, I am delighted that Tom, Craig, Liam and Tony will be our guests in Salou at the end of the month. The rally itself will be a very tough fight - historically, the Citroens tend to be stronger on asphalt and the Fords on gravel, so it should be a fantastic event to set the scene for the finale. I am obviously very pleased that competitors kindly generated this amount of drama for the first Vital Equipment Run to the Sun prize..."

Rally Spain takes place from 20-23 October and is based in the Costa Dorada resort of Salou.

Ford series leader Hirvonen ready to seize Spanish opportunity

Posted: October 11, 2011 9:07 AM

Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team duo Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are keeping their cool under mounting pressure as the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship drivers’ title battle speeds towards a nail-biting conclusion.

Following Rallye de France, Hirvonen and Sébastien Loeb are tied at the top of the drivers’ standings on 196 points each, with Sébastien Ogier three points in arrears. With two rounds remaining in Spain and GB, the experienced Hirvonen is refusing to let nerves get the better of him as he bids to drive his Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car to championship glory.

The 31-year-old Finn duelled Loeb for the 2009 crown, a battle which was only decided in the very last stage of the Rally GB season finale.

“I’m not feeling too nervous, I feel pretty confident and relaxed about the whole situation. There’s nothing to lose now,” he said.

Hirvonen was edged out two years ago by just a single point and admits he does not want to repeat such bitter disappointment this time around.

“Missing out on the title by just one point after 12 rounds and thousands of kilometres around the globe was heart-breaking. I don’t want to go through that again. We have to drive flat-out and if we were to win in Spain, it would make things look very good going to the final round in Britain.

“We don’t have any testing before Spain, but I still feel good about it. It’s going to be such a different situation in Spain compared to France, and I’m very much looking forward to having a proper fight and attacking for the title,” he added

Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson backed Hirvonen to come out of the blocks in feisty form in Spain, agreeing that a strong first day will be key to the final outcome. He is confident his charge will take the battle to Loeb on the event’s gravel and asphalt tests.

“Mikko’s third place in France means we are effectively starting again from scratch heading into the last two rallies of the season,” said Wilson. “There will be no room for any errors from the three title contenders. Jari-Matti Latvala’s string of stage wins on asphalt in France was a confidence boost for the team, and Mikko is determined to prove he is capable of the same kind of form in Spain. It’s all to play for!”

Rally de España, the penultimate round of the season, is based in Salou on 20 - 23 October. The championship closes at Rally GB in Builth Wells, Wales, on 10 - 13 November.

Seeded Entry List

Posted: September 30, 2011 8:38 AM

Change of Event Schedule For Craig Breen

Posted: September 5, 2011 10:45 PM

Craig Breen has decided to make a change to his remaining event schedule for 2011. The WRC Academy participant will now take on October’s Rally RACC – Rally Spain. Craig will campaign his Kel-Tech Engineering Ford Fiesta S2000 as part of the SWRC entry and will be eligible to score points in the Super 2000 class.

After his outstanding result in the on IRC, Barum Czech Rally Zlin, Irish rally driver wanted to fit in another outing in the S2000 before the end of the season. Over the last week Craig and his team have explored the possibilities in both the WRC and IRC and Rally RACC – Rally Spain proved to be the best option logistically.

A knock on effect of taking on the WRC event is that Craig will now drop both BRC (International Rally Yorkshire and the Isle of Man International) events initially planned.

Event Website / Rally Guide / Details

Posted: January 2, 1990 3:05 PM

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