DUVAL HOPES FOR IRC RETURN IN YPRES … AND ALL THE OTHER LATEST NEWS FROM THE IRC
DUVAL CHASES DRIVE ON YPRES WESTHOEK RALLY
Francois Duval could return to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge at the wheel of a Skoda Fabia Super 2000 later this season.
Duval, 28, last appeared in the series on Vodafone Rally de Portugal last May, but was forced to retire the Abarth Grande Punto he was driving because of a wheel bearing failure.
He is now targeting an entry on the Ypres Westhoek Rally from June 20-22 in a Fabia supported by the Skoda importer in his native Belgium and hopes it won’t be a one-off outing.
"I would like to try to do two or three rallies in the IRC," Duval said. "It’s where all the drivers are going to. It is more interesting for me than the WRC because there are some opportunities for drivers."
Providing an agreement can be reached, the Belgian Rene Georges Rally Sport team would run Duval’s Skoda. Duval tested a Volkswagen Polo Super 2000 for the squad recently and could tackle a round of the Belgian championship in the car next month.
"It was dry in the morning but the rain came in the afternoon," Duval said of the Polo test. "The car was not so bad although I think we could find some improvements in the chassis and the engine."
DOUBLE VICTORY HAS EXCEEDED VAN DALEN’S EXPECTATIONS
The joint owner of Kronos Racing has said his team’s dominant start to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge season has "exceeded his expectations".
Frenchman Sébastien Ogier won the opening round, the Monte Carlo Rally, in January in a Kronos-prepared Peugeot 207 under the BFGoodrich Drivers‘ Team banner, before Kris Meeke, from Northern Ireland, claimed victory on Rally de Curitiba in the same car entered by Peugeot UK.
"It has been especially satisfying, not just because we have been first and second on the opening two rallies but because we have won with the BFGoodrich Drivers‘ Team and with Peugeot UK," said Marc van Dalen, who co-founded Kronos Racing in 1994.
"I have been really happy with how we have started and how well our drivers have worked together. But I know it is a very long championship and anything can happen between now and the end of the season. At least it’s good to make the start we have done."
The three Kronos Peugeot 207s are currently being shipped back to Europe from Brazil and are due to be delivered to the team’s base in Belgium, on April 10. They will be rebuilt before the Sata Rally Azores on May 7-9.
CURITIBA TRIUMPH WAS NAGLE’S HARDEST EVER
Co-driver Paul Nagle has described his victory on Rally de Curitiba in Brazil earlier this month as the "best moment" of his career but added it was the hardest challenge he’d ever faced.
Irishman Nagle, who partnered Kris Meeke to first place on the second round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge aboard a Peugeot UK-backed 207 Super 2000, said he had been inundated with messages of congratulations since he and Meeke won in Brazil.
"It was the best moment of my career but it was also the toughest rally I’d ever done," said Nagle, 30. "It wasn’t tough physically but mentally it was very hard, especially on day two when we were leading.
"Although Kris drove very well there was a lot of pressure on us. But even when we lost time being first on the road and the problem with the brakes we were able to remain calm and all credit to the team for all their hard work."
Nagle and Meeke’s next event is Sata Rally Azores from May 7-9. Before then Nagle is planning to contest two practice events in his native Ireland, starting with the Circuit of Kerry Rally on March 29, in order to "keep sharp".
SAFARI RALLY WILL BE INCLUDED ON IRC SCHEDULE
The iconic KCB Safari Rally will form the third round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, even though several leading teams haven’t included the event on their schedules for the season.
Based in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, the rally will take place from April 3-5, and will also host the second round of the FIA African Rally Championship. It last appeared on the IRC in 2007, when it formed the opening round of the series. In 2008 it obtained Supporter Event status. This season will herald the 57th running of the rally.
The rally will begin with a spectator stage in Nairobi on Friday April 3. For the first leg, crews will then head out to Nakuru and the Lake Elementaita region. The second leg will be based close to Nairobi around the small town of Athi River. The finishing ceremony is due to take place on Sunday April 5.
Marcello Lotti, the IRC’s General Manager, said: "The Safari Rally is a very famous event and very important to the IRC. It will be included on the calendar but we understand some of the teams won’t be taking part. We understand this and we won’t be forcing them to do so."
OUTLINE BARUM RALLY ZLIN DETAILS REVEALED
Organisers of Barum Rally Zlin have revealed outline details of the eighth round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, which takes place in the Czech Republic from August 21-23.
The event celebrates its 39th anniversary this year and will get underway with a spectator-friendly superspecial stage in host town Zlin on the evening of Friday August 21.
It will be followed by two days special stages, totalling 270 kilometres, before the finish in the afternoon of Sunday August 23.
Approximately 200,000 spectators visit the rally each year, which is located 300 kilometres east of the Czech capital Prague and 200 kilometres north of the Austrian capital Vienna. The compact route means the furthest stage is 50 kilometres from Zlin.
A total of 98 crews started the rally in 2008, including 21 Super 2000 cars. Freddy Loix, the current leader of the IRC, and co-driver Robin Buysmans won the event in a Peugeot 207 run by the Kronos Racing team.