VOLKSWAGEN CONFIRMS PROGRAMME FOR MAURIN … AND ALL THE OTHER NEWS FROM THE IRC
Volkswagen will return to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge when the Rene Georges Rally Sport operation fields a Volkswagen Polo Super 2000 for rising star Julien Maurin.
The French driver, who has tested the car on asphalt in Belgium recently, is due to complete a test on gravel in his native France ahead of his planned outing on Sata Rally Azores from May 7-9, the fourth round of the IRC.
Jack de Keizjer, the co-ordinator of the Belgium-based Rene Georges Rally Sport team, said: "I am happy to confirm that Volkswagen will return to the IRC with the young French driver Julien Maurin."
Maurin recently tested the Volkswagen Polo in Belgium on asphalt. A test on gravel is being planned before Sata Rally Azores.
"He recently tested the Volkswagen Polo in Belgium on asphalt," de Keizjer said.
Maurin, who retired from the Monte Carlo Rally in January when his Astra Racing Fiat Grande Punto developed a mechanical fault, is set to use the latest evolution Volkswagen Polo for his six-event programme. Austrian driver Andreas Waldherr could appear in a second Rene Georges-run Polo.
Maurin will contest six rounds of the IRC in Azores, Belgium (Ypres), Madeira, Czech Republic (Barum), Spain (Astrurias) and Italy (Sanremo).
Frenchman Julien Maurin will contest six IRC rallies this year aboard the Volkswagen Polo S2000
SAFARI WIN BOOSTS MITSUBISHI’S TITLE BID
Mitsubishi closed to within ten points of Peugeot in the battle for the Intercontinental Rally Challenge manufacturers‘ crown when Carlo Tundo won his home event, the Safari Rally, in Kenya earlier this month.
The Safari Rally was the third round of this year’s IRC. With Europe-based teams such as the Belgian Kronos Racing operation, Abarth, and the works Skoda team from Czech Republic not competing, it was left to the privateer outfits to take centre stage.
Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer, Tundo, from Kenya, beat expatriate Briton Alistair Cavenagh by a scant 11 seconds as Mitsubishi drivers filled the top-three podium placings, the first time it had achieved a maximum score in the IRC.
Cavenagh had won the opening superspecial in the Kenyan capital Nairobi but couldn’t prevent Tundo from taking the lead. Peugeot now has 36 points compared to the 26 points accumulated by Mitsubishi. Tundo’s heroics on home soil puts him equal second in the drivers‘ championship.
Mitsubishi took a maximum points haul from the Safari Rally in Kenya
PASCOAL HOPES TO MAKE ASTURIAS EXPERIENCE PAY
Vitor Pascoal will be hoping to make the most of his local knowledge when he contests two rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge later this season.
Pascoal, from Portugal, will enter the rallies in Azores and Madeira at the wheel of a Peugeot 207. The events also count towards the 35-year-old’s domestic championship programme.
"It won’t be easy for us doing these two events because a lot is expected of us and the competition will be very tough," said Pascoal’s co-driver Mario Castro. "However, we will be trying our best.
"The Azores is not an easy place to rally but because we finished third last year and second in 2007 we know what to expect and we know what we can do."
Sata Rally Azores forms the fourth round of the IRC. It is scheduled to take place from May 7-9.
ACE CYCLIST BETTINI GEARS UP FOR IRC DEBUT
Retired cyclist Paolo Bettini will make his Intercontinental Rally Challenge debut when he contests the Ypres Rally in Belgium from June 18-20.
Bettini, a long-term rally fan, has contested a handful of events in his native Italy in the past.
He has linked up with fellow cyclist Franco Ballarin for an attack on the asphalt-based Ypres Rally in Belgium driving an Abarth Grande Punto. Ballarin will co-drive.
They chose the Ypres Rally because of its location to the Flanders region of Belgium, where they tackled several major cycling races in the past.
Bettini, 34, won several major titles in cycling, including at Olympic and world championship-level. He retired from competing in 2008 following a series of injuries.
Despite having some experience of rallying, Bettini will face a major challenge to adapt to the rigours of driving on the tight and twisty Belgian roads. However, there is a strong precedent for drivers switching from two wheels to four on the IRC: the reining IRC champion Nicolas Vouilloz is a former 10-time downhill mountain bike champion.