CLASSIC STAGES INCLUDED ON RALLY OF SCOTLAND ROUTE … AND ALL THE OTHER NEWS FROM THE IRC
The inaugural RAC MSA Rally of Scotland will include stages not used for more than 20 years when it brings the curtain down on this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Due to take place from November 19-21, the event will be made up of a competitive distance of 224.88 kilometres split over 13 special stages, of which some will run at night in the challenging Scottish forests.
Jimmy McRae, a five-time winner of the British Rally Championship and the father of the late Colin McRae, was full of praise of the route following an inspection.
"It’s great to see these stages used for rallying again," said Scottish legend McRae during the recent official launch of the rally in the grounds of Stirling Castle. "They provide a real spectacle for spectators and they are immensely enjoyable for the drivers."
The event will start in the Scottish city of Perth on the evening of Thursday November 19, with the event scheduled to finish in Stirling on the afternoon of Saturday November 21. Tickets are already on sale for the event, which has a capacity entry of 85 cars.
VOUILLOZ SAYS MEEKE WOULD BE A FITTING CHAMPION
Kris Meeke would be a worthy winner of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge according to Nicolas Vouilloz, the reigning IRC title-holder.
Meeke moved to the top of the drivers‘ standings following his second victory of the season on Sata Rally Azores last week.
Vouilloz, who could do no better than third in a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 run by the same Kronos Racing team responsible for preparing Meeke’s similar car, said he had been impressed by his team-mate’s performance on the island rally.
"We knew from Brazil that Kris can be quick," said Vouilloz. "In the Azores I had no answer to his pace. If he keeps on driving like this then he definitely deserves to win the championship."
Vouilloz has yet to register a win in the IRC series this year but his podium finish in the Azores has propelled him to third in the championship battle behind Meeke and fellow Kronos driver Freddy Loix, whom he beat to the title in 2008.
Meanwhile, Meeke said it was too early for him to be thinking about winning the championship.
"There are still many more rallies left and I know people like Freddy and Nicolas will be very hard to beat on the Tarmac rounds," said Meeke.
AZORES PERFORMANCE PLEASES SKODA TEAM
Skoda Motorsport boss Michal Hrabanek believes works driver Jan Kopecky’s performance on Sata Rally Azores last week has further underlined the potential of the company’s Fabia Super 2000 model.
Czech Republic ace Kopecky finished second on the island event, the first time the factory team has competed on a gravel rally, a result that puts him fourth overall in the drivers‘ championship standings.
Hrabanek said: "In a way, the whole team considered the Azores Rally on the par with our debut on the Monte Carlo Rally in January, because this was our first race on gravel and also the team’s first appearance in the Azores Islands. I think we showed already in Monte Carlo that the development of the Fabia Super 2000 is a success story and I believe that Jan Kopecky’s runner-up position confirms that the Fabia is a fast and reliable car.
"I am certain that today’s result has clearly showed that we are able to compete with the best and that we can set the highest possible ambitions for the future."
However, it’s still not clear when the Skoda team will next compete. The squad has been linked to an appearance on Rally Russia in July but it remains a possibility that it will enter next month’s Belgium Ypres Rally.
"We are now going to conduct an internal analysis of the Azores Rally and then decide how we will proceed in the near future," Hrabanek added.
DUVAL CONFIRMS YPRES ENTRY
Francois Duval has confirmed his entry on the Belgium Ypres Rally, more than one year after he made his Intercontinental Rally Challenge debut in Portugal.
Duval, once a regular in the World Rally Championship, will drive a Skoda Fabia S2000 for the Rene Georges Rally Sport team.
The experienced French navigator Denis Giraudet will co-drive Duval, who is due to begin testing in early next month in preparation for the asphalt event on June 18-20.
"I would like to thank the Skoda importer in Belgium for showing the trust in me. I’m going to grab this opportunity with both hands," said Duval, whose relationship with Skoda dates back to 2006 when he drove a Fabia WRC in the world championship.
Duval, from Belgium, hasn’t tackled his home event since 2002 but he’s determined his lack of recent experience on the rally won’t damage his chances of claiming a strong result.
"Our preparation will offset any handicap we might face," said Duval. "Anyway I’m very motivated and will do everything possible to be successful."
Although Duval’s agreement is currently for the Ypres Rally only, the 28-year-old is planning to enter more rounds of the IRC later in the season.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED FOR RAUTENBACH
Conrad Rautenbach has said his run to seventh place on last week’s Sata Rally Azores represented mission accomplished for the Zimbabwean.
Rautenbach is normally found at the wheel of a Citroen C4 WRC on world championship rallies but wanted to try his hand at Super 2000 technology, opting for a Peugeot 207 run by the French PH Sport team.
He said: "I’m pleased with the way everything has gone. We came here with zero experience of not just this car but this completely different way of driving. The difference surprised me. The lack of low down torque is the biggest thing. It’s surprising how often you use that to get you out of trouble in a World Rally Car and how much you miss it when it’s not there."
"The sole objective for me was to get through the stages, make all of the kilometres and get as much seat time in a car without a turbo as possible. I’ve done that and I’ve learned a heck of a lot. The fact that we’ve bagged some IRC points at the same time is good news for me as well."
Rautenbach said he is not sure if he will drive a Super 2000 car again this season. He will return to the World Rally Championship for Rally Italy next week.