PROTON SIGNS WILKS FOR BELGIUM DEBUT … AND ALL THE OTHER LATEST NEWS FROM THE IRC
-12 days to the start of Belgium Ypres Rally
Proton will make its debut in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge later this month when Guy Wilks contests the Belgium Ypres Rally in the Malaysian company’s Satria Neo Super 2000. This means that for the first time in the history of the series, all seven IRC-registered manufacturers will be represented on one event.
Although Wilks, from Great Britain, is a Belgium Ypres Rally novice, he has driven the Proton in competition before, leading the British championship Pirelli Rally in April, until he was forced out when a freak fire destroyed his car.
His inclusion on the Belgium Ypres Rally entry list brings the total number of Super 2000 cars contesting the asphalt event to 20: another record for the IRC.
"I’ve made no secret of my desire to enter the IRC with Proton so it’s great it’s finally happening," said the 28-year-old Wilks.
Wilks was a frontrunner in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship with the factory Suzuki team before making his debut in a Ford Focus World Rally Car on Rally Norway in February 2007. Since then he has claimed the British title twice and made his IRC debut in a Honda Civic Type-R on Rally Russia last season.
LIVE TELEVISION COVERAGE FOR BELGIUM YPRES RALLY
Eurosport will broadcast four of the stages from the Belgium Ypres Rally live, giving television viewers the opportunity to see more than four hours of live action. This includes special live coverage of two stages on Friday 19 June, while two further stages will be shown during the day and the evening on Saturday 20 June – including the classic Heuvelland stage, which forms the last stage of the event.
This unmatched live action will enable rally fans to see all the action directly as it happens thanks to unique international media coverage, including live extensive broadcasts on Eurosport’s channels (Eurosport, Eurosport 2 and Eurosport Asia-Pacific), complemented by coverage on EurosportNews and on the eurosport.com websites.
Visit the IRC website (www.rally-irc.com) for a full interview with Gilbert Roy, the Director of Editorial and Programme Development for Eurosport Events.
NEUVILLE HANDED YPRES RALLY DRIVE BY BFGOODRICH
Thierry Neuville has been chosen to represent the BFGoodrich Drivers‘ Team on the Belgium Ypres Rally. The Belgian event is the second round of the scheme this year, which gives promising local drivers the chance to compete in their home round of the IRC with a top level car.
Neuville, who will turn 21 in the week leading up to the asphalt event, was chosen by a 19-strong panel, which was made up of Belgian journalists and representatives of BFGoodrich, Kronos Racing and the Belgian governing body, the RACB.
He will drive a Kronos-prepared Peugeot 207 Super 2000 after receiving eight votes to the six handed to Melissa De Backere.
Prior to the Belgium Ypres Rally on June 18-20, Neuville will get the opportunity to familiarise himself with the Peugeot 207 during a specially arranged test session in Belgium on June 10.
SKODA CONFIRMS TWO-CAR TEAM FOR BELGIUM YPRES RALLY
Skoda Motorsport will make its third appearance in this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge when it enters the Belgium Ypres Rally from June 18-20. Regular drivers Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky will form the two-car attack in a brace of Fabia Super 2000s.
The decision to compete on the asphalt event represents a change of strategy by the Czech manufacturer. Originally, Skoda hadn’t planned to compete in the IRC again until Rally Russia in July but decided to add the Belgian event to its schedule because of the anticipated high level competition: there are a total of 20 S2000 cars on the provisional entry list.
Belgian Francois Duval will drive a third Fabia S2000 on the event, albeit for the customer Rene Georges Rally Sport operation. Skoda Belgium, which is backing Duval’s entry, has a comprehensive activation programme planned for the Ypres-based event, reinforcing the link between competition in the IRC and domestic road car sales.
Peugeot Belgium is also taking full advantage of the sales opportunity that the IRC brings by supplying all the official cars for the event.
CASIER REPLACES ALEN IN FACTORY ABARTH LINE-UP
Bernd Casier will return to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge on June 18-20 when he replaces Anton Alen in the works Abarth team on the Belgium Ypres Rally.
Casier, who has appeared on selected rounds of the series in a Volkswagen Polo Super 2000 in the past, will make a one-off appearance for the Italian team at the wheel of a Grande Punto S2000.
Abarth management selected Casier to partner Giandomenico Basso in the factory squad because the specialised nature of the event favours drivers with extensive asphalt experience, something Alen currently lacks. However, the highly-rated Finn will return to Abarth for next month’s Rally Russia, which he won in 2007.
Casier, 29, has links with Abarth going back to 2004 when he won the Super 1600 section of the Belgian championship in 2004 in a Fiat Punto Abarth. Fellow Belgian Francis Caesemaeker will co-drive Casier.
Abarth is currently third in the manufacturers‘ standings after four rounds. Basso, who is fifth in the drivers‘ table, won the Belgium Ypres Rally in 2006.
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE ACES TO JOIN IRC REGULARS
Several leading lights from the FIA European Rally Championship will battle the Intercontinental Rally Challenge regulars for glory on the Belgium Ypres Rally later this month.
The ERC runs alongside the IRC on four events this year. Current ERC leader Michal Solowow, from Poland, third-placed Corrado Fontana and fellow Italian Luca Betti, who is fourth overall in the ERC standings after three events, have all entered the asphalt rally in a fleet of Peugeot 207 Super 2000s. Italian Davide de Benedetto and Swiss Brian Lavio are two other ERC drivers competing in Belgium from June 18-20.
In addition to the Belgium Ypres Rally, the ERC and IRC run together in Madeira, the Czech Republic (Barum Rally Zlin) and Spain (Rally Principe de Asturias).
Giandomenico Basso, who drives for the factory Abarth team in the IRC, is also registered for the ERC. Although the former European champion is only contesting a limited programme of events, he won the season-opening Rally 1000 Miglia in Italy and could yet challenge for the title if he scores well during the summer.
SWISS STAR TO TACKLE IRC CAMPAIGN
Switzerland will get its first regular representative in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge when Brian Lavio contests the Belgium Ypres Rally next month.
The 25-year-old has registered for the FIA European Rally Championship, which runs alongside the IRC on selected events. In addition to Ypres, Lavio’s programme will include Barum Rally Zlin in Czech Republic in August and Rally Principe de Asturias in Spain in September.
Lavio said: "We are very happy for this opportunity. For us it will be the first time we have competed in such an important championship. For sure our goal is not fight for the victory but increase our pace and gain more experience."
Lavio will drive a Peugeot 207 Super 2000, run by the Italian Balbosca operation, alongside co-driver Luca Parodi. They began their campaign on the European championship Croatia Delta Rally, which started in Zagreb on Thursday evening (May 28).
Their final event of the season is the Rallye International du Valais in Switzerland from October 29-31. Although the event is not a round of the IRC it qualifies for IRC Supporter Event status.
YPRES RALLY FANS GET NEW STAGE SIGNAGE
Spectators attending the Belgium Ypres Rally from June 18-20 will be able to benefit from a new signing system designed to make it easier to locate the dedicated viewing areas on the competitive sections of the event.
The signs will not only direct fans to the stages from Ypres but also from one stage to the next. Signposts will even be erected in northern France to assist foreign spectators. As well as helping fans, organisers are confident the signs will ease the traffic congestion around the rally route.