The Intercontinental Rally Challenge is counting down to its ninth round of the season, the Rally Principe de Asturias, this weekend (10-12 September). The Spanish asphalt event, based in the city of Oviedo, promises mouthwatering action in the title race between the four drivers jostling for overall honours and another hard-fought encounter in the 2WD Cup.
Britains Kris Meeke currently leads the 2009 IRC drivers standings after a hat-trick of victories in Brazil, the Azores and Ypres earlier on in the year. Nevertheless the Peugeot UK drivers margin has been whittled down by two victories for works Skoda Motorsport driver Jan Kopecky in Russia and his home event, the Barum Czech Rally Zlin, and now only three points separate the two aces.
Behind them in the title race lie the hugely experienced and extremely consistent Freddy Loix with his Benelux-entered Peugeot and the works Abarth team leader Giandomenico Basso who are tied in third place some 15 points off Meekes lead. For all the contenders, a classic IRC season is set to continue when the starting flag drops in Oviedo.
It was fantastic for me, for my co-driver Petr Stary and the whole team to win on home ground in the Czech Republic, said Kopecky. If I have the chance to win the IRC drivers title it would be unbelievable, although Kris is still going to be strong everywhere. If I get the chance to take the battle to the end then I will, this year has been fantastic for us so far.
The capital of the Principality of Asturias, and well-known as the hometown of double Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso, Oviedo also plays host to what remains the longest-standing motor sport passion of Spanish fans: flat-out asphalt rallying. This evening the ceremonial start will take place in the city centre where only last week Alonso performed a Formula One demonstration for his fans.
The 46th Rally Principe de Asturias will run in two legs across two-days with 15 special stages totalling a competitive distance of 254km. Starting early on the morning of Friday 11 September, there will be nine stages in the opening leg, with a further 6 stages taking the event to a finish on Saturday afternoon.
As well as the main contenders for the championship there is huge strength and depth throughout the field. Guy Wilks returns with the Proton Satria Neo that starred on its Ypres debut and scored points in its second appearance in Russia, while Ralliart is represented not only by regular IRC star Franz Wittmann but also a team of four new Evo X machines from the RMC Motorsport outfit. Frenchman Julien Maurin returns to the fray in his Skoda Fabia S2000 and a similar car is entered for local hero Alberto Hevia, a previous winner of the event and a serious challenger for victory.
Millet leads Villa in 2WD Cup
In the 2WD Cup the two main protagonists of the year line up in Oviedo ready to continue a hugely entertaining duel. Frenchman Denis Millets turbocharged Peugeot has taken the series lead from the Abarth of Italys Manuel Villa, after the latter missed the last round in the Czech Republic. Villa will be anxious to try and take back his points lead in the Rally Principe de Asturias, adding further drama and spectacle to the event.
Notes for editors
For news and information please visit www.rallyprincipe.com and www.rally-irc.com, and full TV coverage will be available on Eurosport on the following schedule:
11/09/2009 Highlights 1st Day 24:00-24:30
12/09/2009 Highlights 2nd Day 17:45-18:00
13/09/2009 Highlights 2nd Day (Repeat) 11:30-11:45
15/09/2009 REVIEW 23:15-23:45
All times CET. These broadcasts will be complemented by multiple supporting broadcasts on Eurosport 2 and Eurosport Asia-Pacific, please check TV listings for details.
IRC Drivers standings after 8 of 11 rounds
1 Meeke 42 points
2 Kopecky 39
3 Basso 27
= Loix 27
5 Hanninen 20
6 Vouilloz 19
IRC Manufacturers standings after 8 of 11 rounds
1 Peugeot 95 points
2 Skoda 59
3 Ralliart 42
4 Abarth 34
5 Proton 5
6 Honda 1
IRC 2WD Cup Drivers‘ standings after 8 of 11 rounds
1 Millet 31 points
2 Villa 28
3 Tulio 10
= Piepers 10
= Koitla 10
IRC 2WD Cup Manufacturers‘ standings after 8 of 11 rounds
1 Peugeot 69 points
2 Abarth 46
3 Honda 40
4 Volkswagen 16
Rally Principe de Asturias (Spain) September 10-12
Rally Sanremo (Italy) September 24-26
RAC MSA Rally of Scotland (UK) November 19-21