Sebastien Ogier will make his return to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge when he contests Rally d’Italia-Sardegna next month.
Ogier, who was victorious on his IRC debut on Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo last season, will drive a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 on the demanding gravel event, which is based in Olbia from 4-6 June.
It will mark the Frenchman’s second appearance in the IRC in 2010 after he entered Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo for a second time back in January, only to retire on the final night while he was firmly in contention for a repeat victory.
Ogier is no stranger to the Sardinian stages, having contested the island’s world championship qualifier back in 2008 en route to winning the Junior world title that season.
In addition to Ogier, the Peugeot challenge in Sardinia will also be boosted by Paolo Andreucci. The four-time Italian champion will drive a similar 207 S2000 and will start as one of the pre-event favourites.
Skoda aces help launch Fabia RS road car
Skoda Motorsport team-mates Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky took time out of their preparations for Rally d’Italia-Sardegna, round five of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, to help launch the Czech firm’s Fabia RS road car.
Hanninen, who currently tops the IRC standings after finishing on the podium on the opening four rounds of the season, has been spending this week at the Sosnova circuit in Czech Republic trialling the Fabia RS, which is based on the S2000-specifiction machine he is using in the IRC. Team-mate Kopecky was present on Monday and Tuesday.
Other Skoda drivers who took part in the launch event include Skoda UK Motorsport’s Guy Wilks, Belgian ace Freddy Loix, who will contest selected rounds of the IRC in a Fabia, Spaniard Alberto Hevia and Frenchman Nicolas Vouilloz, who finished third overall on Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo back in January at the wheel of a Fabia S2000.
Cetinkaya prepares for Sardinia with two-day test
Burcu Cetinkaya was due to complete a two-day test in France tomorrow (Friday) at the wheel of her Peugeot Sport Turkey 207 Super 2000.
The 29-year-old from Istanbul will contest at least seven rounds of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge, starting with next month’s gravel-based Rally d’Italia-Sardegna.
Although the test took place on asphalt roads, Cetinkaya said she hoped that the test had given her vital experience of the 207.
"The test is really for the Ypres Rally [in June] but it is always good to spend as much time as possible in the car because there are still some things I have to learn," said Cetinkaya. "We will have a test on Sardinia just before the rally so I think we will be well prepared."
Cetinkaya called on Sebastien Ogier to offer guidance on set-up and driving during the test. The Frenchman has experience of driving the 207 S2000.
Proton team delays IRC start until Ypres
The factory Proton team will delay the start of its Intercontinental Rally Challenge campaign until the Geko Ypres Rally after confirming it will skip next month’s Rally d’Italia-Sardegna.
Based in the United Kingdom, the MEM-run squad had planned to enter a brace of Satria Neo Super 2000s on the island event for Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae. It will now begin its programme on the asphalt-based round in Belgium from 24-26 June instead.
Team principal Chris Mellors said: "We had looked at starting our IRC programme in Sardinia but we’ve decided to go for Ypres instead. If we’d gone to Sardinia it would have seriously restricted the amount of asphalt testing we’d have been able to do with the car before Belgium. We felt it made more sense to focus on preparing the cars and drivers for Ypres, which is undoubtedly one of the classic European events."
Tom Cave, who had planned to drive a privately-run Satria Neo in Sardinia, has also elected to skip the gravel rally. The 18-year-old wants to get more experience of driving his Proton away from the rigours of a two-day IRC qualifier so will contest a national event in his native Wales instead.