Former Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Nicolas Vouilloz says he will be fighting fit when he returns to the series on Rallye Monte-Carlo next month, despite not having driven in anger since finishing third on the legendary event back in January.
Vouilloz, who claimed the IRC title in 2008 for Kronos Racing, will drive a Skoda France-supported Fabia Super 2000 on the centenary edition of the rally alongside co-driver Benjamin Veillas.
"Although I have not been driving I have not just been sitting at home either," said the 34-year-old from France. "I have been busy working for a French mountain bike company. I have done some races and development work with them and have also been a team manager.
"I know it will be difficult to get back in a rally car after a long gap, especially because there are some long stages at the start of Rallye Monte-Carlo, but I will have done three tests by then and I will be fit and as well prepared as I can be."
Nicolas impressed by Prime Yalta Rally
Jean-Pierre Nicolas, the IRC’s Motorsport Development Manager and a former winner of Rallye Monte-Carlo, says the Prime Yalta Rally will be a popular addition to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge schedule next season.
The all-asphalt event, based in the Black Sea city of Yalta in Ukraine’s Crimea region, will form round four of the 2011 IRC from 2-4 June.
Nicolas, who completed a preliminary reconnaissance of the event route last week, said he was impressed by the quality of the stages and the location of the service park.
"The stages were a bit like what we have in Monte-Carlo and Sanremo with good asphalt and average speeds of between 90-110kph," said Nicolas. "Yalta is on the Black Sea and the stages are in the mountains behind the city so the rally will be really compact. In fact there will be more stage kilometres than liaison kilometres. I was also impressed to see the service park, which is right by the sea."
Magalhaes happy with co-driver switch
Bruno Magalhaes says changing co-drivers ahead of the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge won’t affect his chances of a successful campaign next season.
The 30-year-old from Portugal contested eight rounds of the IRC alongside Carlos Magalhaes in 2010, winning Sata Rallye Acores in the process.
However, with Carlos Magalhaes forming a partnership with IRC regular Daniel Oliveira, Bruno Magalhaes has recruited Paulo Grave to navigate him in 2011, starting with the centenary edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo in January.
"Paulo was my co-driver from 2002 until 2007 when he stopped rallying," said Magalhaes, who will continue to drive a Peugeot Sport Portugal 207 Super 2000 next year. "I know him perfectly so the change will not be a problem. Carlos is a great friend of mine and for his career this change can be better and for me I will still have a good co-driver."
Magalhaes finished fifth in the final IRC drivers‘ standings in 2010 after scoring points on the first seven events of the year.
Neuville stars at Luxembourg show
Thierry Neuville took time out of his preparations for Rallye Monte-Carlo to attend the International Motor Show Luxembourg last weekend.
The 22-year-old was in attendance at the event, held at LuxExpo from 10-12 December, along with the Peugeot 207 Super 2000 he drove on six rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this season.
"It was a big event with lots of cars and lots of people," said Neuville. "I did a talk to the crowd and also signed some autographs. It was nice to be there."
Neuville is supported by the Peugeot importers in Belgium and Luxembourg and competes under the Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg banner. He will continue in the IRC next season with French co-driver Nicolas Klinger, who partnered Nicolas Vouilloz to the IRC title in 2008.
Alen wants to make IRC comeback
Finnish star Anton Alen is targeting a return to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in 2011.
The 27-year-old son of rally legend Markku Alen was formerly an Abarth factory driver, winning Rally Russia in 2007. Having not had the opportunity to compete this year, Alen is determined to return to the Eurosport-supported series next season.
"I always really enjoyed driving on the IRC, as there are some fantastic events and competitors," said Alen. "I’ve been working solidly on different ways to come back, but unfortunately it’s so financially tough for everyone at the moment. My motivation is stronger than ever though and I’m determined to give it 100 per cent. I know some of the IRC events already and there are some interesting new rallies coming in as well."
Alen has tested a Proton Satria Neo S2000, and also has extensive experience of Group N machinery.