Skoda Motorsport has revealed a new livery for its brace of official factory Fabia Super 2000s that will contest the Intercontinental Rally Challenge season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo from January 18-22.
The new design, which has been commissioned to mark Skodas 110 years of motorsport participation, will appear on the Fabias of reigning IRC champion Juho Hanninen, from Finland, and his team-mate, the Czech Republic driver Jan Kopecky.
According to the Czech manufacturer, the new green and white combination is reverse of the design used during the past two seasons.
Ten Fabia S2000s will be in action on Rallye Monte-Carlo, where Skoda finished second and third last season, 12 months after making its IRC debut on the asphalt event.
In addition to guiding Hanninen to the IRC drivers crown in 2010, Skoda also secured the IRC manufacturers award for the first time.
Historic programmes to celebrate Monte centenary
Eurosport, the international media partner of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge and the promoter of the IRC through Eurosport Events, will help to celebrate Rallye Monte-Carlos centenary with a series of short historic programmes and clips featuring archive images and highlights of the event since it first ran in 1911.
From this Saturday (8 January), Eurosport will screen unique and exclusive footage from the legendary rally through 15 one-minute programmes dedicated to a specific theme. These include a look back at the Group A and Group B eras, profiles of event legends, heroes and the French Musketeers, Lancias domination of the rally over the years, female success including Pat Moss and Michelle Mouton and a focus on the Col de Turini at night.
Each programme will be shown on Eurosport on several occasions as a teaser ahead of the IRC season-opener and will also be screened during the extensive live coverage of the rally, which includes broadcasting 12 of the 13 stages live as they happen. The programmes will also be available on the official IRC website, www.rally-irc.com once the event gets underway on Wednesday 19 January.
Bouffier confident for strong Monte run
Bryan Bouffier believes his lack of Rallye Monte-Carlo experience wont put him at a disadvantage when he contests the Intercontinental Rally Challenge season-opener from 18-22 January.
The defending French rally champion made his debut on the legendary event last season, retiring his Subaru Impreza from a possible point-scoring finish with a mechanical failure. He will return for a second attempt this year in a Peugeot Sport-prepared 207 Super 2000.
He said: This event is never easy with tyre choice making a big difference. I also dont have much experience but I am in a fantastic position. I am in a very good team with two other very good drivers and this means I am highly motivated and full of confidence.
Bouffier began his preparations for the centenary edition of Rallye Monte-Carlo with a three-day test in the south of France last month. He completed one day on dry asphalt and two days on snow-coated roads.
It was good training for the rally because we were able to adapt the set-up of the car to the conditions quite well and I dont have a big experience of driving on snow so it was good for this reason also, said Bouffier.
Solberg brothers set for Monte battle
Brothers Henning and Petter Solberg will continue their friendly rivalry when they contest Rallye Monte-Carlo later this month.
The Norwegians will both be making their debuts in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge with Henning piloting an M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 and Petter lining up in a Peugeot 207 S2000. Both have prior knowledge of Rallye Monte-Carlo, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Henning Solberg will link up with Austrian navigator Ilka Minor, who has recovered from injuries sustained in a crash on a round of her national championship last season. Chris Patterson, who hails from Northern Ireland, will partner Petter Solberg.
Although Petter has enjoyed a more successful career than his older brother, it will be Henning who will potentially have the upper hand on Rallye Monte-Carlo thanks to his greater experience of driving Super 2000 machinery.
We have been competing against each other for many years now so this is nothing different, said Petter Solberg. Like me Henning is there for the passion and loves to drive. Hes two years older than me but I dont think either of us gets any smarter with age. He just has more experience.
Home success boosts IRC rookie Wallenwein
Mark Wallenwein plans to carry the momentum gained from winning the final round of the German championship last season when he makes his Intercontinental Rally Challenge debut on Rallye Monte-Carlo later this month.
Wallenwein, who joins the select group of German drivers with IRC experience, will pilot a Skoda Auto Deutschland Fabia Super 2000 on the centenary edition of the legendary event.
The 23-year-old prepared for his IRC debut by contesting five rounds of his domestic series in 2010, winning the final round and claiming podium finishes on three other occasions in his first season of four-wheel-drive competition.
Everything will be new for me but I am planning to be as best prepared as possible and try to get to the finish, said Wallenwein. I won the final event of the season in Germany last year and this will help my confidence although I know the [regular] IRC drivers are very fast. The weather and the tyre choice will be big factors so I plan to find a good rhythm and learn as much as possible.
Wallenwein, who began competing aged 17 and is the third generation of his family to go rallying, says his programme beyond Monte-Carlo has yet to be finalised.
Wilks praises co-driver Panseri
Guy Wilks has paid tribute to Bryan Bouffiers co-driver Xavier Panseri after the Frenchman deputised for Wilks regular navigator Phil Pugh during a pre-Rallye Monte-Carlo test last month.
Wilks and Pugh were due to test near the events base in Valence but Pugh was prevented from travelling to the test after heavy snow closed the majority of the United Kingdoms airports and resulted in a spate of flight cancellations.
Anxious not to miss out on the opportunity to sample a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 for the first time, Wilks called on Panseri to accompany him during the daylong test.
My flight was one of the last to make it out but Phils was cancelled and he couldnt get to the test, said Wilks, who will drive for Peugeot UK in the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge. I spent two and a half hours phoning around to come up with a plan and thankfully Xavier agreed to stay on for an extra day following his test with Bryan. He did a very, very good job, considering he admits hes not very confident in speaking English.
Wilks will complete his preparations for Rallye Monte-Carlo, which will receive extensive live television coverage on Eurosport, with a two-day test in France next week.