History will be made on round six of the FIA European Rally Championship when the Geko Ypres Rally becomes the first all-asphalt event to include a Qualifying Stage.
The move, which the FIA Rally Commission approved at a meeting on 24 May, will add a new and exciting dimension to the traditional Ypres Rally shakedown stage held on the evening before the rally. All upcoming Tarmac-based rounds of the ERC are now authorised to run a Qualifying Stage, which will be used to determine the starting order for the opening leg of an event.
Rally Poland pioneered the Qualifying Stage concept in the ERC last season with all loose-surface rounds adopting the format as standard for 2013.
Geko Ypres Rally Manager Alain Penasse said: “The decision from the FIA Rally Commission was a huge surprise for all of us. We understood immediately the thrilling boost this would give to our shakedown. Last year we got more than 5000 spectators on the four-kilometre stage. This option gives the Geko Ypres Rally organisers, and the organisers behind other Tarmac events, to add extra suspense to the rally as the shakedown is no longer just a test run but decides the starting grid for the crews.”
On the Geko Ypres Rally, FIA and ERC priority drivers (a maximum of 20 will be nominated) will get two runs of the shakedown stage from 19:00hrs CET on Thursday 27 June before the Qualifying Stage goes live at 20:00hrs. The fastest driver will be the first to select their starting position at a ceremony in the Ypres Rally Center from 13:00hrs on Friday 28 June with the second fastest driver next up and so on until all starting positions have been selected. The traditional Ypres shakedown for all other crews will begin at 20:30hrs on Thursday.
Sanremo bosses prepare for ERC return
Preparations are underway for the penultimate round of this year’s FIA European Rally Championship, Rallye Sanremo.
The Italian Tarmac classic, which first appeared on the full ERC roster in 1964, takes place from 10-12 October and celebrates its 55th anniversary in 2013.
“We’re putting together the final details now and we’ll have one or two new things but we’re also going to stick with the tried and trusted elements that work, such as the service park on the seafront and the media centre in the old station,” said Sergio Maiga, President of event organiser ACI Sanremo. “We can expect about 230 kilometres of stages this year, with the start on Thursday afternoon, possibly in the centre of the town: we already want to have a few stages on Thursday as we used to. And of course we will keep the usual parade through the town on Friday. This is a symbol of how important the rally is for the town.”
As well as counting as a round of the ERC, Rallye Sanremo forms part of the Italian Rally Championship, a prospect that further excites Maiga, particularly if multiple national champion Paolo Andreucci takes part in a Peugeot 208 T16.
“We believe that we should see the debut of the Peugeot 208 T16, which is due to be homologated at the beginning of Sanremo and hopefully Paolo Andreucci will drive it, which will be a big attraction,” said Maiga. “We might have some other special guests and we’re working on doing a specific stage to mark our birthday.”
New base for ERC Croatia Rally
The Croatia Rally, round 10 of the FIA European Rally Championship, will get a new base when it takes place from 26-28 September.
Poreč, a popular tourist destination on the Adriatic coast, will host the all-asphalt event, which is being organised the Croatian Car and Karting Federation (CCKF) in partnership with Italian sports management company United Business. The agreement was signed by CCKF President Matko Bolanca and United Business General Manager Pier Liberali earlier this month.
Zrinko Gregurek, Secretary General of CCKF said: “For the 40th anniversary of Croatia Rally, which has been organised many years and previously known as INA DELTA RALLY by AC DELTA from Zagreb, Eurosport Events, the promoter of the European Rally Championship, will ensure a worldwide media coverage. United Business is planning a number of initiatives both at sporting level and of side events, to make this Rally one of the most attractive in Europe.”
The event will also get a striking new logo, which incorporates the red and white chequered effect of the Croatian national flag.
In the spotlight: François Delecour
One of the sport’s legends, Delecour remains a formidable competitor despite turning 50 in 2012 when he won the Romanian Rally Championship title and scored points on a one-off WRC return on Rallye Monte-Carlo. His programme for 2013 will include up to 10 rounds of the European Rally Championship in a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 with backing from Visit Romania. After scoring points on the season-opener in Austria, he finished on the podium in Latvia and was in the top five on Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse – an event he won back in 1993.