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Rally Spain WRC (J) - 2-4 Oct 09

Posted: October 2, 2009 2:55 PM - 6314 Hits

Round 11 - 2009 FIA World Rally Championship

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Posted: October 2, 2009 1:49 PM

Tough Tarmac test for Stobart stars in Spain

Posted: October 2, 2009 1:44 PM

Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg are getting ready to take on the WRC’s first asphalt event since February as they travel to Salou for the Rally de España, the penultimate round of this year’s championship.  The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers are both on course to complete their best ever season in the championship and will be looking to set up a thrilling climax to the season with a strong result in Catalunya.  

The town of Salou on Spain’s Costa Daurada plays host to the event again with Service Park for the rally housed in the town’s PortAventura theme park resort.  While the route for the rally remains identical to last year, with few Tarmac challenges on the WRC calendar this year, it still provides an extra-challenging event for the 80 crews entered.  

The fast, sweeping roads of the Tarragona region, south-west of Barcelona, play host to 353.62kms of stages.  The twisty route and technical sections have been known to catch out even the best crews as big cuts on the corners spray gravel and dirt across the hard surface making the road slippery.  Rain in the unpredictable autumn conditions can also be a concern for the drivers as they look for grip on the sealed-surface roads.  Crews will be using the Pirelli PZero asphalt control tyre which will be made available in two compounds in case of changing weather conditions.  

Since returning from Rally Australia, where he produced yet another solid points-scoring performance, Matthew Wilson has continued to work hard on his fitness in preparation for the final two events of the season.  He has also teamed up with renowned driver coach Rob Wilson to help his final preparations for the first Tarmac event since Rally Ireland in February.  

The young Brit and co-driver Scott Martin finished ninth overall on last year’s edition of the rally and will be looking to build on that performance using their Ford Focus RS WRC and ensure a strong platform to take into their home rally in Wales later in October.  

Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud, meanwhile, had their hopes of another top-five finish in Australia dashed as they slid off the road on Day Two.  He currently occupies fifth in the drivers’ standings and holds a narrow lead over his brother Petter, who will be aiming to finish as high as possible in Spain.  

Solberg is closing in on his best ever points tally for a WRC season giving him an extra incentive to chase down a strong finish in Spain where he has never finished inside the top ten.  

The rally begins on Thursday night with the Ceremonial Start on the seafront in Salou.  As one of the most popular rallies on the calendar for spectators the event is sure to draw the crowds. The real action begins on Friday morning with two passes over a three-stage loop to the north and east of Salou. With each stage on the winding inland roads totalling over 20kms, Day One is the longest of the rally.  

Day Two takes the crews north-west of Salou to the wine-producing region of Montsant, where they will face two passes over the longest test of the rally, the epic 38.27km El Pirorat/La Ribera d’Ebre, the opening challenge of another three-stage loop.  

At just 93.88kms, Sunday is the shortest day of the event concluding with a sprint over the 4.11km final stage of the rally SS18 La Serra d’Almos.  

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team news since Rally Australia
Henning Solberg has been busy since his return from Australia fulfilling sponsor commitments and taking part in rallycross races in Sweden.  Meanwhile co-driver Cato Menkerud conquered the Berlin Marathon completing the course in an impressive 4 hours 15 minutes.  

Matthew Wilson made an appearance with father Malcolm at the annual Rallyday event at Castle Combe in the UK and he and Scott Martin will take part in a pre-rally test in Spain on Monday.  

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“It’s going to be quite interesting doing a full Tarmac rally after so long away rallying on gravel.  Unusually the rally is completely identical to last year which is great because it will really allow us to measure our progress since then.  It also means that we’ll be able to use the recce to really perfect our pacenotes.  We’ve had a bit of Tarmac tuition in preparation for it so I’m really looking forward to getting out there.”  

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“I always find driving on Tarmac a big challenge and usually I start off slow but make really good progress over the weekend.  This rally will be difficult as the last time we were on Tarmac was the very first round in Ireland – and it was very wet.  But I’m focused on putting in a strong performance and collecting more championship points.  I think it’s good for me that we use the same stages as last year, for sure it will help to make our pacenotes more accurate on the recce.”  

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“Rally de España is always a challenging event for the drivers, but even more so this year when we have had so few Tarmac rallies on the calendar.  It provides an excellent opportunity for Matthew to measure his progress since last year with the route remaining unchanged.  He is focused on producing another consistent performance to finish in the points.  It has been an excellent season for the Stobart team so far and both Matthew and Henning are committed to producing a strong finish to the season over the next two events.”

Hirvonen leaves nothing to chance as title fight heats up in Spain

Posted: October 2, 2009 1:42 PM

BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team has stepped up its preparations for next week's penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Spain as the 2009 season heads for a gripping climax. The squad extended its test ahead of Rally de España (1 - 4 October) from four days to seven, and both drivers' championship leader Mikko Hirvonen and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala completed asphalt coaching to strengthen Ford's title challenge.

Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen take a five-point lead into this 11th round of the campaign after winning the last four rounds in the record-breaking Ford Focus RS World Rally Car. They will be supported by fellow Finns Latvala and Miikka Anttila, whose victory in Italy in May began a five-rally winning streak that is Ford's best-ever in the WRC.

Hirvonen visited Britain last week for a day's driving training with former European FIA Endurance Touring Car champion Rob Wilson. He then completed two days' testing on sweeping roads in Catalonia, close to where the rally is based, and has an additional day scheduled on Monday. Latvala took tuition from ex-Finnish touring car champion Olli Haapalainen before his two-day test this week.

The Spanish session was launched by ex-Ford driver Markko Märtin, who won back-to-back asphalt rallies in a Focus RS WRC in France and Spain in 2004. He spent two days with the team last week, using his sealed surface expertise to advise on car set-up and pinpoint minor modifications that could improve the Focus RS WRC's performance even further. The trio completed 1450km in six days.

The rally is based in the holiday resort of Salou, on the Costa Daurada coast, south of Barcelona. The flowing speed tests in the Tarragona region are fast and can be compared to a race circuit in their characteristics. Although the roads are smooth, they are often abrasive and quickly become slippery as drivers cut the open corners to shave tenths of a second from their times, dragging stones and dirt onto the surface. Conditions will therefore worsen during the repeat afternoon pass of the special stages.

Hirvonen, who has six starts in Spain to his name, claimed his first WRC podium on this rally in 2005. Although he has a five-point cushion over Sébastien Loeb at the top of the standings, he acknowledges he cannot afford to relax. "Everyone knows how strong Loeb is on asphalt so I think there's enough of a fight for me to try to get second. Eight points would help greatly ahead of the last round but won't be easy to achieve. It will be a big challenge but I believe I have the speed to fight for second," he said.

"Preparations have gone well. I did some coaching with Rob Wilson in the UK to focus again on asphalt driving. It's something I've done for the past three years before asphalt rallies. Then my test went well and hopefully I picked up something extra that will add to the experience from previous years. The car felt very good so I'll wait to see how that transfers to the rally roads. On just one day I completed 350km, and that's the same distance as the entire three-day rally in Spain.

"I'm not feeling under pressure. It's just really exciting. I have a chance to win the title but I'm keeping my feet firmly on the ground. I have no expectations at all and that way I've taken the pressure away, I've put it to one side. I've had a good feeling for the last five events and I've proved things to myself that I needed to," added 29-year-old Hirvonen.

Latvala, who completed 550km in testing, is preparing for his sixth start in Spain. "After practising on a race circuit in Finland, I was able to work on what I learned on the roads in Spain. Every year there is less and less opportunity to cut corners on this rally because barriers are placed on the inside of bends to prevent it. So the stages have become more and more comparable to a race circuit and the coaching I have done is perfect preparation for that type of road.

"This will be the team's most difficult rally for some time, but I was really happy with my test and pleased with the car's set-up. I finished sixth last year and hope to improve on that. But my main target here is to again help Mikko. He is challenging for the title and I want to do all I can to support him and help him achieve that," added Latvala.

Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr will drive the team's third Focus RS WRC on the Abu Dhabi driver's third Spanish start. "The asphalt surface is going to present new challenges and I will need to concentrate on a different set of skills to the last few rallies. The stages will be fast and more streamlined, but I'll push with everything I have to try to finish in the points," said Al Qassimi.

Team News
* Tyre partner Pirelli will provide two tyre specifications for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi drivers. The standard PZero asphalt tyre will be available primarily in hard compound, but with a limited amount of soft compound rubber for use in cold or wet weather. Teams are not allowed to hand-carve additional cuts into the rubber in the event of rain or mud and each car can carry two spares.

* Four other Focus RS WRCs will start. Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud and Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin are nominated by the Stobart VK M-Sport squad while Federico Villagra / Jorge Perez Companc and Paul Bird / Ian Windress will drive for the Munchi's Ford team. The rally is also the penultimate round of the Fiesta SportTrophy International series and marks the WRC debut of the new Fiesta R2 rally car. Five Fiesta R2s and four Fiesta ST cars have been entered by championship contenders, with a total of 11 Fiestas entered in the rally.

* Ford motorsport chief Gerard Quinn, team director Malcolm Wilson and Hirvonen all attended the opening media day at Frankfurt Show last week. A Focus RS WRC was on display at Ford's large stand and Hirvonen tested his skills through a special stage on a new rally simulator.

Rally Route
The route is identical to 2008, with the service park based at Salou's PortAventura theme park, an hour's drive from Barcelona, and the stages spanning the Tarragona region. Following Thursday evening's start ceremony on the seafront, each day comprises two passes over an identical loop of three stages. Friday's opening leg is the longest of the rally with 131.76km of competition, much of it north-east of Salou. Saturday's second day to the north-west includes the monster 38.27km El Priorat - La Ribera d'Ebre test, which opens each loop and is the longest of the event. The final leg journeys west of Salou but stays close to the town, before the finish there at 15.07.
The 18 stages cover 353.62km in a route of 1299.13km.

Fiesta R2 set for FSTi debut in Spain

Posted: September 28, 2009 2:27 PM

The all-new Fiesta R2 is set to make its WRC debut as the Fiesta SportTrophy International arrives at the Rally de España for its exciting penultimate round. Five all-new Fiesta R2s are entered in the event with the remaining four competitors taking part in the Fiesta ST. Championship leader Patrick Anglade is locked in a battle with FST UK and Ireland champion Craig Breen for the title so the result of this event could go a long way to deciding the destination of the 2009 FSTi crown. The debut of the new car brings added excitement to the proceedings.

Breen took victory at Rally Finland in August closing the gap on series leader Anglade to 40 points. But, with the option to drop two scores, the fight for the championship is sure to go right to the wire at the final round, Wales Rally GB.

Rally de España sees the return of Lambros Athanassoulas to the series after a three-year absence, while Belgium’s Anthony Martin also makes his 2009 FSTi debut. Team Abu Dhabi driver Bader Al Jabri is currently lying third in the championship, but only holds a narrow lead over his team mates Majed Al Shamsi and Ahmed Al Mansoori. Castrol Ford Team Türkiye drivers Emre Yurdakul and Burcu Çetinkaya complete the field. Both Turks will be competing in the new R2.

Based around the Costa Daurada town of Salou, Rally de España is the first and only Tarmac round of the FSTi this year providing a new and unique challenge for the competitors. The sweeping roads of the Tarragona region are fast and flowing but the surface can quickly become slippery as drivers cut across the open corners and drag stones and dirt onto the route.

Anglade (21) was beaten by Breen in Finland, but did enough to retain a large advantage over the Irishman in the table. Returning to his favoured surface he will be aiming to take another victory to put him in the box seat heading in to the final round of the championship in October. He will link up with new co-driver Peter Loth for the remaining two events of the season. Anglade will be driving the Fiesta ST at this event hoping that the proven set-up and reliability of the car will aide his title challenge.

Breen (19) and co-driver Gareth Roberts (21) now have two FSTi victories under their belts after an impressive win in Finland. The duo are riding high after clinching both the FST UK and FST Ireland titles in the last month and are now gunning for a hat trick of wins. Breen has been further boosted by a switch to the Fiesta R2 for this event which is his prize for winning the FST Ireland title.

Al Jabri (24) has been impressively consistent so far this season and is still in a position to exert pressure on the championship leaders if he can produce the kind of pace that gave him second place in both Sardinia and Poland. But he and co-driver Alan Harryman will also have one eye on their Team Abu Dhabi team mates who are just five points behind in the standings.

Al Shamsi (29) and co-driver Steve McAuley are locked in a battle with Al Mansoori, but the more experienced Al Shamsi will be aiming to move ahead of his countryman and stamp his mark on the championship. Meanwhile Al Mansoori (22) and co-driver Killian Duffy (26) thrived in the high-speed conditions in Finland and will be hoping to reproduce that form on the roads of the Tarragona region.

Burcu Çetinkaya (28) and co-driver Çiçek Güney (27) have been performing well in their home championship and will be hoping to translate that form to the world stage. Her Castrol Ford Team Türkiye team mate Emre Yurdakul (27) produced a strong performance in Finland and will be aiming to build on that in the new Fiesta R2.

Athanassoulas, an FSTi winner in Germany in 2006, has already made a big impression on the WRC this season, taking a fantastic eighth place overall at his home event, Acropolis Rally of Greece in June with co-driver Nikos Zakheos (29) winning the GpN class and P-WRC in a Skoda Fabia. He will also be driving the Fiesta R2

Meanwhile Anthony Martin (25) from Belgium was the first competitor to rally the Fiesta R2 at Oomlop van Vlaanderen earlier this month setting excellent times on the car’s first competitive outing. He and co-driver Eric Bourget (25) will be looking to put that experience to good use on the Spanish Tarmac stages.

FSTi leader Patrick Anglade said:
"We had the chance to test the Fiesta ST at least once on asphalt at the Eifel Rally in July. We didn’t have the best conditions for the test as it was raining, but we expect that there might be rain in Spain too. I have been preparing intensively and making rally sport the centre of my life as the end of the championship gets closer. We will try to give our best and stay with our tried and tested tactics. We will not let the other cars drive us crazy. Of course we know that it is difficult to win against these cars but even they have to finish the rally first and then we’ll see the results."

FSTi Driver Goals (Rally de España):

Patrick Anglade (GER): - is expecting a tough battle against the Fiesta R2s but is aiming to defend his lead in the championship by sticking to the consistent game plan that has served him throughout the series so far this year.

Craig Breen (IRE) – has the bit between his teeth after being confirmed as FST UK and FST Ireland champion and knows that victory in the R2 in Spain would go a long way to helping him to a unique FST hat trick this season.

Bader Al Jabri (UAE) – still has it all to play for with Anglade and Breen in touching distance ahead of him but with his team mates Al Shamsi and Al Mansoori breathing down his neck, another strong performance will be essential for the Emirati.

Majed Al Shamshi (UAE) – has proved to be a tough opponent for his Team Abu Dhabi colleagues so far this season and after being edged out again by Al Jabri in Finland will be looking to come out on top in their inter-team battle in Spain.

Ahmed Al Mansoori (UAE) – found his rhythm in Finland and must now translate that pace and consistency to the Tarmac stages of Tarragona. The least experienced of the Team Abu Dhabi drivers, he is learning fast and improving on every event.

Emre Yurdakul (TUR) – proved that he can challenge the leaders in the last round and will be aiming to build on that performance. He has limited experience in the new R2 but will be focused on setting fast stage times in the new car.

Burcu Çetinkaya (TUR) – the 2008 championship runner-up is still looking for a podium finish in 2009, which will be within her grasp if she can translate her pace from the FST Turkey to the international stage in the Fiesta R2.

Lambros Athanassoulas (GRE) – a fantastic result at the Acropolis Rally of Greece raised Athanassoulas’ rallying career to another level. Driving the new R2 he will be aiming to show the same outright pace in Spain to take his second career FSTi victory after his previous experience in Germany in 2006.

Anthony Martin (BEL) – has experience of the FSTi from Rally Deutschland last year and also has good experience behind the wheel of the R2 after competing at Oomlop van Vlaanderen, which should play into his hands in Spain.

Kick Energy award gives Breen chance of FST hat trick

Posted: September 23, 2009 9:06 AM

Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy UK and Fiesta SportTrophy Ireland champion Craig Breen will continue his bid to take a hat trick of titles for the season as he takes part in the penultimate round of the Fiesta SportTrophy International in Spain next week in a new Fiesta R2. > > The 19-year-old Irishman won the chance to do the Condroz Rally after winning the FST Ireland series and his Kick Energy FST UK prize was to take part in the Rally of Scotland in November, but he has negotiated with M-Sport and will now do RACC Rally de Espana instead of competing on the Condroz Rally. > > Breen, and co-driver Gareth Roberts, are still in with a chance of winning the FSTi, despite missing the rounds in Sardinia and Poland. Victory in the opening round of the championship in Portugal, followed by a win at Rally Finland in July, have left him locked in a battle with young German Patrick Anglade for the title. > > Breen competed in the Clare Stages Rally at the weekend in the Kick Energy branded 1600cc Ford Fiesta R2 producing an impressive performance to finish fourth overall. The Waterford teenager used the event as a development test ahead of his trip to Spain and came away from the weekend with a victory in his class as well as two second-place stage finishes in the new car.

Kick Energy FST IE Champion Craig Breen said:
"I am over the moon at how well the weekend went, and the performance of the Fiesta R2. It's shaping up to be a great car in Spain, and I am now really looking forward to an overall result there."

Entry List

Posted: September 23, 2009 9:05 AM

Weston Junior to contest Rally Spain

Posted: September 4, 2009 9:02 PM

Dave Weston Junior received the perfect birthday present – an entry on Rally Spain.

On the same day he turned 19 years of age, Junior received confirmation of his entry onto the Spanish WRC event.

“I had always hoped to contest Spain this year, but with the date being so close to the final round of the BRC, Rally Yorkshire, it had looked like it might not happen,” said Junior. “To find out we had secured an entry on my birthday was fantastic timing, what more could you ask for to make the day special?”

Junior will contest the event in an Autotek Subaru Impreza N15, run by Ramsport who have run cars for the 19-year-old since he began rallying two years ago.

“Rob Atkinson from Ramsport put the deal together,” said Junior. “He and my engineer Alistair Gibson put 100 per cent commitment into my rallying. It's thanks to them and Autotek that I've got this opportunity.

“I know I have to get into the WRC in some form soon if I want to progress and improve my pace. We'll also do Rally of Great Britain this year and Rally of Scotland. Doing Spain and GB this year gives me experience of the WRC on both asphalt and gravel.”

Confirmation of the entry adds to an already hectic schedule for the teenager who will run as course car on the Merrick Forest Stages in Scotland this weekend before a test session with triple British champion Mark Higgins a week later. After that it's Rally Yorkshire on 26th September and Rally Spain the next week.

Event Website / Details

Posted: January 1, 2009 12:01 AM

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