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Spain - 25-28 Oct 18

Posted: October 28, 2018 3:34 AM - 2252 Hits

Round 12 - 2018 World Rally Championship

Live Results (Spain 2018) Also available at: rally-base results & ewrc-results.com
Radio: WRC All Live Audio Stream
News: www.wrc.com
Event Website: Rally Spain (Catalunya)

First stage each day - Irish/UK Times
Shakedown - Thu - 07:00

SS1 Thu - 17:08
SS2 Fri - 08:33
SS8 Sat - 07:23
SS15 Sun - 06:35 (Winter Time)

Hyundai Motorsport Preview: Rally de Espana

Posted: October 23, 2018 4:22 AM

Hyundai Motorsport is ready to put up its strongest fight as the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) moves onto the penultimate event next weekend, the mixed surface challenge of Rally de España.

Hyundai Motorsport heads into round 12 of the 13-event season trailing in the manufacturers’ title chase by 20 points with a maximum of 86 available over the final two rallies in Spain and Australia. Thierry Neuville, meanwhile, holds a slim seven-point margin at the top of the drivers’ classification.

Despite a string of disappointing weekends compared to its title rivals, Hyundai Motorsport hopes to turn the tide at the popular multi-surface Spanish round. The team will field three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC crews with home hero Dani Sordo re-joining alongside Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen.

All sights will be set on fighting for victory at a rally where the team has previously taken three individual top-three finishes. Sordo took third in 2015 before going one place better a year later as part of a double podium with Neuville in third.

Two become one

Often seen as two rallies in one, Rally de España gets underway with a short tarmac test in Barcelona on Thursday evening before moving primarily onto gravel for Friday’s stages. A spectacular 75-minute service is held on Friday evening during which mechanics transform the cars into tarmac specification for the Saturday and Sunday.

In order to prepare the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC for the unique challenges of Spain, crews have carried out a mix of tarmac and gravel testing. There has been a particular focus on tarmac performance, something the team has worked hard to improve throughout the season.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “There is no room for error in Spain, if we are to overturn the deficit in the manufacturers’ championship. We still have a mathematical chance to achieve our title goal by the end of Australia. We’ve seen that anything can happen in the WRC this season, but we also know it will be a big undertaking. We will still give it our maximum. We will also do everything we can to support Thierry in the drivers’ title – engineers, mechanics and crews alike. We have a good car, a strong team and competitive drivers; we need to put all elements together and aim as high as we can. It’s a privilege to be in such an exciting battle, and the competition is as intense as we knew it would be. We will push right up to the Power Stage in Coffs Harbour. The most deserving team will take the title.”

New territory for HMDP crew
Fresh from their competitive fourth place finish at Wales Rally GB, the Hyundai Motorsport Driver development Program (HMDP) crew of Jari Huttunen and Antti Linnaketo will prepare for a brand new challenge in Spain.

Their seventh WRC2 participation of the 2018 season will mark their competitive debut on the mixed surfaces of Rally de España. The Finnish crew will be seeking to continue their recent progress with the Hyundai i20 R5 against the impressive talent in WRC2.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “Jari and Antti have made important progress throughout 2018, tackling a combination of familiar and new events. We have seen how well they have fared on rallies where they have past experience – Finland and Wales particularly – but it has been equally important for them to discover new events. Spain will be the next challenge on their learning curve, but we are sure they will get the best out of themselves and the ever-improving Hyundai i20 R5.”

WRC Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Strong performances in Turkey and Wales Rally GB unrewarded for Norwegians
Improved feeling in the i20 Coupe WRC bodes well for Spain

Mikkelsen said: “We have made important steps in the past few rallies, which have not really been reflected in our overall results. The feeling and rhythm I have had with the i20 Coupe WRC has allowed me to pick up stage wins and to fight at the top end of the field. This is greatly encouraging. Rally Spain could be good for us. I feel that we have made some improvements on tarmac in preparation for this event. We have to see if all our homework pays off. It will be a crucial rally for the championship, so we have to be on top of our game.”

WRC Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
Leading the drivers’ championship by seven points
Previous podium scorer in Spain (third in 2016)

Neuville said: “These two final rallies of the season are massively important for us in the championship fight. We have lost some ground in the past couple of events, but we are still on top and we won’t give up without a fight. The opening day on gravel will be particularly vital in setting the tone for the rest of the weekend, so we have to start strongly. We know we have had some deficiencies on tarmac this season but we have worked hard on that and hope we can see the fruits of that hard work.”

WRC Crew Notes: Sordo/Del Barrio (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)
First WRC event since Rallye Deutschland
Spaniards seeking third home podium for Hyundai Motorsport

Sordo said: “Rally de España is one of the most special events of the whole year for me. Nothing can replace the feeling we get when competing on home soil and in front of such passionate supporters. It makes for a tremendous atmosphere from the opening super special right through to the Power Stage. The gravel-to-tarmac schedule is like no other rally we tackle, and requires a very different approach. It’s been a long time since Portugal, my last event on gravel, so it will be a tough start even with a beneficial road position. We know the car is strong on loose surface, while we also have some evolutions for tarmac so I hope we can perform stronger than in Germany.”

HMDP Crew Notes: Huttunen/Linnaketo (#35 Hyundai i20 R5)
Fourth in Wales Rally GB, second best WRC2 result of season after Finnish podium
Aiming to shine in debut Rally de España participation

Huttunen said: “Wales was arguably the most encouraging WRC2 weekend we’ve had this year. Of course, we were confident and fast in Finland but at the last event we really put into practice a full twelve months of development and hard work. The improvements have been good but we also know we have more to learn. Spain will be a new event for us, so we will have a bigger challenge against the main WRC2 contenders, who will no doubt set a high benchmark. Our aim is to get as close to them as we can and pick up experience of a mixed gravel/tarmac rally.”

Bite-size Spain

18 special stages will be run over a total distance of 331.58km
The opening super special in Barcelona, a short tarmac test, will pave the way for a day of mainly gravel action on Friday
The 38.85km La Fatarella-Vilalba stage makes use of the well known mixed surface Terra Alta test from previous years – although run in the opposite direction
75 minute service on Friday evening to change the cars from gravel to tarmac specification ahead of 121.80km of stages on Saturday
A quartet of timed tarmac runs concludes the event on Sunday morning with the second attempt of 14.50km Santa Marina acting as the Power Stage – with invaluable drivers’ points up for grabs as the title chase intensifies!

Toyota Yaris WRC set for a crucial test on both gravel and asphalt

Posted: October 23, 2018 4:21 AM

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team will defend its leadership of the FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers' standings on the penultimate round of the season in Spain (October 25-28). As the only truly mixed-surface event on the calendar, it will provide a thorough test for the performance of the Toyota Yaris WRC, driven by Jari-Matti Latvala, Ott Tänak and Esapekka Lappi.

Based in Salou on the Costa Daurada to the south of Barcelona, Rally de España features one day of medium-speed gravel stages followed by two days on smooth, high-speed asphalt roads that are likened to racing circuits. At the end of Friday, teams convert their cars from gravel to asphalt specification in an extended evening service, and drivers need to quickly adjust to the change of surface the following morning.

This year, there is a return to Barcelona for a street stage in the Montjuïc area to get the rally underway on Thursday evening. Friday consists of three stages each run twice, mostly on gravel but with some asphalt sections in the 38.85-kilometre La Fatarella-Vilalba test. Saturday has two loops of three asphalt stages, followed by a short stage in Salou itself. On Sunday the Riudecanyes and Santa Marina stages are run twice, separated by service, with the second pass of Santa Marina as the rally-ending Power Stage.

Quotes:

Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
“I believe that Spain should be a good event for us. We have made some changes to help our car perform well on loose gravel, and we know that our car has already been strong on asphalt. Of course, there are always things to improve and we have been working on both surfaces in our pre-event testing. The Friday will be very important, particularly given our road positions, to ensure we are in a good situation for the rest of the rally. I think the last two rounds will be exciting to follow, both for the manufacturers' championship and in the drivers' title fight: Ott will be pushing to the maximum and I am sure his rivals will be too.”

Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila
“I am really excited about Spain and the chance to score a great result to help our bid for the manufacturers' championship. It is a rally I have always enjoyed: the asphalt stages there are particularly nice to drive. In my pre-event test last week I was fortunate to experience both damp and dry conditions, and I have a good feeling with the car. Personally I am on a nice run at the moment and the goal is to keep this going until the end of the season.”

Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja
“I am looking forward to driving again in Spain. We still have a chance in the drivers' championship and we are not going to give up. In a way it is more straightforward for us: we just have to win the last two rallies and see what happens. I can be confident about our performance on both gravel and asphalt, as we have been strong on both surfaces recently. Still, we are always trying to improve and we had a good pre-event test where we were able to work on some things to make everything as good as possible before the rally.”

Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm
“I am fully committed to helping the team fight for the manufacturers' title over the final two events of the season. As a team we have had some really nice results recently and I hope to continue that in Spain. I like the challenge of the two surfaces: as a driver you do need to adapt to the chance but I think we all get used to it pretty quickly. The asphalt stages in Spain are very special and I really enjoy driving them. Unfortunately I made a mistake last year but hopefully I can use that experience this time to have a strong finish.”

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team - SPANISH SHOOTOUT WITH DUAL-SURFACE DUEL

Posted: October 23, 2018 4:07 AM

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs will be ready for a dual-surface duel when the FIA World Rally Championship ventures to the only mixed surface event of the year at next week’s RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España.

The battle to be crowned this year’s FIA World Rally Champion could not be closer, and three of the sport’s most talented crews will be going head-to-head on both gravel and asphalt – seven points is currently all that separates Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia from retaining their crown.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“The championship fight could not be closer as we head to Spain. It’s been a long time since we had a battle this intense and I know that the whole team will be working their absolute hardest to ensure Sébastien and Julien have everything they need to push for a sixth world title.

“With three Spanish victories to their name, they certainly know what it takes to master the mixed terrain and I’m confident that we have a strong package for both surfaces. It’s going to be such an exciting weekend, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.

“Elfyn and Teemu are also capable of fighting for the top results next weekend, and I’m keen to see what they can do as the season draws to a close.

“Luck has most definitely not been on Elfyn’s side this year, but the speed is there and I know he’ll want to bring the season to a close with some strong results. Teemu too will want to showcase everything he’s learnt on what will be the last familiar event of the year for him.”

RALLY DE ESPAÑA
A MIXED-SURFACE EVENT

As the only mixed-surface event on the calendar, RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España provides a unique challenge which tests the world’s best drivers on gravel as well as asphalt.

The EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs start the event in gravel specification – an opening stage through the streets of Barcelona on Thursday evening followed on Friday by six narrow, twisty gravel tests in the mountains west of the rally base in Salou.

The Fiestas are then transformed into their asphalt guise during an extended service that evening. A number of components including the suspension, brakes, gearbox, rear differential, steering rack and cross members are all changed in less than 75 minutes – a task which could take up to 12 hours on a standard road car.

To ensure a perfect set-up, the team spent this week building the competition Fiestas first in their asphalt trim and then again in their gravel guise.

Attention to detail is imperative and our mechanics took precise measurements and geometry in the workshop to ensure everything is millimetre-perfect when they come to make the change competitively in Spain.

The weekend competition then ushers in circuit-like asphalt that the crews can attack as they would a racetrack – 11 stages over the championship’s smoothest and fastest Tarmac roads.

SÉBASTIEN OGIER
JULIEN INGRASSIA

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will be hunting another strong result when the FIA World Rally Championship returns to Spain. Victory at the previous round saw the pairing close in on the championship lead, and they’ll be looking for further gains next week – at an event they have won on three previous occasions.

Previous starts: 10
Best result: 1st (2013, 2014 and 2016)

Sébastien Ogier said:
“We go to Spain on a high after securing victory in Wales, and reducing the gap at the head of the championship standings to seven points. With just two events left to contest, the title race is really hotting up, and we’ll need to deliver another strong result if we want to defend our crown.

“The competition is really exciting and I’m looking forward to this event which I enjoy a lot. The dual surface element of this rally makes it a unique fixture on the calendar and you need to adapt quickly to each change in terrain.

“The support we get in Salou every year also provides extra motivation and everyone can count on Julien and I giving everything to bring home another strong result for the championship.”

ELFYN EVANS
DANIEL BARRITT

Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt have had the speed but not the luck this year – and that’s something the British pairing will be determined to change next week. Their season may have been marred by a series of unfortunate events, but they’re determined to end the year on a high – starting with a strong result in Spain.

Previous starts: 5
Best result: 7th (2017)

Elfyn Evans said:
“We go to the Spain determined to secure a good result. Luck hasn’t been on our side this year, but the speed is there and we’ll be looking to close the season with some strong results.

“As the only mixed-surface encounter on the calendar, there’s no other event quite like this one. We start the rally in gravel specification before everything is lowered and stiffened for Catalunya’s circuit-like asphalt.

“It’s quite a strategic rally and our plan will be to give it a big push through the gravel on Friday, before seeing where we are for the weekend’s asphalt – which really is like driving on a racetrack in places!”

TEEMU SUNINEN
MIKKO MARKKULA

Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula are already winners in Spain having piloted their Ford Fiesta R5 to victory in the WRC 2 category last year. Attacking the mixed-surface stages for the first time with the power and performance of the top-specification Fiesta next week, Suninen will be aiming to put all he has learnt into practice by challenging for a strong result.

Previous starts: 3
Best result: 8th (2017)

Teemu Suninen said:
"I have contested Rally Spain every year since my debut season in 2015 and it’s an event I like a lot. I’m looking forward to heading back there this year and attacking the stages for the first time in a world rally car.

“We had a test on the Spanish asphalt last week and the car felt good immediately. The set-up for this sort of asphalt is pretty unique and you can really attack the stages like you would on a circuit. The gravel stages are quite narrow and similar to those in Portugal.

“This is a rally that demands commitment if you want to challenge for a good result, and we plan to deliver that and challenge for a positive result next week.”

ELSEWHERE IN THE TEAM

Elsewhere in the team, Ken Block will be making his debut behind the wheel of a new-generation world rally car. Piloting the Ford Fiesta WRC for the first time in competition, Block returns to the FIA World Rally Championship for the first time since 2014. The popular American completed two days of testing in the lead-up to the event – on both gravel and asphalt – and will be joined, as always, by Alex Gelsomino calling the notes.

A TWO-SIDED CHALLENGE FOR THE C3 WRC

Posted: October 23, 2018 4:01 AM

A genuine test of all-round ability as the only event on the WRC calendar contested on both gravel and tarmac, round 12 of the 2018 season sees Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena rejoin the ranks of Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT for their third appearance of the year, this time alongside Craig Breen – Scott Martin and Khalid Al Qassimi – Chris Patterson.

A THIRD OUTING FOR LOEB

More so than anywhere else, you must have all-round ability as a driver if you are to have a chance of winning in Spain. The only mixed surface event of the season, Rally de Catalunya certainly tests the versatility of the drivers and their cars. It is about being just as comfortable on gravel during the first leg as on tarmac over the next two days, and especially not needing any time to adapt from one surface to the other. With nine-time world rally champion Sébastien Loeb joining the team for his third and final appearance of the year, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT can make a strong case for success this weekend. This is merely compounded by the fact that he previously won the rally eight times in a row, including three times since 2010 when it became a mixed surface event. After holding the overall lead during three tests and claiming three stage wins in Mexico on his first appearance in the C3 WRC and then another three on his next outing in Corsica, the French ace will be keen to confirm he has lost none of his legendary speed with a good result, despite not having competed here since 2012. He also knows that he will be driving the winning car from last year's event. Buoyed by a strong showing at Wales Rally GB, where he pushed all the way and had his sights on a podium finish for long periods, Craig Breen will also be aiming to make the most of the C3 WRC's qualities. Craig is known for his love of tarmac but he will also benefit from the minor changes made to the gravel stages, which may compensate for his relative inexperience at this rally. Starting quite far down the running order (8thand 11threspectively), Craig and Sébastien find themselves at the mercy of the weather. Their road positions will undoubtedly work in their favour if the ground is dry and the roads clean, as it often the case here; however, if it rains, they will be at a serious disadvantage... The third driver competing on behalf of the works team, Khalid Al Qassimi is a big fan of these roads and stages. His main goal will be to enjoy himself as much as possible.

TERRA ALTA TRANSFORMED

Although there will be plenty of difficulties throughout the weekend, the majority of them will be familiar to the championship regulars. Aside from the return of the opening super special stage held in the streets of Barcelona on Thursday evening, the main change this year comes on Friday, with the former Terra Alta stage, renamed La Fatarella – Vilalba, contested in the opposite direction to previous years, with around ten kilometres also added to the test. It retains the thirteen or so kilometres on tarmac that must be contested with gravel tyres, making it a stage where the most talented drivers can always open up sizeable gaps on the others in the field. However, you also need to look after your tyres and not overwork the front ones, especially for the stages contested on tarmac from Saturday onwards. In any event, this rally is unquestionably a genuine test of all-round ability.

WHAT THEY SAID

Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Like in Wales, the aim will be to fight at the front. The weather for the first leg on gravel will have a major influence on our performance, but if we manage to get to the end of Friday well-placed in the overall standings, we know we can count on the potential of the C3 WRC on tarmac to try and reproduce last year's win at this rally. Both Sébastien and Craig can make a strong case for success here: Seb has won this event eight times and has already proven this year that he has lost none of his talent, whilst Craig comes into the rally in good form after a fine performance in Wales."

Sébastien Loeb
"After setting some good times on both surfaces in Mexico and in Corsica, I'd love to get through an entire rally without making any mistakes. My two days of testing went well. It's now up to me to put it all together, from start to finish. The standard is so high that it would be pretentious to say that I'll be able to challenge the three title contenders, but I hope to be more or less on the pace. If it's dry on day one, then we'll need to make the most of the potential advantage of our road position, because lots of things always happen on this leg, with hidden, embedded rocks pretty much everywhere."

Number of appearances at the event: 13
Best result: 1st (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012)

Craig Breen
"I'm excited to be racing on tarmac again, my favourite surface, especially as there are always a lot of Irish fans who come over for this rally. I'm also pleased that there have been some changes to the first leg on gravel, given that I haven't competed here for two years. For the tarmac leg, I'll be looking to my past in karting to get my bearings quickly on these sweeping, circuit-style roads. I'll need to keep it as clean and tidy as possible. I'll certainly be looking to pick up where I left off in Wales and fight for a podium finish."

Number of appearances at the event: 5
Best result: 6th (2012)

Khalid Al Qassimi
"I'm delighted to be back at this rally. I've always loved racing here, especially the leg on gravel, even if it is always tricky. Switching from one surface to another during the weekend calls for a good ability to adapt and that's what makes this round such a difficult, but really interesting challenge."

Number of appearances at the event: 10
Best result: 7th (2010)

KEY FIGURES

18 timed stages covering a total of 331.58 km
1 hr 15 mins the time allowed in service on Friday evening for the technical teams to convert the cars from their gravel to tarmac configuration
30 Michelin tyres permitted for the entire rally, i.e. 14 "gravel" tyres for Thursday and Friday, selected from 10 medium compound and 14 hard compound tyres, and 16 "tarmac" tyres for Saturday and Sunday, selected from 12 softs, 16 hards and 8 rain tyres.
10 overall wins secured by Citroën at Rally de España: Philippe Bugalski in 1999 (Xsara Kit-Car), Sébastien Loeb in 2005 and 2006 (Xsara WRC), 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 (C4 WRC), 2011 and 2012 (DS3 WRC) and Kris Meeke in 2017 (C3 WRC).

A RALLY, A CHALLENGE

The switch from gravel to tarmac configuration

Once per year, Rally de Catalunya provides the WRC mechanics with a service that is even more intense than usual. Extended from its usual length of forty-five minutes to an hour and a quarter, the service on Friday evening sees the mechanics convert their team's cars from gravel to tarmac configuration. Put simply, this means that only the bodyshell and engine remain unchanged. All four shock absorbers, the chassis and suspension systems, the gearbox, the axles, the transmission systems, the brakes and the steering are all replaced! Time is of the essence, of course, so certain things are different; for example, the front and rear axles arrive fully pre-fitted on trolleys. Although this exercise has been in place in Spain for several years now, practice drills are held every season before the rally, so that everyone is fully prepared! That way, the team has time to focus calmly on the more traditional aspects of service such as oil, water and brake fluid changes and other checks.

CITROËN SECRETS

Daniel Elena recalls the first time he and Sébastien Loeb won in Spain, in 2005…

"For several years, we had a hard time at this rally! In 2002, we went off, in 2003 we were caught by Panizzi in the rain because we didn't have the right tyres and in 2004, we broke the crankcase on a corner… So, that's why our first win in Spain in 2005 was pretty special. At the time, it was our tenth win of the year, which made it a really great season. It was quite an emotional win, because Michael Park, known as Beef, sadly died that year. He was Markko Märtin's co-driver and a good friend. We hadn't wanted to win the title in such circumstances in Wales, so we deliberately dropped down the standings, eventually securing our second championship at the next round, in Japan. In Catalonia, we then went on to claim another seven consecutive wins. The stages haven't changed all that much since then, so I think we only have about sixty or so kilometres of new pace notes to take this year, plus any adjustments to the ones we already have of course."

Dawn of a new era: Polo GTI R5 set for its WRC debut in Spain

Posted: October 23, 2018 4:00 AM

After about two years of development and over 10,000 kilometres of testing, the wait is over: the Polo GTI R5 will make its competitive debut in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at the Rally Spain (25 to 28 October). The 200-kW (272-PS) Polo GTI R5 will be driven by the Norwegian duo of Petter Solberg/Veronica Engan (car number 49) and Frenchmen Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (car number 47). The Volkswagen Motorsport team, which won a clean sweep of titles in the highest class of the World Rally Championship on four occasions between 2013 and 2016, will run the new customer car when it makes its only works outing in Spain.

“Two years after Volkswagen’s last WRC title, we are all looking forward to the Rally Spain, even if it is only a one-off comeback for our team and the Polo GTI R5 will be run by customer teams in the future,” stresses Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “With 21 competitors, the WRC 2 category has a large and a strong field – that makes us all the more determined to get a good result.”

Solberg and Camilli will not be competing for overall victory in Spain, as the new Polo GTI was developed and prepared according to R5 regulations. Cars in this class have roughly 100 PS less than World Rally Cars. They are aimed at customer teams and privateers. Furthermore, their technology is based far more closely on production technology and is also significantly more affordable.

Unique combination of gravel and tarmac stages

In total, the Rally Spain comprises 18 special stages and a total distance of 331.58 kilometres. The combination of gravel and tarmac is unique within the world championship. “This is another reason why we selected the Rally Spain for the competitive debut of the Polo GTI R5,” explains Gerard-Jan de Jongh, technical project leader for the Polo GTI R5 and former race engineer for world rally champion Sébastien Ogier.

Round twelve of the 2018 WRC season kicks off on Thursday with a spectacular special stage around the Montjuic area in the heart of Barcelona. The first full day on Friday takes in some very tough and dusty gravel routes, while the stages on Saturday and Sunday are held on winding and smooth tarmac roads in the mountains to the south of Salou. This represents a special challenge for the mechanics: at the end of the gravel day, they have just 75 minutes to convert the complete car from gravel to tarmac set-up at the evening service. “Among other things, we swap the chassis, brakes and gearbox,” says de Jongh, explaining the complicated challenge awaiting the mechanics.

The comeback: Former world champion Petter Solberg returns

It could be the comeback of the motorsport year! 43-year-old Norwegian Solberg won 13 rallies during his time in the World Rally Championship. He then switched to Rallycross with his own team in 2013, since when he has twice been crowned world champion (2014 and 2015). Three titles in two different disciplines governed by the International Automobile Federation FIA is a unique achievement in the world of motorsport. Solberg’s PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team currently runs two Polo R Supercars in the World Rallycross Championship (WRX). This season, the team successfully defended the Team title it won in 2017.

“Spain was the venue of my last WRC rally in 2012,” says an emotional Solberg. “It feels great to be heading back there now. Particularly with this car and this team. The combination of gravel and tarmac will be a big challenge for me. After all, it is six years since I drove in a WRC rally. However, one way or another, it will be a fantastic weekend – with old rally friends and passionate fans out on the route.”

Solberg, one of seven test drivers, took the Polo GTI R5 out for the first time on ice and snow in Sweden at the start of the year. Back then, however, he was not planning a comeback. The second test came just last week in Spain, together with team-mate Eric Camilli.

From test driver to race driver: Eric Camilli

Like Solberg, Camilli is one of the test drivers who was heavily involved in the development of the Polo GTI R5 for Volkswagen Motorsport – as well as Raimund Baumschlager, Emil Lindholm, Dieter Depping, Pontus Tidemand and former world champion Marcus Grönholm. The 31-year-old Frenchman is also one of the most experienced drivers in the R5 class. In 2017 he finished second in the WRC 2 class at the end of the season. Since making his world championship debut in 2014, Camilli has competed in 37 WRC rallies.

“It is a great honour for me to be involved in Spain. I have completed a lot of test kilometres and am really looking forward to finally getting to drive the Polo GTI R5 at a rally,” says Camilli. “The first outing with a completely new car is always very special, and you have to be ready for anything. However, I know that we have prepared as well as possible and do not believe that we need to fear our more established opponents.”

First 15 Polo GTI R5 already accounted for

Immediately after the competitive debut of the Polo GTI R5, work will begin in Hannover on assembly of the first 15 customer cars – a further 30 to 40 are to follow in 2019. “The first Polo GTI R5 will be handed over to customers after the Rally Spain,” says Smeets. “There is far greater demand than we can meet. We are overwhelmed by the huge interest.”

Figuratively speaking, the Polo GTI R5 is the “big brother” of the Polo GTI1. Although the road-going version of the Polo may look more reserved than its rally counterpart, there are still many parallels. For example, the engine, which stems from the basic EA888 engine in both the production Polo and the Polo GTI R5.

Entry List

Posted: October 10, 2018 1:17 PM

Petter back to the World Rally Championship with Volkswagen

Posted: September 20, 2018 3:36 PM

Petter Solberg will return to the World Rally Championship to drive Volkswagen Motorsport’s Polo GTI R5 at Rally de España next month.

The Norwegian, who won the WRC title in 2003, will join the factory Volkswagen Motorsport team alongside Eric Camilli (FRA) for its one-off outing at the Salou-based event from October 25-28.

Petter, who first tested the Polo GTI R5 in Sweden at the start of the season, will test the car ahead of his rally return.

Since departing the World Rally Championship, Petter has focused his efforts on the World Rallycross Championship, where he won two more FIA world titles (2014/15). For the last two years, Petter’s own team – PSRX Volkswagen Sweden – has worked closely with Volkswagen Motorsport; the squad’s Polo R Supercars are prepared ahead of each World RX round in Hannover.

Petter said: “I think everybody knows about my passion for rallying and when Sven [Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport director] asked me if I would like to do Spain in the Polo, I jumped at the chance.

“When I drove the car in January, I didn’t want to stop. Everything about the Polo GTI R5 worked from the very beginning. To be in the car for the very first time is a real privilege for me – I’m very happy that Volkswagen trusted this job to me and to Eric [Camilli].”

Norway’s Veronica Engan will co-drive Petter, having worked alongside him at his January test of the Polo GTI R5. Veronica is well acquainted with the Solberg family –she’s normally found co-driving Petter’s son Oliver.

Petter’s illustrious WRC career spanned 14 years and 188 starts. He won 13 of those events, scored 54 podiums and collected 457 stage wins and 852 points.

Beyond the numbers, Petter remains one of the sport’s most popular drivers and going back to Salou is bound to bring a range of emotions.

“This is the place where I did my last event before I decided to switch to rallycross,” said Solberg. “It will be fantastic to be back, especially with this car and team. The chance to drive Volkswagen’s Polo GTI R5 on gravel and asphalt in the WRC’s only mixed-surface event is a challenge I can’t wait to start. I have seen what Volkswagen Motorsport does from the inside in World RX and it’s going to be a real pleasure to work with them in rallying.

“As well as that, it will be great to see some old friends and fans again. Spain was always one of the events I really loved, the passion and atmosphere there is just fantastic.”

Being a natural competitor, Petter will have an eye on the times at an event where he finished second overall in 2010.

“I know how good the Polo GTI R5 is,” said Petter, “and I think people know I’m not just going there to drive around. It’s an honour to join the team for this event and I will go there to do my best and push as hard as I can.”

Volkswagen Motorsport director Sven Smeets said: “Petter is a true rally hero. We have already experienced his passion and professionalism working alongside him in World Rallycross. To give everything, always 110 per cent is Petter’s trademark.

“He tested the Polo GTI R5 and, from the beginning, it was our dream to have him in the car to give this new customer rally car its debut. It’s fantastic that he joins us in Spain to drive the Polo R5; I’m sure everybody is looking forward to seeing him back again – and our new car.

“For sure, everybody in Volkswagen Motorsport is excited to be working on a rally and on this special event with Petter and our second driver Eric Camilli.”

Rally de España startswith a spectacular opening stage in Barcelona before moving into day one’s dirt stages in the Tarragona hills. For the weekend, it’s all about the racetrack-smooth roads inland from the service park at Salou’s popular holiday park PortAventura.

Petter will face 18 stages on a 1,496 kilometres (929 miles), of which 331km (205 miles) are competitive.

From testing to competition: Eric Camilli at the wheel of the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 for rally debut

Posted: September 12, 2018 6:00 AM

The first driver duo has been confirmed for the debut of the GTI R5 – Volkswagen will compete at the Rally Spain (25th–28th October) with Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (F/F). The 200 kW (272 PS) 4x4 will celebrate its rally debut at the only FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) race to take place on asphalt as well as gravel. This is the sole works appearance scheduled for the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, before it begins to participate in domestic and international championships for customers.

When deciding on the driver line-up for the first of two cockpits for the Rally Spain, Volkswagen chose to rely on familiar resources. The Camilli/Veillas duo played a significant role in the development of the rally car, based on the new Polo, and the two drivers are held in high esteem by the four-time world championship-winning team thanks to their detailed feedback and analytical approach. Camilli/Veillas are no unknown quantity in the WRC 2 category, where the Polo GTI R5 will be competing in Spain: they were runners-up in the 2017 world championship with three podium finishes, including victory at the Rally Germany. In total, Camilli/Veillas have chalked up 31 stage wins in this category.

“Eric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas are an experienced team and did a valuable job during testing with the Polo GTI R5,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “It is the logical next step for them to take their WRC 2 experience into this competitive debut. Having Eric and Ben in the cockpit puts us in an excellent position.” The driver/co-driver line-up for the second Polo GTI R5 will be announced at a later date.

Eric Camilli: “When Sven Smeets and R5 project lead Jan de Jongh gave me the good news, it was a lovely, belated birthday present. I was delighted and am proud to be part of the team at this important premiere. After an intensive year of testing, it is great to be competing in the first rally with the Polo GTI R5 and I have plenty of motivation to do well. Ben and I will prepare diligently for the Rally Spain and hopefully we will be able to start the R5 Polo on its career path with a good result.”

Eric Camilli and the Polo – a long history

The intensive testing and the upcoming debut with the Polo GTI R5 do not represent Eric Camilli's first meeting with the compact car. The Volkswagen Polo played an important role in the private life of the 31-year-old from an early stage. “My second car was a Polo. A used 2005 Polo IV Trendline with 64 PS, in silver,” explains Camilli. “Volkswagens are such reliable cars. And I like the design.” Camilli/Veillas drove around one third of the approx. 10,000 test kilometres with the Polo GTI R5. “The Polo GTI R5 has an impressive history and reacts very precisely when you are driving. I think that it is a very good R5 car – but we will only know for certain after the Rally Spain and the first head-to-head comparison with the very strong competition.”

Benjamin Veillas – return to the four-time world championship-winning team

The Rally Spain marks the return of co-driver Benjamin Veillas to the four-time world championship-winning team from Volkswagen. In the WRC era, the 40-year-old Frenchman was part of the spotter and weather crew for world champion Sébastien Ogier. Veillas has formed a team with Camilli since the Rally France on Corsica in 2014, celebrating six podiums in the WRC 2 category and one best stage time in the WRC top category thus far.

After the works debut: eight customer teams will receive 15 Polo GTI R5s

Customers, over to you: the competitive debut at the Rally Spain will be the first and only competitive appearance for the Polo GTI R5 before delivery of the customer sport racer begins at the Volkswagen Motorsport location in Hanover, from November onwards. In 2018/2019, 15 cars will be handed over to eight customer teams, who are planning to compete in numerous international and domestic rally championships according to R5 regulations.

Career in fast-forward – that’s Eric Camilli
Date/place of birth: 06 September 1987 in Nice (F)
Hobbies: Sport, especially running and trials

Career Highlights
2017: 2nd place in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2), 1 win
2016: 11th place in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
2014: 2nd place Volant Peugeot, 1 win
WRC 2 Successes: 17 rallies, six podiums (including one win), 31 stage wins, 144 championship points

Rally Guide / Event Website

Posted: August 31, 2018 8:40 AM






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