|2008 Wales Rally GB : WRC Round 15 of 15 : 5th - 7th November|
In this issue:
1. Event Preview
3. Other News
4. Team by Team Preview
5. Event statistics
6. Event Schedule
7. Championship Points
1. Event Preview
The 2008 WRC season finale takes places in the muddy forests of Wales this weekend, but with the drivers' title wrapped up last time out in Japan, only the manufacturer's championship has to be settled here. The battle is between Ford and Citroen, with Ford needing a strong result to wrestle the spoils from the French make's grasp.
4. Team by Team Preview
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team takes its challenge for a third consecutive manufacturers' world title to the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Wales next week. The squad must overturn an 11-point deficit on Wales Rally GB (4 - 7 December) with the record-breaking Ford Focus RS World Rally Car, so realistically nothing less than a fourth 1-2 finish of the season from Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila will suffice.
#3 : Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "Last year was probably the toughest Rally GB I have ever driven. Driving in darkness in fog and rain was incredibly difficult. Night driving makes the rally even trickier, because this is the only round where we drive in the dark apart from Japan and Monte Carlo. It's something I will practise during my test this weekend. I feel confident and think we have a good chance of a 1-2 finish and if we can do that I hope it's enough to win the title for Ford,"
#4 : Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila: "I regard this as my second home rally. I drove many rallies here in 2002 and 2003 and I'm familiar with the nature of the roads. It's a classic rally and one that I would really like to win. The mid-Wales stages will be new to many drivers but I have something in my memory of those roads from those seasons. They are high on the hills and quite open, but enjoyable to drive."
#19 : Khalid Al Qassimi/Michael Orr: "This will be my GB debut and I had a two-day test last week to get used to the conditions. I don't like wet weather rallies so it will be hard to adjust to. It's easy to slide, spin or go off in those conditions. The test was important because driving on mud in the forests helped me find my pace,"
Citroen Total World Rally Team
True to tradition, the grand finale of this year's World Rally Championship will take crews to Great Britain for the Wales Rally GB, the 15th and ultimate encounter of the season which will settle the outcome of the 2008 Manufacturers' title chase. Having made sure of the Drivers' crown with Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena* in Japan, the Citroën Total squad is particularly fired up as it bids to seal the championship double. C4 WRCs have been entered for the five-time World Champions* and their Spanish team-mates Dani Sordo/Marc Martí.
#1 : Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "The Wales Rally GB is an event I enjoy. The atmosphere is always very
special, especially on the stages run in semi-darkness. The terrain is also highly specific, and never easy. The
muddy conditions can produce differing levels of grip from one corner to the next, while other portions can
be impressively fast and technically challenging, especially given how little grip there is… when there is grip!"
#2 : Daniel Sordo/Marc Marti: "I haven't got all that much experience of this event, but that doesn't stop me from being something of a fan.
It's such a varied rally and the stages aren't too tough on the cars."
Subaru World Rally Team
Just a few hours south of the Subaru World Rally Team's headquarters, the gravel roads of Wales Rally GB will be the scene of the finale of the 2008 World Rally Championship season on 4 - 7 December. Run on Wales' notoriously tricky forest tracks, mud, rain and fog are sure to feature heavily throughout the weekend.
#5 : Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I think pace notes play a huge part here. It's about perfection with the notes and the way Phil gives them and helps with judging distances when visibility is poor. That's where he is very strong. In the past we've generally always been fighting for a win or fighting at the top here. We had some good speed on Saturday and Sunday in Japan which gives us a positive going into GB. There are still a few little things we need to work on for sure, but there was another small improvement with the car in the last test."
#6 : Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot: "I'm still cautious as it's hard to know after a one day test where you really stand and we've got a few things still to sort out, but if you have confidence you can go a long way in the tricky conditions. Especially this year with some new stages I think confidence is the most important thing. It's obviously quite difficult driving in fog, and there's a fair chance of it being icy as well so they'll be some of the most tricky and unpredictable conditions we've driven in. We'll go there with the strategy that we'll drive as fast as we can from the start, as we always do. I don't think only having a remote service on the first day will have much impact on that strategy though as if you have a problem on any rally you're usually out of the running anyway."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
Nominated to score points for the team are founding members of the Stobart outfit, Cumbrians Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin. This will be the pair's third attempt at Rally GB together and Wilson's fifth after first contesting the event in 2004 at the tender age of just 17 in a Ford Focus RS WRC. After a solid year which sees the 21-year-old lie 10th in the Drivers' Championship the young Brit will be hoping to close the year in a positive fashion on his home event next week.
Backing up the pair as the second nominated point scoring crew is François Duval who joins the Stobart side for the fifth time this season. He will be joined by experienced co-driver Denis Giraudet with regular co-driver Patrick Pivato out of action as he continues his positive recovery from injuries sustained on Rally Japan last month. This is the Belgian's seventh Rally GB attempt and with a raft of top-five finishes under his belt this season, he will be aiming for another strong performance on gravel. Duval will also run the name of Pivato's wife - Agnès - on the front of his Focus RS as a gesture to his injured friend.
#14: Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "This year seems like it has gone very quickly and now here we are at the final round of the season. I have done GB a lot of times before but never quite managed to pick up a good result so I will try my best to change that this year. I like the stages in GB and I will try my best on this event and drive as fast as I can. The roads can be difficult at GB but this is my eighth time here so I know what to expect from them. The Focus has been great all year and I have had an especially good felling on gravel."
#7 : Francois Duval/Denis Giraudet: "I'm looking forward to returning to Rally GB because I have had some good results here in the past. Denis has come in as my replacement co-driver for this rally and I am very thankful to him for this gesture because I think it will help my confidence a lot in my first rally since Japan. I am going to head to the first stage and take it step by step from there. This rally can be very difficult especially if the conditions turn bad and this can have a big influence on the results. I think with the new stages on Friday and the fact I have not done this event since 2006, that it will be very important to get a good set of notes from recce."
#8 : Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin: "The plan for GB is to go as quick as possible from the start and try and match the result from last year, if not better it. It is interesting to have some new stages on the Friday and this will spice things up a bit for the opening day. I guess the only down side is that while this is the event we have most experience of, the new stages and the reversed stages from 2007 will mean we'll have to write entirely new notes but this is going to be the same for everybody and for me it's good to have lots of experience of what the conditions will be like. It's a strong field as well but I'm feeling very confident ahead of this one and I think we will know a lot more about the route after recce."
Suzuki World Rally Team
Britain's round of the World Rally Championship will not only conclude the
2008 season, but also Suzuki's first full year of top-level rallying with
the SX4 WRC. Suzuki heads into the event with plenty of confidence after
securing its best-ever result at the previous round in Japan, with both cars
finishing comfortably inside the top six to claim driver and manufacturer
points. The SX4 WRC also continued its impressive run of reliability on the
Japanese event: a good omen for the demands of the Wales Rally GB.
#11 : Toni Gardemeister/Tomi Tuominen: "Britain is a fantastic rally, but so difficult. It's
very fast, which I like, and the stages are really interesting. Anything can
happen on this rally, so a bit like Japan this is a very good opportunity
for us. Reliability will be important but we have managed to achieve this
since the middle of the season and we had another good result in Japan, so
there's no reason why we can't do the same again. It's definitely possible
for us to score some good points in Britain, and that is what we will be
aiming to do from the start."
#12 : Per-Gunnar Andersson/Jonas Andersson: "You really need so much commitment
to do well on this rally! The two big hazards are the weather and the
surfaces. But I love the challenge, and our strong run in Japan three weeks
ago has given us all a lot of confidence. The main thing in Great Britain is
to stay out of trouble, but we've learnt a lot this year so I think we
should be able to pace ourselves properly in order to get to the finish in
the best possible position. I'm really looking forward to it."
5. Event Statistics
76th Wales Rally GB (December 4-7), round 15 of 15.
Base: Swansea and Cardiff.
Practical information: The service park is in Swansea. The press office, Rally HQ and super-special are all
Tyres: only one type of tyre is available: the Pirelli Scorpion WRC 205/65-15 DS Soft Gravel. It is possible to
Recce: Tuesday December 2 and Wednesday December 3 (08.00 until 16.00). Two runs authorised per
Shakedown: Thursday December 4 (08.00 until 12.00). The 3.90km stage in Penllergaer Forest (18km
Press conference: Thursday December 4 (from 13.30, Rally HQ, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
Start ceremony: Thursday December 4 (from 18.00), Cardiff.
Route: the total distance is 1,428.44km, including 348.99km divided into 19 stages (10 different).
6. Event Schedule
Thursday 4 December: Ceremonial start
Start Law Courts, Cardiff 18.00
Friday 5 December: Day 1 Swansea - Swansea
Start Swansea 06.00
SS1 Hafren 1 19.10km 09.08
SS2 Sweet Lamb 1 5.11km 09.32
SS3 Myherin 1 35.34km 09.53
RSZ A Builth Wells (15 mins) 11.48
SS4 Hafren 2 19.10km 13.16
SS5 Sweet Lamb 2 5.11km 13.40
SS6 Myherin 2 35.34km 14.01
SS7 Walters Arena 1 2.29km 17.06
SS8 Walters Arena 2 2.29km 17.17
Serv B Swansea (45 mins) 18.47
Finish Swansea 18.57
Saturday 6 December: Day 2 Swansea - Swansea
Start Swansea 07.15
Serv C Swansea (15 mins) 07.25
SS9 Resolfen 1 30.68km 08.18
SS10 Halfway 1 18.57km 09.47
SS11 Crychan 1 14.86km 10.13
Serv D Swansea (30 mins) 12.13
SS12 Resolfen 2 30.68km 13.21
SS13 Halfway 2 18.57km 14.50
SS14 Crychan 2 14.86km 15.16
SS15 Cardiff 0.99km 18.15
Serv E Swansea (45 mins) 19.23
Finish Swansea 20.18
Sunday 7 December: Day 3 Swansea - Swansea
Start Swansea 06.50
Serv F Swansea (15 mins) 07.00
SS16 Rheola 1 27.96km 07.55
SS17 Port Talbot 1 20.09km 09.03
Serv G Swansea (30 mins) 10.00
SS18 Rheola 2 27.96km 11.10
SS19 Port Talbot 2 20.09km 12.18
Serv H Swansea (10 mins) 13.03
Finish Law Courts, Cardiff 14.56
Rally total 348.99km
7. Championship Points
Full standings http://www.rallye-info.com/points.asp