It’s time for the home rally, the penultimate WRC rally of the year! Twenty-two stages of action from Wales and also England this year for the first time since 1999. Now the weather looks much kinder than last year with low temperatures, but no rain. Last year it rained so much, it was really muddy out there. The stages were really slippery as well with Jari-Matti sliding out very early!
Last year’s result
1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:03:02.0
2. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (DS 3 WRC) +26.0
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +36.2
4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:51.3
5. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:00.5
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:09.1
7. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (DS 3 WRC) +4:28.4
8. Stéphane Lefebvre / Stéphane Prévot (DS 3 WRC) +5:38.4
9. Robert Kubica / Maciek Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +6:22.7
10. Lorenzo Bertelli / Lorenzo Granai (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +8:05.0
Here’s the details of each stage this year.
Friday 28th of October
SS 1 Myherin 1 31.82 08:20
SS 2 Sweet Lamb 1 4.24 09:11
SS 3 Hafren 1 35.14 09:24
SS 4 Dyfnant 1 17.91 11:15
SS 5 Myherin 2 31.82 13:54
SS 6 Sweet Lamb 2 4.24 14:45
SS 7 Hafren 2 35.14 14:58
SS 8 Dyfnant 2 17.91 16:49
Friday Total KM 178.22
Saturday 29th October
SS 9 Pantperthog 1 9.64 08:18
SS 10 Dyfi 1 21.12 08:51
SS 11 Gartheiniog 1 11.34 09:27
SS 12 Pantperthog 2 9.64 11:04
SS 13 Dyfi 2 21.12 11:37
SS 14 Gartheinog 2 11.34 12:13
SS 15 Aberhirnant 13.91 13:18
SS 16 Cholmondeley Castle 1.80 15:41
Saturday Total KM 99.91
Sunday 30th October
SS 17 Clocaenog 1 7.70 08:31
SS 18 Brenig 1 7.93 09:08
SS 19 Alwen 1 10.41 09:28
SS 20 Clocaenog 2 7.70 10:33
SS 21 Alwen 2 10.41 11:14
SS 22 Brenig 2(Power Stage)7.93 12:08
Sunday Total KM 52.08
Total KM 330.21
A long event then and the stages at the end of Friday and Saturday will be run close to sunset as well. Now, if you recall, last year was won by Seb. He’ll be coming here to this hoping to repeat this. Competing for the last time this year will also be Kris and the Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT crew. It’s been a long time since we had a winner of the home event from these shores. Richard Burns and Robert Reid were the last in 2000, so I hope that Kris and Paul can challenge at the front. Of the current drivers, Jari-Matti and Seb have won the last five Rally GB between them with Jari-Matti in 2011 and 2012 and Seb the last three years
Here’s the views of the drivers ahead of this classic rally.
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“I am very happy to travel to the Rally Great Britain as world champion. However, I remain just as motivated, as we also want to defend the Manufacturers’ title for Volkswagen. The Wales Rally GB is one of the rallies that is the most steeped in history. It took me a while to find my feet in Wales. The learning process was probably longer here than at any other rally. I have won here three times since joining Volkswagen. After everything I’ve been through in Wales, I can now say that I feel right at home here. An important factor is, as it is every year, the weather. If no rain is predicted in the weather forecasts, you can actually still count on there being rain. I expect very wet and foggy routes, which are very typical for this time of year there. The fans are absolutely crazy, as thousands of spectators turned out to cheer us on every year, despite the poor weather. I am particularly looking forward to that.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“The rally in Wales is one of my very favourite rallies. As I was really quick on the gravel stages in Spain last time out, I will also be quick in Wales. I have no doubt about that. However, the season has been really difficult for me so far. As such, I hope I can finish strongly at the final two rounds of the season and make it into the top three in the Drivers’ Championship come the end of the year. The surface can be very tricky in Wales. If it has rained heavily overnight, the tracks can be very greasy and slippery for the cars starting further down the order. That is typical for Wales. However, this year’s rally starts two weeks earlier than in recent years, so I hope it will not rain quite as much. I drove my first rally there in 2002, so have greater experience in Wales than at any other rally – I am certain that I can challenge for victory there.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“I particularly like the layout of the special stages at the Rally Great Britain. I always enjoy driving there. Driving the Polo at the limit on the muddy, slippery surface is very tricky. Like every year, we will have to be prepared for rain and difficult conditions in Wales. The crash in Spain meant I dropped valuable points in the championship and my friend Thierry Neuville has drawn level on points with me in the Drivers’ Championship. It is going to be a tough battle with him for second place. My goal is obviously to be second come the end of the season. Anders and I will focus solely on our own performance and try to get the maximum out of the final two races. We have already had a few great battles with Thierry this season, and Wales will be no different.”
Dani Sordo said: “Wales Rally GB is a special event for everyone. It’s a ‘big name’ event on the calendar and one where we all want to achieve success. Typically, the terrain is quite challenging. If it rains a lot, the conditions can get very muddy and slippery. I feel that we are well prepared with our car for this event. It offers good grip, so often it can be very enjoyable to drive in the wetter conditions. As always, I’ll try my best to compete near the front. We had an incredible rally in Spain – and it was fantastic to be in a fight for the victory. I will carry those feelings onto Wales and see what we can achieve.”
Thierry Neuville said: “Wales Rally GB is a very fast and exciting rally, especially with the narrow roads that go through the forest. It can, of course, be quite slippery as well. This is particularly an issue on the second pass when driving on wet gravel. It can make it very interesting, I can tell you! It’s a nice event and one we all enjoy a lot. To be competitive, you need to find a good rhythm early on, so that will be our first objective. We want to be challenging again for the podium – and to keep up our positive run of results.”
Hayden Paddon said: “Rally Spain was a valuable event for us. We really made some good progress on the tarmac stages, and that was rewarded with our best result on the surface. I am now ready for a return to the loose stuff, so I’m looking forward to Wales Rally GB. It’s an event I enjoy a lot. It reminds me a bit of being back in New Zealand with the Welsh forest, and of course being an English-speaking venue. Despite it being an enjoyable rally, I’ve never really been able to put together a good result. That is definitely something we want to rectify this year. Bring it on!”
Ott Tänak said: “The Rally GB stages are great fun to drive and this year’s event will see us make quite a few new pace-notes as many stages are either new or reversed – and that’s always a challenge. We are back on gravel so the aim is like always – to go as fast as possible and be competitive like the other gravel rallies this year.”
Abu Dhabi Citroen WRT
Kris Meeke: “Wales Rally GB wasn’t initially part of my schedule, but the cancellation of Rally China means I’m able to take part and I’m delighted to do so! In the 1980s, I remember my first experience of rallying on television, watching the Group B cars tackling the stages of the RAC rally. This was also the first World Championship rally that I saw in person, in 1996, I think it was. At the time, I was spellbound as Colin McRae and Richard Burns sped by. It didn’t matter that you were standing in the darkness and the rain, with your feet in the mud! Then I competed in my very first rally on the Welsh stages and it was also here that I made my WRC debut in 2002. It’s the event that I know the best and I feel at home here. Last year, I secured a good result with second place, but we all know that the weather and the running order are more important in Wales than anywhere else! Obviously, the first car has an enormous advantage. Once the racing lines become covered with a layer of greasy, slippery mud, it doesn’t budge… Bearing in mind that we’re ninth on the road, it’s likely to be very difficult for us. In any case, I can’t wait to get started. All the stages are special in some way, but I particularly like Hafren, which we are going to contest in the opposite direction for the first time. For my final appearance of the year, I’ll be trying to enjoy driving the car as much as possible and hopefully take some momentum into 2017.”
Craig Breen: “I’m looking forward to racing on these stages again, which I have driven on many times in the British Rally Championship and during my five appearances at Wales Rally GB. I have a lot of good memories, the highlight probably being when I won the Junior WRC title in 2011 alongside Gareth Roberts, who was Welsh. In fact, the start line for Myherin – the opening stage this year – is exactly at the point where we won the title! Although this year’s rally is being held a few weeks earlier than usual, I’m not expecting the conditions to be especially different: rain, mud, fog, etc. Maybe we’ll see a few rays of sunshine, but it would be weird! The race conditions will have a huge influence on our ability to secure a good result. If our tenth place on the road became an advantage, I think I could fight for a podium spot, like in Finland. We’ll start the rally with a positive mindset and we’ll see what we can do.”
Stéphane Lefebvre: “Two months after Rallye Deutschland, I’m happy to be back behind the wheel of a WRC. It’s an important weekend, both in terms of finding my speed again and acquiring experience for 2017. With Gilles de Turckheim, who will be my co-driver in Wales as Gabin Moreau continues his recovery, we took part in recce at Rally de España and we have done a lot of work preparing for the Welsh stages. I feel ready to drive at 100%, on a rally that I really like. My last two outings here were in four-wheel drive cars and I was quick despite the difficult conditions. I remember driving on my first gravel stage, at night and in the rain… and I enjoyed it! At first, the stages don’t seem that difficult. It looks like a series of straight sections and a few more or less muddy changes in direction. In the race, however, you realise that you hit the turns a lot quicker than expected and the car doesn’t always stop in the way you intended! You have to ‘read’ the grip changes to stay on the limit without overstepping it. It’s a little bit like the kind of conditions you get in the north of France, but on gravel. I hope I can have a consistent race, with a steady gap to the leaders.”
Quentin Gilbert: “I really like this event for the stages, the difficult conditions and the atmosphere. I have some bearings from having competed here three times before. I have also been lucky enough to drive a WRC in the French Championship. I know what to expect in terms of power, braking and handling. So I won’t be starting from scratch next weekend! The team is doing everything it can to make my job easier, working in precise detail on my position behind the wheel and running a test session, which will help me get used to the car. On my side, I have been preparing by stepping up my physical training and working on on-board camera footage. I’m trying to take on board as much information as possible so I can be in my element at the start. As regards my objectives for the weekend, I know that I can’t compete with the drivers who have been racing in the WRC all season. The most important thing for me is to improve on the stages as the rally progresses to reduce the gap to the leaders by the end. I would like to thank Citroën Racing and Abu Dhabi Total WRT for this incredible opportunity and I hope I can prove my worth.”
Mads Østberg said:
“We’ve learnt a lot on the last few Tarmac rallies, but I must admit that it feels good to be going back to gravel – and to one of my favourite events on the calendar.
“There is something special about Wales Rally GB and we really want to be back challenging for the podium. I’ve always enjoyed these stages and I’ve been competitive on them too. I’ve been on the podium twice before, and the aim is to be in a position to fight for those top positions again this year.
“The stages really are fantastic. They’re so fast and smooth and you can get into a really good rhythm. They’re actually quite similar to some of the stages we find in Norway, so I definitely feel at home in Wales. The key is to feel comfortable and confident in the tricky conditions, and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do.
“The event is a little earlier this year so we could actually see a dry rally which would be amazing. I’ve done the rally in the dry once before and it was brilliant. But whatever the weather, I really don’t mind, I’m just looking forward to throwing the car into those fast gravel corners!”
Éric Camilli said:
“Wales Rally GB is a really special event for me, and it will be even more special this year as it’s the home rally for my team. They have been so supportive this season, and it would mean a lot to repay them with a good result next week.
“We’ve only competed in Wales once before – in WRC 2 – but we were competitive from the start and came really close to the win. This year will be completely different, but I’m looking forward to it and to building on our gravel performances from earlier in the year.
“The stages are really fast and flowing and even in the wet the grip levels can be surprisingly high. We’ll need to take some time to discover how a world rally car handles and reacts to the conditions, but we always want to do our maximum.
“The most important thing is to finish the event, but if the feeling is there, it will be nice to push the limits and see how far we’ve come.”
So, this will be the swansong for the DS3 WRC as well. A very successful car over the years. Can it sign out with at least a podium place? Can Jari-Matti get a third victory?
We shall find out! Enjoy the event!