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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tactics to make a return?

Road positioning tactics could make an unwelcome return to the WRC on the Rally of Spain, the WRC's only fully mixed surface rally which takes place in two weeks time.

More commonly known as simply employing 'tactics', drivers slow on the final stage before the overnight halt of each day on a gravel rally so as to have a more favourable starting position on the road the next day. In dry conditions, the further down the order you are the better road conditions you face, with the top couple of cars clearing the loose top layer of gravel from the racing line.

This is known to be disliked by spectators and teams alike, the use of tactics was 'introduced' in 2008 and reached a climax towards the end of the 2 litre WRC car era, when drivers were taking massive time penalties to drop themselves down the order. There was even infighting in some teams over positioning tactics.

However this all changed in 2011 when Shakedown was used as a Qualifying Stage, the fastest driver choosing the best position then the rest of the drivers taking part in Qualifying choosing the remaining positions.

But, with the gravel leg of the Spanish round of the WRC running on the final day, teams are worried they could be forced to re-employ tactics. Organisers of the rally have asked the FIA to reverse the running order for the last day of the rally, but their request was denied. Even the teams themselves have written to FIA Rally Committee director Jarmo Mahonen asking him, and the FIA, to reconsider their choice.

"I really can't get my head around this one. I thought we were moving forward and not having the crazy situation which will happen. We told the FIA in Australia that we 100 per cent didn't agree with this and nothing has happened. We don't want to what we had a few years ago." said Qatar M-Sport team boss, Malcolm Wilson.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Greece to lose WRC round?

The Acropolis Rally is expected to be dropped from the 2014 WRC Calendar in favour of the returning Rally Poland.

The Acropolis Rally has formed part of the WRC trail since it's beginning, way back in 1979. The only year it wasn't run was in 2010, partly due to the WRC's round rotation system but also due to the economic crisis that gripped the country, and continues to do so.

A hugely popular rally, the rough gravel roads can smash even the toughest cars to pieces. It takes it toll on drivers too, with soaring temperatures and extremely long stages, dehydration can set in. A good, strong, reliable car is always needed on the Acropolis.
The cars really do take a battering in Greece, but the
challenge makes it a driver favourite
Despite all these challenges it remains a firm driver favourite, as well as a true test of the teams. Manufacturers can use the event to showcase the toughness of their cars, which makes it a favourite with the teams as well.

Jost Capito, Team principal of the VW Motorsport team, makes a valid point in saying that the people of Greece can't continue to have things taken from them. The Acropolis Rally is a big benefit to the economy of the country, so it's removal from the Championship might cause far reaching issues.

He said: "I don't think it's nice to have Greece out. The Acropolis is an iconic event. It was always a good, challenging rally that the drivers were all looking forward to all season. "And when you see the situation in Greece, everybody takes everything from Greece; on a human level, I don't know how the country will survive if these people keep having everything taken from them.”

"They are very proud people and if you take everything - including their pride - away from them then I don't know how they can catch up." he added.

However he isn't against the running of the Polish event, marking it out as a “great event” when it was run back in 2009. Mikko Hirvonen, then driving for the M-Sport Ford team, won the rally that year, a win that helped bring the title fight right down to the last round.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Interview: Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan

Fresh from winning the Clare Stages on Sunday, Donagh and Kevin both took the time to speak to GRN. 

Name: Donagh Kelly                           Name: Kevin Flanagan
Hometown: Frosses, Co. Donegal        Hometown: Derry
Job: CEO KN Group                           Job: Self Employed
Road Car: BMW M5                            Road Car: Ford Mondeo ST
Rally Car: Ford Focus
Sponsors: Airtricity, Donnelly Group, Pirelli
and GMG Asset Management

Donagh and Kevin in action
in Donegal
Global Rally News: Firstly, congratulations on winning the Clare Stages, this isn't your first overall win but how did it feel when you crossed the finish line of the last stage, your first win in the new Focus?

Donagh Kelly: Really nice to get the first win in the Focus.
Kevin Flanagan: It was great to get the 1st win in the new car. We had a great days crack and it was a good test for the Cork 20.

GRN: What was it like to win your first rally overall?
DK: 2005 Turkey Run, GPA Evo 6, great feeling as it was a winning margin of .7 of a second over Sean Devine in a WRC Subaru.
KF: I guess everyone will remember there 1st overall win. For me it was in a Gpn Evo 9 on the Dogleap Rally in 2010. We beat Kenny Mc Kinstry by 1 second! A close one but as Kenny pointed out that day, it only takes a second. It was extra special for me as that event is organised by my home club and it was actually the 1st event I did with Donagh back in 2006.

GRN: What was your first rally car?
DK: 1300 GPN Vauxhall Nova.
KF: I did my first rally in a Gp N Honda Civic back in 2001.

GRN: What was your first event?
DK: Ingiliston Stages, Edinburgh 1995.
KF: 1st rally was Kirkistown Stages Rally.

GRN: What is your favourite rally car?
DK: My current car.
KF: My favourite car at the minute is a Fiesta WRC.

GRN: Who was your childhood hero in motorsport?
DK: Vincent Bonner.
KF: I think anyone a similar age to me who is into rallying will think on Colin Mc Rae when you ask this question. He was a real star at that time but I also remember standing watching the Irish greats like Fisher, McHale, Nesbitt etc back in the late 90's and thinking it was just unreal.

GRN: What are your favourite rallies?
DK: Donegal and Dogleap Rally.
KF: Killarney Rally of the Lakes is my new favourite event.

GRN: What was your best drive, to date?
DK: Killarney 2013
KF: Killarney this year was one of our best drives to date. We had never been to the event before and still managed to have a great race with the guys and finish up 3rd, by less than a second from memory. Great rally!

GRN: What was your most embarrassing moment on a rally?
DK: Getting lost on a road section in the Northwest of England!!
KF: Getting excluded from the 1st event I ever did by missing a time control!

GRN: What was your biggest accident?
DK: Harvest Rally 2000 – out of work for 4 months due to injuries.
KF: Biggest accident was on the Circuit of Ireland in 2004 in an Evo 6. 6 or 7 rolls into a field ! A mess!

GRN: Who would you rate as the top 3 British/Irish drivers today?
DK: Keith Cronin, Kris Meeke and Alastair Fisher.
KF: Top 3 drivers in Ireland / UK I think, Cronin, Fisher, Breen.

GRN: And in the World Rally Championship?
DK: Ogier, Neuville and Meeke.
KF: Top 3 WRC, Ogier, Neuville, Meeke.

GRN: What would you like to change in rallying (rules/admin ect.)?
DK: Have all prize giving at the finish ramp! – nobody has the time to hang about on a Sunday evening!
KF: Ban race fuel to reduce costs.

GRN: If you were handed £1,000,000 and could only spend it on rallying, what would you do
with the money?
DK: Buy a current WRC car and travel the world doing selected events for fun.
KF: If I had €1,000,000 to spend I would try and bring the WRC to Ireland again but in the summer and to good stages.

GRN: Having driven some of the best stages in Ireland, which one would you rate as your
DK: Molls Gap.
KF: Atlantic Drive in Donegal, I always watched there as a kid, its always a good stage for us too.

GRN: What are your plans for the rest of the 2013 season?
DK: Cork 20.
KF: I'm doing the Bushwacker and Glens of Antrim Forest Rallies in a Subaru S12B and the Cork 20 with Donagh in the Focus.

GRN: And 2014?
DK: Tarmac Championship and selected events.
KF: 2014 I'd imagine we'll be back on the Tarmac Championship trail, Galway is back to 2 days next year I believe. Will do a few National events as well I'm sure.

GRN: And finally, what advice would you offer to an upcoming young driver?
DK: Think Safety at all times – never compromise and remember it’s a sport not a career!

GRN: In Kevin's case, what advice would you give to a young co-driver?
KF: I got into co-driving by joining my local motor club and helping out at events. I was lucky then to get a chance to sit on and it all went from there.

GRN: Thanks lads!