Final Round - Wales Rally GB - Nov 11-14
First run in 1932, the Rally of Great Britain is one of the oldest rallies in the world and was known for many years as the RAC Rally. The event has been a qualifying round of the WRC every year since the series was established in 1973.
From its early beginnings as a national event that roamed around the country and included stages in the North-East, Scotland, the Lake District, the North-West and the Midlands, the action, particularly since 2000, has been focussed on Wales.
The gravel forest stages of south and mid-Wales are fast and flowing and, when wet, can become as slippery as any in the world. And in a country famed for its lush greenery, rain, and lots it, is always a possibility. As well as the forestry roads, the event features stages on exposed military land to the north of Brecon, which are prone to fog. Accurate pace notes are essential throughout.
As it has in recent years, the Welsh capital Cardiff hosts the ceremonial start and the finish, as well as the Service Park - which moved from Swansea to Cardiff Bay for the first time in 2009.
Official Website: walesrallygb.com/home
Wales Rally Great Britain has received a 63-car entry for next week's event, which will be the final round in the current era of two-litre World Rally Cars.
Fifteen of the cutting-edge World Rally Cars will make one final pass through the Welsh woods before they are replaced by all-new 1.6-litre machinery in time for the start of next season.
Seven-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb will lead the way in Cardiff, the Citroen driver looking forward to another pressure-free rally after clinching his seventh consecutive title at home in France early last month.
Being a gravel round, Loeb is joined by Sebastien Ogier in the Citroen Total World Rally Team. Ogier created a real stir in Wales two years ago, when he led the event in the snow and ice on his debut in a C4 WRC. With two wins behind him this year, the younger of the Frenchmen will be looking to end his season on the highest of highs.
Also looking to end their year on a high will be the Ford team. Jari-Matti Latvala is embroiled in a scrap for second place in the championship, along with Ogier and Petter Solberg. The Finn has always gone well in Britain, but it’s his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen who has the more successful history on this event, having won it once.
Solberg starts - with an almost local (in world terms) co-driver Chris Patterson alongside - in his usual Petter Solberg World Rally Team Citroen C4 WRC.
American Gymkhana hero Ken Block makes his first start in a World Rally Car in Britain, as does his fellow Ford Focus driver Liu Chao Dong from China. Dong, a three-time Chinese Rally Champion, is leading his domestic series this year and is on course to wrap up a fourth title before making the trip to Wales. Dong and his Australian co-driver Anthony McLaughlin will compete as part of the Stobart M-Sport Ford team.
Slightly further down the field, there’s an exceptional scrap for this year’s inaugural Super 2000 World Rally Championship title. Fiesta drivers Jari Ketomaa and Xevi Pons will do battle with Skoda’s Patrik Sandell - the latter is the driver further from the title, but the man on the best form: he arrives in Cardiff on the back of two S-WRC wins.
In the Production Car World Rally Championship, only Subaru driver Patrik Flodin (a former P-WRC winner in Wales) can stop Armindo Araujo from taking back-to-back titles for the Ralliart Italia Mitsubishi team.