IRC stars to rub shoulders with the Tsars! The next port of call for the stars of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge is the City of the Tsars, Saint Petersburg, which will host the fourth round of the series and its final encounter on gravel...
IRC stars to rub shoulders with the Tsars!
The next port of call for the stars of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge is the City of the Tsars, Saint Petersburg, which will host the fourth round of the series and its final encounter on gravel if the Rally China fails to be included. The loose surface specialists will consequently be out to finish in the big points prior to the four asphalt fixtures to come. In the Manufacturers' championship standings, Peugeot currently leads with a slender, one-point cushion over Abarth, while Italy's Andrea Navarra succeeded in extending his advantage at the top of the Drivers' points table after June's visit to Ypres.
After visits so far to Nairobi, Istanbul and Ypres, the 2007 Intercontinental Rally Challenge moves on to another venue steeped in history, namely Saint Petersburg which was founded by Tsar Peter the Great and which served as capital of the Russian Empire for all of two centuries.
The start ceremony of Rally Russia will be held in the centre of Saint Petersburg -- a UNESCO-listed world heritage site -- before competitors move on to Vyborg, a hundred or so kilometres to the north. Vyborg will then serve as the event's epicentre for the remainder of the weekend and the neighbouring region is particularly reminiscent of '1000 Lakes' territory.
That comes as little surprise, however, since Vyborg has alternatively been Finnish and Russian in the course of its history and is situated a mere 30 or so kilometres from today's border between the two countries. The Rally Russia's stages are consequently likely to resemble those of Rally Finland, that is to say fast, wide boulevards that place the accent very much on driver skill.
It was over similar terrain in Turkey that Nicolas Vouilloz and his co-driver Nicolas Klinger (Peugeot 207 S2000/BFGoodrich) picked up their first IRC win of the year. This weekend in Saint Petersburg, Nicolas I and Nicholas II will be out to repeat that success after their more recent misadventure in Belgium. As in Turkey, though, they can expect stiff opposition from Finland's Anton Alen who will practically be on home ground at the wheel of his Grande Punto Abarth/BFGoodrich.
The mission of Anton Alen and his team-mate Andrea Navarra, who pulled further clear at the top of the Drivers' standings following the disqualification of Larry Cols after the finish in Ypres (for a technical infringement), will be to put Abarth/BFGoodrich back on top of the Manufacturers' championship at the 2007 IRC's halfway stage. However, the BFGoodrich-shod Peugeot 207 S2000s of Frenchman Vouilloz, Spaniard Garcia Ojeda (2nd in Ypres), Italy's Cavigioli and Swede Jimmy Joge represent a real force. All the potential winners will be running on BFGoodrich g-Force Gravel tyres which have already won the previous IRC gravel rounds in Kenya and Turkey.
Some 650 tyres have been trucked to Russia.
The American tyre firm will have a choice of two compounds available for the event: a soft compound for wet conditions and a harder option for dry weather. The teams themselves are responsible for re-cutting their own tyres if necessary (based on the recommendations of the BFGoodrich technician present at the event). Unlike the WRC, there is no maximum tyre quota per driver, although fresh rubber can only be fitted in the service park. Crews are authorised to carry two spares since the regulations do not permit the use of run-flat mousse.