The IRC heads for Spain The 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge returns to the Iberian Peninsula for the 45th Rally Principe de Asturias which is based in Oviedo, birthplace of Fernando Alonso. The event will be new to the IRC regulars who...
The IRC heads for Spain
The 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge returns to the Iberian Peninsula for the 45th Rally Principe de Asturias which is based in Oviedo, birthplace of Fernando Alonso. The event will be new to the IRC regulars who face a tough task against the leading Spaniards whose ranks include Enrique Garcia Ojeda, winner of the 2007 event with his BFGoodrich-equipped Peugeot 207 S2000.
The Rally Principe de Asturias is something of a landmark on the Spanish rally scene. It has been part of the calendar for so long that it almost feels as though it has been around since the founding of Oviedo when Asturia's King Fruela 1 stopped at the spot for a meal after hunting. The name Oviedo ('ubi edo': 'the place where I eat') dates from that moment.
Since then, Spain's top rally stars have taken the spoils on the Paso del Bombe podium. Carlos Sainz won the event outright in 1987 driving a Ford Sierra Cosworth before his reign in the WRC, while Jesus Puras -- the man who gave the Citroen Xsara WRC its first world class success -- has won his local event a record five times. Other recent winners include current Citroen works star Dani Sordo, the 2002 Junior World Champion Dani Sola and last year's winner Enrique Garcia Ojeda, who starts as favourite this time round with his Peugeot 207 S2000/BFGoodrich.
"This is the most charismatic round of the Spanish Championship," says Enrique Garcia Ojeda, the IRC's outgoing champ. "I love the atmosphere and there are always big crowds. I enjoy its stages, too. It's not as fast as the recent Barum Rally Zlin. The stages in the mountains bear Oviedo are narrower. It's more like the Sanremo."
"The roads give average grip and there are a few slippery, trickier portions," he continues. "I know the stages well following my victory last year when the route was identical. I am fully aware, though, that my rivals in the IRC are all very quick. It promises to be very close. The first day will be particularly tough, with a menu of nine stages totalling more than 150km."
Despite feedback from their colleague who follows the Spanish Championship, the Rally Principe de Asturias is the only European round of the 2008 IRC calendar that is unknown territory for BFGoodrich's IRC technical staff.
"There is every chance our drivers will use the hard compound g-Force Profiler if the weather is dry," predicts Jacques Morelli, BFGoodrich's IRC Programme Manager. "They will all also have a soft compound tyre available, as well as an intermediate Prior to each rally, BFGoodrich's IRC technicians cover the entire route to analyse the surface and produce a tyre plan which they then submit to the teams' drivers and engineers.
"This job will be especially important in the case of the Rally Principe de Asturias because it's a new event for us," underlines Jacques Morelli. "Our technicians note and take photos of the different types of asphalt to be found along the route, and record readings such as air and ground temperatures with a view to adapting our tyres as closely as possible to the characteristics of the event in terms of compounds and pressures, as well as the most efficient 'cuts' drivers can make to the tread patterns should the weather be wet."
Rally Principe de Asturias
g-Force Profiler A03
Size: 225/40-18 (soft compound)
Use: dry or damp asphalt, low temperatures
g-Force Profiler A11
Size: 225/40-18 (hard compound)
Use: dry asphalt, medium or high temperatures
g-Force Profiler M01
Size: 225/40-18 (soft compound)
Use: damp or wet asphalt
g-Force Profiler W00
Size: 225/40-18 (soft compound)
Utilisation: damp or wet asphalt
MORE THAN 1,000 TYRES FOR OVIEDO
Four semi-trailers will haul some 1,000 tyres to Oviedo for the Rally Principe de Asturias. BFGoodrich will supply its usual IRC partners (Peugeot Belux, Abarth), plus its Spanish and Portuguese teams.
g-FORCE PROFILER A10/A11
The name of the BFGoodrich range's hard compound tyre which finished on top in Madeira and on the Barum Rally Zlin has been changed to 'A11', but it is the same tyre as the former 'A10'.
MODIFICATIONS FOR CHINA
The route and date of the China Rally, the final round of the 2008 IRC, have been changed. The date will now be December 5-7 and the event will be based in Shaowu, in the northwest of Fujian province, in the southeast of China. It remains an all-gravel rally.
OPEL CORSA S2000
The S2000 category is attracting more and more carmakers. The latest model to arrive on the scene is the Opel Corsa S2000 developed by the British outfit MSD. This car will possibly make its debut on the Rallye du Valais at the end of October.
IRC SUPPORTER BFGOODRICH CHALLENGE
As part of its programme to help the organisers of those rallies that would like to form part of the IRC calendar in 2009, BFGoodrich is offering participants awards in the form of tyres in return for a token supplement to the entry fee. August's Tours-based Rallye Coeur de France was a candidate event, but Greece's Rally Halkidiki was cancelled as a result of the financial crisis.
BFGOODRICH DRIVERS TEAM
Sergio and Diego Vallejo have been selected to drive the BFGoodrich Drivers Team-backed Peugeot 207 S2000 on this year's Rally Principe de Asturias. Fortyone year old Sergio is a particularly experienced driver who made his debut in 1985 driving a Seat. He went on to campaign several Peugeots (205, 309) and Citroens (ZX, Saxo) before collecting his best results with Fiat. Driving for the Italian carmaker's works squad, he finished eighth in the 2001 Junior World Rally Championship and has twice won the Spanish Championship's S1600 title (2002 and 2003). After a year in a Renault Clio S1600, Sergio Vallejo switched to the Porsche GT3 in 2007 and has since secured some outstanding results with this car against his S2000 rivals. Sergio has finished on the podium in Oviedo on two previous occasions.
SPANISH RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Spain's 2008 asphalt campaign kicked off at the end of March, and the Rally Principe de Asturias is the seventh of the championship's 11 rounds. The standings are currently topped by the Peugeot Espana satellite team's Luis Monzon (Peugeot/BFGoo drich) thanks to his two recent consecutive wins. The astonishing Vallejo brothers (Porsche GT3) led for much of the year following a run of one win and five consecutive podium finishes, but they dropped valuable points on the most recent round, the Rallye Ferrol. Peugeot Espana's Enrique Garcia Ojeda and Oscar Garre have been inconsistent (two wins and two retirements for Ojeda), while Fuster and Perez (Fiat Auto Espana) have had an even more difficult time this year.