WRC

Candidate Rally of Russia preview

WRC candidate Novorossiysk Rally of Russia 2008 preview The 8th and penultimate round of the Russian Rally Championship is the renowned "Novorossiysk Rally", which for many years has proven to be decisive for championship fights.

WRC candidate Novorossiysk Rally of Russia 2008 preview

The 8th and penultimate round of the Russian Rally Championship is the renowned "Novorossiysk Rally", which for many years has proven to be decisive for championship fights. This season the event celebrates its 10th anniversary in a perfect fashion - by obtaining the status of the WRC candidate event - first time a Russian rally getting such a high approval. The rally is based in the resort area of Krasnodar region, on the coast of the Black Sea, with most of stages lying in mountains above its beautiful shores. "Novorossiysk Rally of Russia 2008" is also the 5th round of the Citroen Cup and the 8th round of the Russia South Region Championship.

The rally is characterized by its unpredictability: favorites' misfortunes, mistakes, accidents, crashes, punctures, and debut victories. These things are common on other rallies too, but here they occur too often, and what is more important - when you hardly expect them to happen. According to its new status, the rally saw numerous changes in its organization: a total competitive distance was increased and strict safety regulations were introduced - all in accordance to the FIA requirements. In addition, changes touched the organization of the service park, media center and the HQ, which got more space.

"Novorossiysk Rally of Russia 2008" uses a common itinerary for rough gravel rallies: twelve special stages are split into 4 loops over two days. The rally starts at 7:30 pm on Friday evening (September 26th) with an opening ceremony, while the action begins at 10:03 am on Saturday morning with a long 27.47 kms stage "Semigorie" (7 Mountains), which proves its high-altitude name as the highest speed test of the event, reaching 460 meters above sea level. Another iconic stage of the rally is the legendary "Markoth" stage, which runs in mountains close to the Bay of Tsemess, making it the nearest stage to Novorossiysk - just few kilometers off it. The real adornment to the second day of the rally will be a picturesque "Utrish" stage, the longest on Day 2. But it's not the distance that makes this stage so special, as almost the half of it runs just above the seacoast, providing a picturesque view on waves hitting cliffs. In total, there are 224,58 kilometers of competitive action that will be concluded with the finish podium at 6:00 pm on Sunday (September 28th) and the prize- giving ceremony at 9:00 pm in "Wonderland" club.

Despite early autumn, the weather seems to be consistent, though not really appropriate for the definition of "velvet" season, which is common for this time of year here, on southern resorts of Russia. North-east (or so-called "Nord-Ost") wind from the bay whittles the sun efforts, and it's rather chilly even under its light, especially in the service park, which is allocated right on the sea quay in front of the Naval Academy, on the area which is called "Little Land". It got its name after serving as a beachhead during the WWII, when three hundred of warriors stood against the 24-hour squall of fire and iron to finally set Novorossiysk free from enemies. In memory of the feat a Memorial was created on the shore where the troops landed and close to where the service park is now situated. So, press and spectators can witness not only rally cars, but also historical monuments and the natural beauties of the bay's surroundings.

Heading to the start of the event as a clear favorite is, of course, the crew of two-times "Novorossiysk Rally" winners Evgeniy Vertunov and Georgiy Troshkin, the reigning Russian champions and the participants of the Production World Rally Championship. In 2006 Evgeniy got here his first national victory, and one year after he repeated his success, which was multiplied by clinching the title in a heart-breaking fight. Unfortunately, this season hasn't been successful for the young driver neither in the Russian championship nor in the PCWRC, following numerous problems with his new Impreza of the latest generation. In a bid to defend his Novorossiysk glory, the crew switched to the previous evolution of Subaru, prepared by URT team. This model proved to be strong in tough and rough conditions both in Russia and worldwide, and Evgeniy and Georgiy are firmly set to fight for their first victory of the season. As reigning champions, they will be the first crew off the start ramp on Friday evening. But their way to success won't be any easier this time compared to previous years.

Second to hit the road on Day 1 stages will be 2006 Russia Rally Champion and the current leader of the series Alexander Zheludov. This season he has been victorious already on three occasions - and on three different terrains: snow, rocky roads and steppes. No wonder he's renowned to be an all-rounder. He's always been very fast in Novorossiysk, as he won there in 2004, so for sure he would like to add another one to his tally. This season he is co-driven by a beautiful Irina Kolomeitseva, 2007 Ukrainian champion in FWD 2-litre class, and this might have been another reason, which kept him on pace with young guns throughout the season and put to the forefront of the title race. Having the newest Impreza N14 by Tommi Makinen Racing at his disposal, Zheludov, however, also preferred to drive the previous version of Subaru rally car.

One of his main competitors is, of course, the experienced crew of multiple Russian Champions Andrey Zhigunov and his brother Igor Ter-Oganesyants. They've been very constantly fast this year, and while some misfortunes prevented them from taking any victories, they kept in touch with rivals and stayed in the fight for the championship, though falling further behind after some disappointment results. The last time Andrey won here was in 2002, but he feels confident he can repeat this. And last, but definitely not the least, fighting for victory on the first-ever WRC candidate event in Russia will be 17-years old Evgeniy Novikov, who's taken 3 wins since the starts of the season - and all on different cars!! Co-driven by the Australian Dale Moscatt, he'll tackle mountain stages in Novorossiysk region behind the wheel of Mitsubishi Lancer. Driving a similar car on the latest PCWRC event in New Zealand, he amazed everybody with his speed. He'd been holding 2nd place in the category until gearbox problems hit his car. A mechanical problem also occurred last year in Novorossiysk, when he was leading the rally, and this deprived him of winning the title. This time he performs as a chaser, and winning the rally will allow him to cut the gap to Zheludov before the final round of the season. So, from the competitive side, this year's edition of "Novorossiysk Rally of Russia" might once again turn decisive for the main title contenders.

The organizers of "Novorossiysk Rally of Russia 2008" present some features that can be useful for spectators. The rally will have a live coverage from ceremonies and conferences on the official website, and there is also an sms-service available for fans and media. Broadcasting from the service- park and special stages is also on the agenda.

-credit: rally-russia.com

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team