Three-way title showdown for S-WRC in Wales Three drivers go into the final round of the inaugural Super 2000 World Championship on Rally Great Britain with a chance of lifting the title: in championship order Xevi Pons (Ford Fiesta), Jari...
Three-way title showdown for S-WRC in Wales
Three drivers go into the final round of the inaugural Super 2000 World Championship on Rally Great Britain with a chance of lifting the title: in championship order Xevi Pons (Ford Fiesta), Jari Ketomaa (Ford Fiesta) and Patrik Sandell (Skoda Fabia).
To make things even closer, only nine points cover those top three - with 25 points up for grabs for a win.
Leaving all the complicated points permutations aside, it's essentially a winner takes all situation although Pons can afford to finish second to Ketomaa and still win the championship. One mistake will more likely as not cost the title.
So all three drivers are presented with an infernal dilemma: is it best to go as quick as possible, in order to open up a gap in what is guaranteed to be a hotly-contested event? Or is it wiser to drive with something in reserve, keep your nerve, and wait for the others to make an inevitable mistake?
On paper Ketomaa looks to be the favourite, and his experience of rallying in China, where some of the stage surfaces are not dissimilar to Rally GB - with mud and soft gravel - are sure to stand him in good stead.
Ketomaa, who is undertaking a one-day pre-event test today said: "My only target is to win and I plan to fight from the beginning to ensure this is possible. I competed in Wales two years ago and I liked the stages - it is a legendary event in the WRC calendar."
Pons though has some valuable experience of Rally GB itself, having contested the event as part of the Subaru factory squad in 2007, and he has been consistently strong throughout the season. Pons tested his Fiesta in Britain last week. The Spaniard said: "I remember the roads were very fast. It was a difficult event the weather can also be very challenging on this rally. I'm aiming to win - it would the perfect end to the season."
Sandell starts from a slightly weaker position, as he is behind the other two in a Skoda that is maybe not quite as cutting edge now. However, the Swede is firmly in a gravel frame of mind, as he will rush to the Rally GB recce straight from China, where he finished second over the weekend at the Loungyou China Rally, the final round of the FIA Asia Pacific Championship in a Group N Subaru Impreza.
"I'm just going to go into this with the aim of enjoying myself and getting the best result possible," said Sandell. "I don't really feel any pressure, because a lot of what happens in the championship depends on other people so it's out of my control. All I can do is concentrate on doing my job; then we will see what happens afterwards."
Araujo on the brink of second P-WRC title
Portugal's Armindo Araujo is confident that he can obtain his second consecutive Production Car World Rally Championship title on the Rally Great Britain this weekend in his Mitsubishi - but Subaru driver Patrik Flodin could still deprive him of the title if there is a last-minute drama.
With an 18-point lead over Flodin, Araujo is guaranteed the title if he finishes sixth or higher - whatever Flodin does. In order to claim the championship for the first time, the Swede realistically needs to win the event and hope that his rival has a problem.
But, as always, there are a few other drivers who are liable to get in the way of the fight for the title. Toshi Arai is likely to be the strongest of the regular Production competitors, while the Pirelli Star Drivers are also out in force on their final appearance of the season.
Estonia's Ott Tanak and New Zealander Hayden Paddon have been quickest of the Pirelli proteges all year, and that situation looks set to continue in the slippery forests of Wales. With so much at stake though, Araujo and Flodin are sure to set the pace.
Araujo commented: "It's a very good situation for the championship because I am 18 points in front of Flodin for Rally GB. It's better than nothing. We couldn't do a practice rally but we did have some tests to prepare for the event and this was important because my last event on gravel was Portugal in May."
Flodin is hoping that his presence will pile the pressure on Araujo, forcing the Portuguese driver into a mistake. "Hopefully now Armindo will have some pressure," said Flodin. "Maybe we still have a chance so we'll certainly be trying to win Rally GB. Also, there's a good chance that some other drivers could be between us, so we'll just have to see what Armindo is doing. This has always been a good rally for us and I feel at home on the Welsh stages."
The two 'wild card' entries nominated by the British motorsport federation are Dave Weston Jr and Jason Pritchard, both driving Subaru Imprezas. Weston Jr, aged 20, is part of Team UK, formerly the MSA Rally Elite programme, while Pritchard is one of Wales's most promising young drivers. Pritchard actually comes from Builth Wells, with his family garage just around the corner from the service park used on Friday and Saturday.