For the first time in World Rally Championship history, competitors travel direct from one rally to start the next just four days later. The physical and logistical pressure is huge on every member of the Å koda Motorsport Team as they prepare for...
For the first time in World Rally Championship history, competitors travel direct from one rally to start the next just four days later. The physical and logistical pressure is huge on every member of the Škoda Motorsport Team as they prepare for this weekend’s Catalunya Rally in Spain, hot on the heels of the Tour de Corse.
October’s schedule has been designed as a mini-marathon of three asphalt rallies. Catalunya is the last of those three events, and the scene of Škoda Motorsport driver Didier Auriol’s most recent victory two years ago. The Frenchman has already triumphed on Spanish asphalt twice, and he is looking forward to reacquainting himself with this classic event. He has contested the Catalunya Rally seven times before.
The 1994 World Champion said: “The last time I drove in Catalunya I won the rally, but I think this year will be a bigger challenge! The Catalunya Rally is quite different from the other two asphalt events already completed: the roads are wider and they tend to be faster. In the past the road surfaces in Spain used to be a lot more abrasive than anywhere else, but now the roads are quite smooth everywhere. I suppose the Catalunya Rally is the closest we get to competing on a racing circuit: you have to concentrate very hard on taking the ideal line through corners, although the width of the road means that you can sometimes take bigger cuts than usual. I’m looking forward to getting there: Catalunya is always a very nice rally to drive.”
Didier’s team mate, young Finn Toni Gardemeister, has only driven on the Catalunya Rally two times before. But he has shown himself to have a natural talent for asphalt, and is looking forward to the challenge of the Catalunya stages. Toni is hoping to avoid a repeat of his last-minute mechanical drama last year, when he was forced to push his car over the finish ramp. But that incident only highlighted the young Finn’s unstoppable determination to succeed.
Toni commented: “I like Catalunya a lot as it is very open and flowing so it is quite easy to find a good rhythm. I have never driven the event in the autumn before, as previously it was held in the spring: it will be interesting to see what sort of weather we find at this time of year. The route goes high up into the mountains, so we might have fog or even rain. From the asphalt experience we have accumulated so far, we know that the Škoda Fabia WRC is basically good on sealed surfaces, with nice handling and a good suspension. Maybe Catalunya is the asphalt rally that will suit our Fabia WRC best, as the roads flow nicely.”
The Catalunya Rally is based in the seaside resort of Lloret de Mar, with service in the nearby town of Vic. The Spanish fans are amongst the most passionate in the world, and the event is always a highlight of the rallying calendar. This year, competitors will face three brand new stages to test their skills even further.
Director of Škoda Motorsport Petr Kohoutek commented: “We will use the Spanish rally to further test some small improvements to the car which we made for Corsica. In Corsica we have seen indications that the distance to the top teams has become smaller. We hope to confirm that in Spain.”
The 39th Catalunya Rally gets underway on Friday 24 October, with competitors facing eight classic stages. Eight more stages, including two new ones, are run on Saturday. The event closes with six stages on Sunday 26 October before the finish ramp back in Lloret de Mar.