Rally Ireland: Event newsletter 2009-01-28

Rally Ireland stage shortened Rally Ireland have been forced to make a late change to one of the five stages running on Sunday 1st February. Due to the recent deterioration of a bridge, organisers have had to shorten the popular Arigna stage.

Rally Ireland stage shortened

Rally Ireland have been forced to make a late change to one of the five stages running on Sunday 1st February. Due to the recent deterioration of a bridge, organisers have had to shorten the popular Arigna stage. The bridge has already been closed for a number of weeks by Leitrim County Council.

"It's a pity for both the competitors and the spectators that we were forced to shorten the Arigna stage but unfortunately the matter was not within our contol. And despite our best efforts in recent days to ensure the running of the stage, it simply was not to be and we had no choice but to end the stage before it reached the bridge. However spectators can still look forward to what will be an excellent stage" said Clerk of the Course, Gordon Noble.

The length of the stage is now 10.8kms and will finish at Spectator Point G, in the Moneenatieve townland. Although Arigna has been shortened it will not impact on the times of any other stages which will run as originally scheduled.

Drivers face dire weather conditions

The latest forecast for the weekend from Met Eireann promises everything short of plague and pestilence. There is little doubt the conditions will prove challenging, even for some of the best drivers on the planet. The highly-skilled technicians who help keep the cars on the road are already planning for the worst.

"Rally Ireland is one of just two all-asphalt events in the 12-round series but the term 'asphalt' is a misnomer for this event," according to a spokesman for Ford, whose two main drivers Finns Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala are among the favourites to win the event. "The route is a mix of flowing mountain roads and tight, twisty farm lanes. The lanes are bumpy and narrow -- often little more than the width of a car -- with many surface changes. They are used by farmers on a daily basis and will be dirty."

Although the rally is road-based, the Ford mechanics will be treating it as if it was gravel rather than tarmac.

"With rain highly likely, they could quickly turn muddy and become treacherously slippery, so much so that a more gravel-based car set-up is likely to work better than a traditional asphalt specification."However, the relative shelter afforded by high hedges on most of the course - apart from on exposed mountain roads - is a serious plus.

Rain will be the main enemy - particularly if it is showery or torrential.

"Weight is such an issue with these cars that wet-weather wiper motors are very light and they will find it very difficult to cope with incessant rain," said one mechanic in the service park at Sligo IT yesterday. "The other problem would occur in showery weather because mud would be dragged onto roads that had dried out, making the surface inconsistent. This makes it hell to drive on."

The conditions may not be all that different from Rally Ireland 2007 but the drivers will have at least one less weapon in their armoury - a limited change of tyres. Unlike Formula 1, rally tyres can no longer be switched at the slightest sign of rain or sun to adapt to wet or dry weather.

Also, every rally on this year's world circuit will be limited to pre-stipulated tyres. In the case of Rally Ireland 2009, three trailerloads of Pirelli snow tyres have been shipped in just in case to complement the wet-weather ones that will be used on the cars - tyres for dry conditions were considered irrelevant!

The limited choice of tyres is just one of the ways costs are being contained in the sport. Rallying has not escaped the downturn in the world economy and the introduction of a one-condition-fits-all tyre is just one reflection of this. However, its continued durability and popularity with the main car manufacturers such as Citroen, Audi, Ford and Honda is based on the likely transferability of its technology to family saloon cars in the future."Directors are meeting in boardrooms around the world and having to make very tough decisions right now," said one executive. "If participating in the World Rally Championship was a waste of time for their business, they wouldn't be there."

Latvala fit for Rally Ireland after crash

Jari-Matti Latvala says he will be fit for Rally Ireland this Thursday after escaping unscathed from a car accident at the weekend.

The Ford World Rally team driver was testing in Monaghan ahead of the event and was returning to his hotel when a car travelling in the opposite direction lost control and crashed into him. "The other car started to swerve on the bumpy road and came on my lane," Latvala said today "I dodged to the left, it crashed into the side of my car and I ended up in a ditch"

"If I hadn't pulled to the left, it would have been much worse." Latvala escaped the crash with just neck and shoulder pains, but continued testing and will be fit to start the opening round of the World Rally Championship this week.

"In rallying you need to be able to forget the crashes quickly, so I have continued testing after Saturday," Latvala added.

Gulf World Rally Team Ireland launch 2009 car

Gulf World Rally Team Ireland have today launched their new 2009 Mitsubishi Evolution 9 in the lead up to Rally Ireland. The Irish pairing of Shaun Gallagher and Paul Kiely will contest their home event starting in Enniskillen this Thursday and continuing over the following three days with the finish in Donegal Town on the Sunday. The weekend will see the paring contest over 365 of competitive kilometres divided into 19 stages.

Shaun Gallagher, Gulf World Rally Team Ireland driver, said "I am very excited with Rally Ireland only a few days away. The car looks great and the set up feels right. My mechanics have been working nonstop over the last month to have everything at its best for my home event. When we were testing I really felt the hand of history on my shoulder rallying in the Gulf Oil colours. The blue and orange colours are famous all over the world, from Steve McQueen to Heinz-Harald Frentzenand and all the other greats who have raced under the Gulf Oil banner. The rally is going to be very competitive and it will not be easy for our national or international drivers. Finishing the rally and seeing the ramp on Sunday will be at the forefront of my mind from the get go. As we saw in 2007, Rally Ireland takes no prisoners and only thing I will say is, expect the unexpected!"

Dermot Fallon, Managing Director, Gulf Oil Ireland, commented; "Rally Ireland is going to be very competitive. The Gulf Oil brand has a strong international racing pedigree and we feel there is no better way to support Irish motorsport with our entry in Rally Ireland. We are delighted with our new partnership with World Rally Team Ireland and having Shaun Gallagher leading the team in 2009. We will be contesting a number of national events this year and we are considering competing in more rounds of the World Rally Championship. For now, our focus is on a strong finish in Rally Ireland."

Tommy Mullen, Chief Executive Officer, World Rally Team Ireland remarked; "Our testing pre Rally Ireland went well and we are confident with the car set up. The weather will play a critical role in this year's opening round of the World Rally Championship. It is a big move for Shaun back into four wheel drive but I feel is well prepared for it. We have gone under a full rebranding over the last few months and a lot of rally supports have said they are looking forward to seeing famous blue and orange of Gulf Oil on Irish tarmac in Rally Ireland."

-credit: rallyireland.org

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Jari-Matti Latvala , Mikko Hirvonen
Teams Citroën World Rally Team