Rally of Great Britain: Season finale preview

Network Q Rally of Great Britain 14-17 November 2002 Fourteenth, and final round of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship. Sixth, and final round of the 2002 FIA Junior Car World Rally Championship. CHARACTER OF THE EVENT A smooth gravel event,...

Network Q Rally of Great Britain 14-17 November 2002
Fourteenth, and final round of the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship. Sixth, and final round of the 2002 FIA Junior Car World Rally Championship.

A smooth gravel event, the traditional challenge of which is the uncertainty of weather conditions, though this year the event is being run one week earlier than before. The event will be run with a full entry (of 90 cars) plus a line up of reserves.

For the top crews, all the stages will be run in daylight, the stages this year are concentrated a little further westwards than last year and the Service Park at Felindre (north of Swansea) has been resurfaced. The spectator ticketing system has been revised to guarantee the chance to park close to specified spectating areas. A kilometre of new roads have been built at a location called Walters' Arena (in Rheola, stages 6 and 15) to provide for a mid-stage range of spectator opportunities. Before the start, cars will be on display at St Mary's Street in Cardiff. From there the first car will proceed to the start ramp nearby, progressively triggering off sensors which will then light up Cardiff's seasonal illuminations.

Both the FIA World Championship for Rallies (manufacturers) and the FIA World Championship for Drivers were settled at the Propecia Rally New Zealand, but the FIA Junior Car World Championship will be settled here. No fewer than six drivers can finish the season as runner-up driver. All three smaller World Championship teams, Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Skoda, start the rally equal on points.


TEAM PEUGEOT TOTAL (Champions - 163points)
Richard Burns (car no. 1), Marcus Gronholm (car no. 2) and Harri Rovanpera (car no.3).

Marcus Gronholm goes for a record attempt, to equal the number of wins in the same season.

Peugeot also have a record to pursue. The current record number of wins in the World Championship in a season for a manufacturer is nine for Lancia in 1987. For far this year they have won eight. Didier Auriol holds the record in 1992 with six: the new World Champion has so far won five. "I would have won six already but for a servicing problem which affected another member of our team in Argentina..." The new World Champion is the only foreigner to have won a full World Championship Rally Great Britain since 1993. Co-driver Risto Pietilainen is expected to make a comeback after missing five rounds of the series with his brother in law driver Harri Rovanpera. Risto fell ill just before Neste Rally Finland, and Voitto Silander has stood in for him since then.

FORD MOTOR COMPANY (2nd - 94 points)
Carlos Sainz (car no. 4), Colin McRae (car no 5) and Markko Martin (car no. 6), Mark Higgins (car no. 24).

Last rally with Ford for Colin McRae. In addition to the four official cars, M-Sport are responsible for running no fewer than five Focus World Rally Cars for independent team drivers. This is Higgins' second drive for the Ford World Rally Championship team, but he also won the 2002 national championship Pirelli Rally in a borrowed works Focus.

Francois Delecour (car no. 7), and Jani Paasonen (car no. 8)

A decision is expected by this Friday as to whether Alister McRae will be fit enough to take part, following his pre-Sanremo Rally mountain bike accident. It has already been decided that Dominique Savignoni will replace the injured Daniel Grataloup on this event. Savignoni was Delecour's co-driver in the 1999 Monte Carlo Rally when they finished 4th, and since then has regularly worked as his gravel crew. This will be the final appearance of the Mitsubishi Ralliart cars in Marlboro colours.

555 SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM (3rd - 54 points)
Tommi Makinen (car no. 10) and Petter Solberg (car no. 11). No third entry on this event.

Team Principal David Lapworth: "For Subaru the Network Q is home ground. We have won the event five times in the last eight years. Our car is what gives the drivers an advantage! Our opposition will be the effects of the weather. The weather in Wales can change dramatically in the space of only a few weeks."

SKODA MOTORSPORT (4th - 9 points)
Kenneth Eriksson (car no. 14) and Toni Gardemeister (car no. 15) and Roman Kresta (car no. 16).

The team hopes to continue the legend of the company's remarkable successes in past years, when over the space of 26 years the team won their class on the event 24 times. Last planned rally with Skoda for Eriksson. New co-driver for Kresta will be Milos Hulka, who has been previously been seen on seven World Rallies in 2 wheel drive days with Emil Triner.

Armin Schwarz (car no. 17), Freddy Loix (car no. 18) and Juha Kankkunen (car no. 19).

Team Manager Nmark Busfield: "The team were tremendously elated by Freddy Loix's fastest time at the start of Rally Australia. It created a fantastic spirit within the team. The spark plug problem suffered later by Juha Kankkunen was different to the plug troubles we have suffered before, and we don't yet know if this caused the retirement for Juha and Armin Schwarz."

AUTOMOBILES CITROEN (not eligible for points in 2002)
Thomas Radstrom (car no. 20) and Sebastien Loeb (car no. 21). No third entry on this event.

It was a late decision to enter this event as an official team. This is all part of the Citroen's plan to amass as much hands-on experience of individual events as possible this year, ready for a full championship attack in 2003. Altogether they have been represented on 11 of the 14 events in 2002, either directly or through their Spanish partners Piedrafita. This is expected to be the final appearance in the team for co-driver Denis Giraudet before he moves to Skoda to join Didier Auriol.

The final round of the Championship sees two drivers able to win the title, Andrea Dallavilla from Italy and Daniel Sola from Spain. Andrea leads Daniel by one point, while if it comes to a tie-decider Daniel so far has two wins against one for Andrea. Dallavilla's co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini: "It's now or never for us! Andrea will be too old for the Junior World Rally Championship in future..."Sola's codriver Alex Romani: "We reckon we have the psychological advantage over Andrea-- Coming up from behind is always best!"

Citroen's customer department chief Jean-Francois Lienere: "Our cars are already assured of a 1-2 placing in the series. We now hope that Janne Tuohino will finish the series in third position as well."

Two championship drivers are expected not to start: Albert Llovera from Spain and Roger Feghali from Lebanon.

This is only the second gravel round of the season. This weekend Sola has entered the Vaucluse Rally in France, to gain extra gravel experience. Rowe and Carlsson, whose Pumas are run by Astra, are using French championship cars with more update equipment on this event.

News from Suzuki: Juha Kangas has been testing in Finland to establish optimum ride height settings, while Japanese driver Niwa is accompanied by his fourth different codriver in six events!

Kosti Katajamaki plans to make the final appearance of the current version VW Polo before the new version appears next season.

Two Opels were again be entered: the RML car for Niall McShea and the Team Palmer car for the German Sven Haaf, both in identical specification.

This will be the final Junior World Rally Championship entry for 42 year old veteran Gwyndaf Evans because new minimum age rules apply in 2003. Evans' recent suspension development work will help MG 's official entry in a second S1600 car for Blundell.

Special guest competitor on the event will be four times world motorcycle champion Valentino Rossi, who drives a Peugeot 206WRC with support from Michelin and run by HF Grifone. To honour his success on the track the organisers have awarded him his cherished competition number 46. Another personality entry is a MG ZR Super 1600 car for the former Formula One driver Mark Blundell. In the works supported category, Peugeot for Gilles Panizzi and Juuso Pykalisto have been prepared by Bozian Racing, while Polish driver Tomasz Kuchar will be the only driver on the event to have used the same car two weeks ago in Australia. "I am expecting this will be my final rally with a Toyota."

Otherwise there are fewer non-works foreign drivers than usual on this event. The 17 year old Jari Matti Latvala enters his first World Rally after several entries on British championship events. He rallies in Britain because he is too young to drive on the roads in his native Finland. Latvala's mentor is Pentti Airikkala, RAC Rally winner in 1989. Other major career steps forward on this event come for Justin Dale, David Higgins and Mikko Hirvonen, all of whom drive their first important rallies in World Rally Cars, in Subarus run respectively by Prodrive, 22 Motorsport and World Rally Hire. David is running a '99 spec car: "Judging by the weather we have had in our region, I think the rally will be wet, foggy and muddy, who wants the latest spec car in those conditions?!" David won Group N on last year's Rally Great Britain. Alister Ginley is also driving a World Rally Car for the first time on a major rally, this time a Focus from M-Sport.

Reigning champion drivers to appear include Patrick Richard from Canada, David Higgins who is Group N British champion and also outright SCCA champion in the USA and the Spanish gravel rally champion Txus Jaio, but non starters are expected to include the new Norwegian Group N champion Jonas Kruse (from Sweden!). Reigning champion in another discipline is BTCC racing driver James Thompson who drives Group N Mitsubishi while Hirvonen is Finland's F2 rally champion.

There is an unusual gap of six hours on the Saturday between visits to the Service Park, while the rally goes north in the middle of the day to the Regrouping control at Sennybridge.

Three times Rally Great Britain winner and the World Championship's most successful driver Colin McRae: "The main thing about the Network Q Rally is the weather. You really do not know what to expect, anything from dust to ice and snow. There is no other rally in the World Championship where you can expect such extremes before the event, but once the event starts the prevailing conditions normally continue through the event. Most years it is wet and cold with a lot of muddy stretches. The route is very fast, which makes it very tricky when you come up to muddy sections unexpectedly. This is the event on which gravel note crews really earn their money."


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Mark Blundell , Valentino Rossi , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Mark Higgins , Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Didier Auriol , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Daniel Grataloup , François Delecour , Alister McRae , Sébastien Loeb , Roger Feghali , Jani Paasonen , Juha Kangas , Tomasz Kuchar , Armin Schwarz , Thomas Radstrom , Sven Haaf , Andrea Dallavilla , Daniel Sola , James Thompson , Juha Kankkunen , Kenneth Eriksson , Dominique Savignoni , Justin Dale , Mikko Hirvonen , Juuso Pykalisto , Risto Pietilainen , Toni Gardemeister , Denis Giraudet , Kosti Katajamaki , David Higgins , Gwyndaf Evans , Janne Tuohino , Giovanni Bernacchini , Patrick Richard , Niall McShea , Milos Hulka , Markko Martin , Albert Llovera
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport