The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team heads to the Alsace region of France next week, to compete in the totally new-look Rally France.
After being omitted from the calendar in 2009, France makes a re-appearance on the World Rally Championship schedule this year, complete with a new location.
The Alsace region will play host to the Rally, with the city of Strasbourg providing the base, replacing the traditional Corsican event.
The French rally provides the third new rally of the year, following on from Turkey and Bulgaria, and also features as the final asphalt rally of 2010.
The types of stages the crews will face vary greatly, with a selection of fast, narrow and bumpy stages, mixed in with some tight and twisty runs around local vineyards.
After testing near to Strasbourg Mikko Hirvonen said “It was all about finding a set-up for the kind of roads we expect to find on the rally. The test roads were narrow and bumpy and the surface changed frequently. We looked at developing a compromise set-up that we believe will work well on the different types of stages we expect to face in the rally”.
Hirvonen added “I expect many changes of rhythm as the roads change from fast to twisty, and wide to narrow. If the pace notes are accurate then that isn’t a difficulty. But if, for example, they are too fast when the road switches from a wide section to a narrow stretch, then it can be trickier. I wasn’t so happy with my driving on the Friday and Saturday morning during the last asphalt round in Germany, so I hope to improve. I’m feeling confident after a good performance on the last round in Japan”.
Jari-Matti Latvala enjoyed a solid run out last time the WRC ran on asphalt in Germany, and stated his happiness at the fact he is enjoying driving on the sealed surface much more than he used to.
“I felt there that I was enjoying driving on asphalt as much as I have ever done. It wasn’t my best result on that surface because I finished third in Ireland in 2007, but I feel I have moved up a level on the last two asphalt rallies. It gives me a lot of confidence ahead of this rally”, said Latvala.
He added “We must write pace notes from a blank sheet because we’ve not driven the roads before, so it’s vital we concentrate hard in the recce. We’re only allowed two passes through the stages so we must ensure they are as accurate as possible. When I looked at the route and saw it included vineyards and military roads, my first impressions were that this would be like Rallye Deutschland. But our engineers have looked at the stages and it seems the roads are more similar to those of the Monte Carlo Rally, especially the first leg”.