The 2015 FIA World Rally Championship comes to a close this weekend, with Wales Rally GB ending a thrilling season. A particular focus lies on avoiding trouble, with few service opportunities on the schedule.
The action starts on Thursday night in Llandudno, before the cars travel south on Friday morning, with two identical loops of three stages. The longest of the rally is Hafren at 32.14km, whilst fan favourite Sweet Lamb is also on the day’s timetable. Returning after a year’s absence.
Saturday will contain over 140km of action, starting with repeated runs of Dyfi and Gartheiniog, before Dyfnant and Aberhirnant, which will be driven in the darkness. Between the two is the short Chirk Castle stage, along with a service period.
Sunday morning is the end of the running and sees the cars return to the north. A highlight is an asphalt challenge around Great Orme on the coast near Llandudno. Two runs of Brenig are also scheduled, the latter of which will be the live TV power stage, completing the season.
In total, drivers will contend 310.15km of stages, with a total route length of 1469.29km.
Last year’s winner was Sebastien Ogier who has already wrapped up the 2015 title. Joining him on the podium were Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg. Ogier hasn’t won a race since Australia in early September however, and the winner last time out at Rally Catalunya was Andreas Mikkelsen, for the first time in his career.
An incident has already taken place on the stages, when M-Sport’s Ott Tanak rolled his Ford Fiesta in preparation at the end of October.
A British win hasn’t occurred in Wales since Richard Burns in 2000, but Kris Meeke and Elyfn Evans will be looking to change this. Also of note is that Hyundai is fielding a four car entry, and will be looking to secure second place in the championship, ahead of Citroen.
“The excitement is really building towards [the] event,” said Ben Taylor, Managing Director of Wales Rally GB. “We’ve got 19 of the finest rally stages in the world, a capacity entry list featuring the world’s best drivers and a huge crowd anticipated.
“Better yet, we have genuine hopes of a strong British result, after Kris and Elfyn’s performances this year. We’ll also be inducting Petter Solberg into the ‘Hall of Fame’ and celebrating the 20th anniversary of Colin McRae’s WRC title triumph. It all adds up to an utterly unmissable world championship event.”
“I would obviously love to score my third WRC podium in Wales,” admitted local driver Elfyn Evans. “Given the calibre of the opposition out there, it will be no mean feat, but I can promise you we will be giving it our all and that’s what we are aiming for. The stages are fantastic. Everywhere else in the world we go, when there is rain and mud, there is practically no grip – but here that never seems to be a problem, meaning you can settle into a good rhythm and really attack the event and enjoy the whole experience.”
Two decades since Colin McRae won his home event, a special celebration of the late Scottish driver will take place at Wales Rally GB, including a display of some of his most famous cars and much more.
“It does not seem 20 years ago that Margaret and I were at the finish in Chester celebrating Colin’s achievement,” said Colin’s 72 year-old father, Jimmy. “The McRae family are humbled by the celebrations being organised in tribute to his memory.
Seven-time Rally America champion David Higgins will enter the supporting National Rally in a Group N Subaru WRX STI, sporting a classic blue and yellow livery.
“There is definitely going to be a lot of emotion when people see the car – it is such a special livery,” said Higgins. “What we have here is a fantastic opportunity to remind people just how big Colin was and still is.”