Deeside all set for this years Wales Rally GB.
Wales Rally GB is prepped and primed for a high-speed blast through the legendary Welsh forests this weekend, as some of the fastest and bravest drivers on the planet rev up to duel it out for glory.
Following months of assiduous preparation, Britain’s round of the flat-out FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) is now ready to welcome the sport’s most spectacular discipline, with flame-spitting cars, sideways slides aplenty and mud-slinging action firmly on the agenda.
With the Deeside Rally Village in place, the WRC crews took to the special stages yesterday and today in their recce cars to assess the conditions, perfect their all-important pace notes and steel themselves for what lies ahead over the 206 miles of competitive running.
No fewer than 22 speed tests make up the 2016 route, many of them to be tackled in reverse direction for the first time in a generation and an old favourite – Pantperthog on Saturday – rejoining the schedule for the first time in almost two decades, making it a new proposition for all competitors.
The destiny of the coveted crown may already have been resolved in favour of new four-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier, but with the pressure removed from his shoulders, the Frenchman will be gunning for glory this weekend as he seeks to make it four consecutive victories on the unforgiving event.
Scrutineering for the top crews is now complete. The sound of the @VolkswagenRally Polo ? #WRGB #WRC pic.twitter.com/m976LbfJng
— Wales Rally GB (@WalesRallyGB) October 26, 2016
“The stages look great – and a bit different to previous years because we are not used to having dry conditions here!” he quipped. “I always love the profile of the stages in Wales; the roads are really beautiful, especially on Friday and Saturday.
“It’s exciting to have new and reversed stages – it almost feels like driving a whole new rally and it means we all effectively start from zero, which really gets the adrenaline pumping. I’m here to enjoy the event and to try to add another victory to my 2016 tally.”
The Volkswagen Motorsport star is sure to have things far from his own way in Wales, however, with a brace of homegrown heroes eager to turn the tables as Britain seeks to end its 16-year victory drought on the event. Kris Meeke and Craig Breen will both be behind the wheel of the Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team’s potent Citroën DS3 WRCs – and with factory contracts firmly in their pockets for 2017, neither has anything to lose.
“Being earlier in the year, the stages felt different to usual on the recce, with Saturday’s in particular really quite dry and hard and that will make tyre selection a real challenge,” reflected Meeke, who has already won twice this season, in Portugal and Finland.
“With just a part-programme this year, I’m not fighting for anything in the championship, so I just want to go out there and enjoy myself this weekend. It will be the last competitive outing for the DS3 and we have proven already this year that it is still a very capable car. I always get a lot of support here from the fans, which makes it a very special event for me – with all the air horns and fireworks going off, it feels a bit like driving through a football stadium in the middle of the forest sometimes!”
Osian Pryce might be running slightly further down the order than the headline-grabbing WRC protagonists, but the Welshman – winner of this year’s 2016 Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy – is no less keen to deliver a crowd-pleasing show in front of his family, friends and supporters as he puts his Ford Fiesta R5 through its paces.
“The stages have been prepped extremely well as ever and are in excellent condition, but with many of them to be run in reverse, the rally will certainly be a trickier prospect than usual,” he mused. “I can’t wait to get going! It’s taken the best part of two-and-a-half months of hard work to get to this point, so now it’s time to get out there and really enjoy it!”
No fewer than 66 international crews are set to tackle the challenging event, accompanied by 82 further competitors on the supporting WRGB National Rally, with dry weather forecast throughout. Next on the agenda is the Shakedown at Clocaenog tomorrow (Thursday) morning, followed the same evening by a show-stopping Ceremonial Start at Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay.
The high-octane action then officially gets underway in mid-Wales early on Friday. Saturday takes place closer to Wales Rally GB’s Deeside base and includes the hugely popular, family-friendly RallyFest stage at Cholmondeley Castle before the winners are crowned in Llandudno on Sunday. Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com