WRC Rally Australia & IRC Canon 45 Mecsek Rallye: Previews
Rallying’s premier championships both in action this weekend...
This coming weekend (9/10/11 September) will be a rallying enthusiasts dream with both the FIA World Rally Championship and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in action in radically different territories – the WRC taking on the gravel stages of Australia and IRC back on asphalt in Hungary.
Returning to the WRC calendar after a year away, Rally Australia will be based in New South Wales and heading into the event the championship is still being led fairly comfortably by Sebastien Loeb despite losing out to Citroen Total World Rally Team compatriot Sebastien Ogier in Germany.
Loeb, the reigning and seven time World Champion, currently holds a 25 point lead over Ogier but with four rallies remaining, including this weekend in Australia, anything can happen. In terms of victories, Loeb and Ogier are tied on four apiece for the season – the latter’s costly retirement during round two in Mexico proving the main difference maker.
Aside from the Citroen dominance, Mikko Hirvonen remains the only other driver with a realistic chance of fighting for championship honours. However, the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team star is 36 points adrift of Loeb but a massive 60 points clear of luckless team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala who is under ever-increasing pressure from Petter Solberg.
In terms of British interest Matthew Wilson is seventh in the championship standings for the M-Sport Stobart Ford Rally Team and is only 16 points shy of the coveted top six – his chief target being Norwegian team-mate Mads Ostberg.
FIA World Rally Championship Standings:
1 – Sebastien Loeb, 192pts
2 – Sebastien Ogier, 167pts
3 – Mikko Hirvonen, 156pts
4 – Jari-Matti Latvala, 96pts
5 – Petter Solberg, 94pts
6 – Mads Ostberg, 56pts
Hungary makes first fully-fledged appearance on IRC schedule...
Ahead of this weekend’s Canon 45 Mecsek Rallye in Hungary, the championship battle in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge is unbelievably tight with only 10 points splitting the top three drivers – Skoda aces Juho Hanninen, Jan Kopecky and Freddy Loix.
Last time out in the Czech Republic, Kopecky defeated Loix in the closest ever finish in the history of the IRC to move within just three points of reigning champion Hanninen at the top of the table. Very importantly, the Hungarian adventure is one of the rounds Hanninen is missing this season so the timing is ideal for Kopecky to grab the initiative in the title race.
Peugeot’s Bryan Bouffier lost ground in the championship after a non-finish during the previous round so he will be aiming to make amends. Currently fourth in the standings, the Frenchman is only a single point ahead of fellow Peugeot racer Thierry Neuville.
Meanwhile, Guy Wilks’ run of misfortune continued in the Czech Republic to mark his third zero score of the campaign. To add insult to injury, the British star therefore goes into this weekend’s rally having slipped to seventh in the standings behind Andreas Mikkelsen.
For Hungary’s first appearance on the full IRC schedule, the event will be based in Pecs in the south west of the country. The action will take place on some very quick roads, winding their way through the forests adjacent to the Mecsek mountain-range.
Intercontinental Rally Challenge Driver Standings:
1 – Juho Hanninen, 98pts
2 – Jan Kopecky, 95pts
3 – Freddy Loix, 88pts
4 – Bryan Bouffier, 61pts
5 – Thierry Neuville, 60pts
6 – Andreas Mikkelsen, 56pts