THE SEASON IN STYLE
Suzuki WRC team looking to add to points tally in season finale
This year's World Rally Championship draws to a close with the Wales Rally GB taking place in the Welsh forests. Britain in early December always presents a spectacular challenge, particularly as the route of the all-gravel event has been significantly modified for this year. For the first time since 2001, competitors will visit the classic stages of mid-Wales such as Sweet Lamb and Myherin on the opening day of the rally, with a remote service in the market town of Builth Wells.
Taking place during the first weekend of December, the weather is likely to be a major factor. Rain and fog are a distinct possibility, with an outside chance of snow. The stages held in the early morning and late evening will be run entirely in the dark, providing yet another big trial for the competitors. Good night vision is an essential attribute, as well as the ability to see through fog, which can reduce visibility to fewer than 10 metres in places.
However, one of the most demanding aspects of the event will be the constantly changing levels of grip from the wide variety of gravel surfaces found on the rally. The roads tend to get quickly covered by a layer of mud, but this mud is rarely consistent in the amount of adhesion it offers. Some corners become slippery and insidious, while others can still be taken flat-out.
Thanks to a number of rapid straights and sweeping bends, Wales Rally GB is an extremely quick event, with average speeds on some stages approaching those of the legendary Rally Finland. A number of hazards can catch out drivers who are unaware of the peculiarities of the terrain, so it helps to have accurate pace notes and some local knowledge.
The rally gets underway this Thursday night at 18:00 with a ceremonial start in the Welsh capital of Cardiff. The crews then face 19 stages of dramatic action, before the finish back in Cardiff on Sunday afternoon at 14:56. More information is available at walesrallygb.com.
Suzuki World Rally Team Director Shusuke Inagaki: "It's been an amazing and incredibly challenging season in which we have all learnt so much. I'm very proud of the team and all its efforts, which have resulted in a consistent improvement throughout the season. Now we face the final challenge of the year, which also happens to be one of the biggest ones. After an excellent result in Japan, we are all firmly focussed on finishing the season strongly in Wales!"