Peugeot, In It to win It, Rally Scotland

■Two rallies to go – and everything to play for

■Both final rallies are on a gravel surface (so far IRC rounds have been on asphalt)■Former Rally of Scotland winning driver Guy Wilks wants victory again

In the hunt for both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles, there is still everything to play for as the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge enters its final phase. Indeed, not only have the series’ organisers introduced a ruling this year whereby only the seven best results of each driver will count in the final score-total, but the last two rounds of the season will earn extra points. The first round to work to a coefficient system is the RACMSA Rally of Scotland.

An astonishing innovation

In 2010, the final rounds of the season suffered from a lack of entries, since certain regular names had lost all chance of winning the title and chose not to make the trip. In a bid to prevent this from happening again, the IRC’s management proclaimed that the RACMSA Rally of Scotland would be a coefficient 1.5 round, while the year-ending Cyprus Rally would count for double points.

This means that a win in Scotland will earn 37.5 points instead of the 25 points awarded at each of the first nine rounds. In Cyprus, victory will be worth 50 points. Fourth place in Scotland will notch up 18 points, which is the same as second place usually. Finishing third in Cyprus (30 points) will be equivalent to winning the Rallye Monte-Carlo or the Tour de Corse outright!

Two not-to-miss events

As a result, the trips to both Scotland and Cyprus will be vital for those wishing to win the 2011 IRC Drivers’ Challenge. Also, given that only the seven best results will count at the end of the year, it means that only the five best scores to date will come into consideration. If you calculate provisional positions with this in mind, the current standings would be Jan Kopecky (Skoda) on top with 101 points, ahead of Juho Hänninen (Skoda, 98 pts). Thierry Neuville (Peugeot) would be third (95), ahead of Freddy Loix (Skoda, 91) and Bryan Bouffier (Peugeot, 82). The situation would consequently be far tighter than it might seem as things stand.

Similarly, in the Manufacturers’ standings, the five ‘best’ scores would give Skoda a total of 212 points, compared with 177 for Peugeot. Should a team succeed in finishing first and second in Scotland, however, the harvest would be 64.5 points, and as high as 86 points for the same result in Cyprus! So everything is to play for.

The gravel challenge

Meanwhile, another feature of the IRC is the fact that, although eight of the first nine rounds are on asphalt, the last two events are essentially gravel rallies, either on all stages or partially. “We had a good test in Scotland which lasted six days,” says Bertrand Vallat, the Peugeot Sport engineer responsible for the design and development of the 207 S2000. “That allowed us to make progress in terms of traction, braking and lateral grip.”

“Scotland will only be the third loose surface rally of my career in a four-wheel drive car,” notes Thierry Neuville, who will be co-driven, as usual, by Nicolas Gilsoul in the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg 207 S2000. “We will have moved on from Sanremo and I can’t really see myself challenging for the lead. I will focus on being as consistent as possible in order to come away with a strong result.”

Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri will travel to the United Kingdom in a similar frame of mind. “I have more experience of gravel than Thierry, but it’s not my speciality. That said, I won’t have any choice in the matter: I will need to finish in the big points if I want to help Peugeot’s bid for the title.”

Guy Wilks on familiar territory

In contrast, Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh have been competing in British forests since the very beginning of their careers. “This weekend’s forest stages are among the most difficult in the sport,” says the Peugeot UK driver. “They are fast and very narrow but don’t give much grip, despite the fact that we will be reaching speeds of 90 mph with trees to either side.” That said, this sort of on-the-limit driving is what the Briton enjoys. “In 2009, I won the inaugural RACMSA Rally of Scotland,” he adds. “This year, I really haven’t had much luck and the trip north of the border could be the ideal opportunity to score my first IRC win of 2011.”

IRC Challenge

Drivers IRC Challenge   Manufacturers   1 Jan KOPECKY  128 1 Skoda 285 2 Thierry NEUVILLE  103 2 Peugeot  223 3 Freddy LOIX  103     4 Juho HANNINEN  98     5 Bryan BOUFFIER  88     6 Andreas MIKKELSEN  74     7 Guy WILKS  47     8 Toni GARDEMEISTER  35     9 Bruno Magalhaès  26     10 Hans WEIJS  18    

Main entry list :

1. Bryan BOUFFIER – Xavier PANSERI Peugeot 207 S20002. Jan KOPECKY – Petr STARY Skoda Fabia S20003. Freddy LOIX – Fred MICLOTTE Skoda Fabia S20004. Thierry NEUVILLE – Nicolas GILSOUL Peugeot 207 S20005. Juho HANNINEN – Mikko MARKKULA Skoda Fabia S20006. Andreas MIKKELSEN – Ola FLOENE Skoda Fabia S20007. Guy WILKS – Phil PUGH Peugeot 207 S2000

Total hours: 04:15:00

Schedule (local time):

Friday, October 7 2011     SS1 CARRON VALLEY 1  5.19 miles  19:45 SS2 CARRON VALLEY 2 5.19 miles  20:10 Saturday, October 8 2011     SS3 CRAIGVINEAN 1  10.27 miles 09:20 SS4 DRUMMOND HILL 1 8.17 miles 10:45 SS5 ERROCHTY 1  10.98 miles  12:10 SS6 CRAIGVINEAN 2  10.27 miles 16:15 SS7 ERROCHTY 2  10.98 miles 17:40 SS8 DRUMMOND HILL 2  8.17 miles 18:52 Sunday, October 9 2011     SS9 CARRON VALLEY 2  5.19 miles 09:08 SS10 LOCH CON 1  6.15 miles 10:52 SS11 HIGH CORRIE 1  16.03 miles 11:10 SS12 LOCH CON 2  6.15 miles 13:37 SS13 HIGH CORRIE 2  16.03 miles 13:55 SS14 SCONE PALACE 1  1.76 miles 17:00 SS15 SCONE PALACE 2  1.76 miles 17:19

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