Jardine and McKenzie set for Wales Rally GB


 In amongst a cast of rally stars from around the world, media men Tony Jardine and Bob McKenzie will represent the sole media challenge this weekend (10-13 November), when the World Rally Championship returns to Britain and Wales Rally GB takes centre stage on the UK’s sporting calendar. Seven times WRC Champion Sebastian Loeb will go head-to-head with Ford’s Mirkko Hirvonen in an epic 2011 title decider. After 12 rounds, just eight points separate the two drivers with Loeb leading the way over his Finnish adversary. This year’s Wales Rally GB sees the return of classic stages such as Great Orme and Sweet Lamb, but a larger draw for the loyal British fans will be the return of Mini to top flight rallying, with rising Northern Irish star Kris Meeke behind the wheel.Sky Sports News’ F1 analyst Tony Jardine, from Liverpool, and The Daily Express’ F1 correspondent Bob McKenzie, from Ayr, will also be making a return to the Welsh forests, with Jardine driving the SkyBet ProSpeed run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX of Raymond Mason, and McKenzie acting as co-driver. The pair will look to improve on their 1993 experience, when the duo battled through heavy snow and icy conditions to finish a courageous 37th overall.The renewed partnership has high hopes for a stronger finish this year. With McKenzie being coaxed out of ‘retirement’, top Welsh rally co-driver (to Tom Cave) and rally expert Craig Parry has joined the team as McKenzie’s mentor for Wales Rally GB. The duo met for the first time at Silverstone, for the launch of the Yorkshire based, SkyBet ProSpeed Rally Team, with the Daily Express. Parry spent the day assisting McKenzie on his return to rallying and reacquainting him with the complexities of World Championship navigation, the road book and pace notes system.“Bob has a vital role to play as co-driver and I have been impressed with his attitude,” said Parry. “He is taking my advice on board and is asking the right questions, so I’m expecting Tony and Bob to score a good result in Wales.” McKenzie was upbeat about the team’s chances on the rally, “I was throwing out my old race suit and helmet when I received a phone call from TJ asking If I would co-drive for him on Wales Rally GB. He doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, but then I don’t remember actually saying ‘yes’ either. But it was great to get back in the car at Silverstone and get some practice in on their rally stage. The power of the car, and the feeling of the Kumho tyres dancing around on the gravel, really was fantastic. I report on motorsport for a living for the Daily Express, but to compete is something really special.”The media duo will have to complete 23 gruelling special stages at Wales Rally GB, battling with mud, gravel, night stages and the temperamental British weather over a staggering 1900 Kilometres, with Kumho providing tyres for all conditions.Tony Jardine is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead for the SkyBet ProSpeed Rally Team. Speaking at the team’s media day, hosted at Silverstone on the Rally Experience stage, Jardine commented, “We’ve got some fantastic stages ahead of us and a return to classics such as Dyfi and Clocaenog. I managed to get a little bit of four-wheel-drive experience on the rally stage today and it was a welcome return. My previous rallies have been in ProSpeed run Ford Fiestas, which are immaculately prepared and highly reliable. However, a step up to a relative supercar, with a turbocharged four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi, is a challenge in itself for Bob and I, as we are reunited as the only media entry on Wales Rally GB.”The final round of the 2011 World Rally Championship is expected to draw an impressive crowd. After the afternoon running of three competitive stages on the Thursday, the official Opening Ceremony will take place on Conwy Quay, Llandudno shortly after 18:00hrs, with the rally finishing on the Monument stage on Sunday afternoon.ESPN will be showing a 30 minute highlights show of each day’s action throughout the weekend, starting at 23:00hrs on Friday 11 November, 22:00hrs on Saturday 12 November and 22:00hrs on Sunday 13 November. Sunday will also feature live coverage of the ‘Power Stage’ at 12:00hrs.