Wales Rally GB: The final countdown to WRC action

Legendary Welsh forests await Wales Rally GB starsNewly crowned World Champion tops capacity 160-car entryElfyn Evans and Kris Meeke target victory on home soil Family-friendly RallyFest stages provide introduction to the sport

The legendary Welsh forests are ready to welcome a capacity and star-studded 160-car entry into Wales Rally GB, the 13th and final round of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.

Building on the huge success of last year’s event, this year’s spectacular rally features a slightly more compact three-day route. It compromises 23 competitive special stages – totalling 191 miles – all run against the clock on a mix a traditional gravel forest tracks and fan-friendly parkland roads.

After a dazzling Opening Ceremony in Eirias Stadium, Colwyn Bay on Thursday evening, the intrepid crews face a marathon leg in mid-Wales on Friday. The weekend’s action is closer to the Deeside Service Park and includes RallyFests at Chirk Castle on Saturday and Kinmel Park on Sunday. The deserving winners will be crowned on Mostyn Street in Llandudno on Sunday afternoon.

Heading the entry list is the newly crowned 2014 World Champion, Sébastien Ogier. Having just clinched back-to-back titles, the gifted Frenchman will be the one beat on an event he won last year. Ogier, though, isn’t the only past winner targeting further success. His VW Motorsport team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala and M-Sport’s Mikko Hirvonen have both lifted the coveted Peall Trophy and are sure to provide stiff opposition. Hirvonen has an extra incentive, he’s just announced his retirement from the sport and will want to leave on a high.

No British driver has won the event since the late Richard Burns’ completed a hat-trick of triumphs back in 2000 but, with Elfyn Evans and Kris Meeke among this season’s front-runners, another famous home victory may not be that far away.

Adding the competition, the new Hyundai Motorsport team makes its Wales Rally GB debut and its top gun Thierry Neuville has already made his mark by winning in Germany. Ex-F1 star Robert Kubica is another to watch.

While the battle for the outright championship has already been decided, there are plenty of other scores to settle on the Welsh forest stages, notably in the WRC2 category where Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar and Finland’s Jari Ketomaa are still dueling it out for the title.

Following the huge popularity of last year’s event, every effort has been made to increase car parking capacity in advance of next week’s season finale. Moreover the organisers have re-introduced a dedicated Wales Rally FM radio on 87.7FM to further enhance the spectator experience.

“The excitement is really building towards next week’s event and not just among the rally fans,” says Ben Taylor, Managing Director of Wales Rally GB. “There is a real sense that this is a world class sporting event coming to the region and everyone is looking forward to it. It’s a great day out for all the family, with opportunities to get involved throughout mid and North Wales. We can’t wait to get started.”

Welsh Government Minister for the Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart, said: “We’re looking forward to welcoming the Wales Rally next week and to build on the success of last year’s revitalised event which provided the region with a multi-million pound boost, attracted thousands of spectators. It's widely recognised that Wales has some of the finest rally stages anywhere in the world. The spectacular scenery and landscapes of North Wales will again provide the perfect backdrop for the 2014 event and I look forward to attending the the ceremonial start and to wish everyone well for another successful Rally in north Wales.”

BIGGEST BRITISH CHALLENGE FOR MORE THAN A DECADE

Not since the heady days of Colin McRae and Richard Burns have British fans had so much to celebrate on their home round of the World Rally Championship.

With Kris Meeke on the verge of his maiden WRC win and Elfyn Evans fast becoming a serious challenger, there are two British drivers in the hunt for glory. Since joining Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT at the start of this season, Meeke has notched up four podiums and taken the fight to Ogier on many occasions.

“I've really enjoyed my first full season in the WRC, and competing on Wales Rally GB will be the icing on the cake,” admitted the 35-year-old Ulsterman. “I don’t have a great deal of experience of Wales Rally GB, having only entered it once over the past eight years, but it’s always been a legendary event. My first-ever rally was actually through Dyfi Forest, so I feel at home on these stages – I can’t wait!”

Evans is a local hero in his native north Wales and, while the 25-year-old from Dolgellau is still being groomed for future stardom, he’s already proved his potential with stage wins and no fewer than five top six finishes to date in 2014. Last year, he sent the fans home happy taking WRC2 honours and finishing eighth overall – now armed with an M-Sport prepared Fiesta RS WRC a podium isn't out of the question.

“There’s something special about contesting your home event with a world rally car and I am really looking forward to it,” said Evans. “The itinerary looks fantastic – I can’t wait to get out there and I'm sure we’re going to enjoy every minute of it.

“We've had a pretty good debut season, and it would be great to finish on a high at home. Of course there will be a lot of very quick drivers so we will just have to wait and see what happens. If we can show some positive speed and be challenging on occasion I’ll be happy; but more than anything I just want to enjoy the experience and put on a good show for the home crowd.”

While Meeke and Evans will spearhead the home guard, there’s plenty of other British talent on show. Matthew Wilson – once the UK’s top WRC star – makes a welcome return while young Welsh stars Tom Cave and Osian Pryce will be among those battling for WRC2 honours. David Bogie, the multiple Scottish Rally Champion, is another of those trying to enhance their reputation with a strong performance in Britain’s premier rally.

RALLYFESTS PROVIDE FUN FOR ALL THE FAMILY

Introduced to provide a full day’s high-octane entertainment for those who didn't want to venture into the Welsh forests, RallyFests were an instant success, particularly with the family audience – so it’s no surprise that they are back on this year’s bill at Chirk Castle and Kinmel Park.

Indeed, such was their popularity that car parking and spectator areas have been massively increased for 2014 and a special traffic management system introduced at Chirk.

Enhanced facilities include live commentary, big screens, special parades and displays, trade stands, catering plus some special activities and showcases kindly provided by Hyundai UK.

Specially priced family tickets are available for just £42.

PUBLIC OFFERED FREE WRC OPPORTUNITIES

While access to all 23 special stages is ticketed, there are several great opportunities for the public to savour the presence of the World Rally Championship in north Wales absolutely free.

Visitors are welcome to come to the packed Service Park in Deeside on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Here they not only will see all 160 cars being prepared for action but also be treated to some impressive entertainment including live bands, stunt shows and on Saturday evening a fireworks display.

Entrance to the floodlit Opening Ceremony in Eirias Stadium and the Ceremonial Finish in Llandudno are free of charge. For those in mid Wales, Newtown offers a giant screen to watch the action and the chance to see the rally cars and stars up close in the town on Friday morning.

STARS SHINE ON NATIONAL RALLY

The Wales Rally GB National Rally is an integral part of the WRC show. Aimed at enthusiastic amateur crews keen to be part of the UK’s biggest rally festival, the National Rally follows the same route providing spectators with even more top class action.

As well as including some iconic rally cars from yesteryear including a Lancia Stratos, MG Metro 6R4 and large numbers of Escorts, Mitsubishi Evos and Subaru Imprezas, the National entry also includes a few stars of its own.

Jimmy McRae is rolling back the years behind the wheel of an historic Vauxhall Firenza while former England test cricketer Graeme Swann is trying his luck in new sporting arena.

WALES RALLY GB NATIONAL RALLY

Friday 14 November07:30 1st car leaves Service Park (Deeside)09:44 Gartheiniog (Stage 1)10:14 Dyfi (Stage 2)11:24 Hafren Sweet Lamb (Stage 3)11:58 Maesnant (Stage 4)15:02 1st car arrives in Service Park (Deeside)

Saturday 15 November09:00 1st car leaves Service Park (Deeside)09:57 Clocaenog East (Stage 9)10:13 Clocaenog Main (Stage 10)11:23 Aberhirnant (Stage 11)12:15 Dyfnant (Stage 12)14:05 Chirk Castle (Stage 13)15:08 1st car arrives in Service Park (Deeside)

Sunday 16 November11:00 1st car leaves Service Park (Deeside)12:03 Kinmel Park 1 (Stage 20)12:12 Kinmel Park 2 (Stage 21)12:59 Alwen (Stage 22)13:38 iRobot Brenig (Stage 23)14:57 Ceremonial Finish – Mostyn Street, Llandudno

HOME ENTERTAINMENT FOR WALES RALLY GB

Both live and post-produced shows will be screened on no fewer than four different TV channels within the UK.

BT Sport will air daily highlights plus live coverage of Sunday’s concluding iRobot Brenig Power Stage. The station is also following the fortunes of Graeme Swann each evening and will complete an hour-long documentary of his exploits after the event.

ITV4 and Motors TV will both be screening daily highlights while Welsh language station S4C’s dedicated motor sports programme Ralio will be broadcasting daily. Ralio will also be showing the Power Stage ‘as live’ later on Sunday afternoon.

GET YOUR TICKETS HERE!

All tickets are still available via the official www.walesrallygb.com website or ticket hotline on 0844 847 2251. RallyFest tickets priced at just £25 for adults – which must be purchased in advance – can be booked up until midnight on the preceding evening via the same two outlets.

Full ticket information as well as detailed Rally Planner are available on the www.walesrallygb.com website.

WALES RALLY GB 2014 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND 13

Event Timetable*

Thursday 13 November08:00 Official Shakedown – Clocaenog17:30-21:00 Opening Ceremony at Eirias Stadium, Colwyn Bay

Friday 14 November05:30 Start – Deeside07:44 Gartheiniog 1 (Stage 1)08:14 Dyfi 1 (Stage 2)09:24 Hafren Sweet Lamb 1 (Stage 3)09:58 Maesnant (Stage 4)11:22 Remote Service – Newtown (15 mins)13:03 Gartheiniog 2 (Stage 5)13:33 Dyfi 2 (Stage 6)14:43 Hafren Sweet Lamb 2 (Stage 7)15:17 Maesnant 2 (Stage 8)18:30 Service – Deeside (45 mins)

Saturday 15 November06:40 Service – Deeside (15 mins)07:52 Clocaenog East 1 (Stage 9)08:08 Clocaenog Main 1 (Stage 10)09:18 Aberhirnant 1 (Stage 11)10:10 Dyfnant 1 (Stage 12)12:00 Chirk Castle (Stage 13)13:33 Service – Deeside (30 mins)15:00 Clocaenog East 1 (Stage 14)15:16 Clocaenog Main 1 (Stage 15)16:26 Aberhirnant 1 (Stage 16)17:18 Dyfnant 1 (Stage 17)19:59 Service – Deeside (45 mins)

Sunday 16 November07:05 Service – Deeside (15 mins)08:33 iRobot Brenig 1 (Stage 18)09:00 Alwen 1 (Stage 19)09:55 Kinmel Park 1 (Stage 20)10:04 Kinmel Park 2 (Stage 21)10:51 Alwen 2 (Stage 22)12:00 iRobot Brenig 2 ‘Power Stage’ (Stage 23)13:19 Ceremonial Finish – Mostyn Street, Llandudno

* All times are for the first car and subject to change


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