WRC - 2014 | Sneak-a-Peek..

Less than a month away for the start of a new WRC season, let us look into what to expect and look out for what the sport is prepared to entertain us.

In the closing 2013 season, we saw the evolution of a New WRC Machine and New Champions, VW Polo WRC and Sebastien Ogier, both making it large this season, and also marking the end of a 'Master' Loeb's era!

2014, the most hot and interesting topic is that everybody being curious about what the re-entry of the Korean car maker.

Hyundai is all set to stir the competition at the World Rally scene. Being not the first time, their outing into Rallying was almost a decade back, and it makes all that difference in re-entering this time with an all new car, with new regulations and a new approach. We had seen the Accent WRC on the stages back then, but were not very successful.

Hyundai's comeback with a fresh n' new car, with striking colours - the i20 WRC. It is not just the car that is stirring the excitement, but also the driver line up feels a strong enough to challenge the new and old champions. The car evolved at an amazing pace, at the helm of Michel Nandan's directions and the latest tests of the car with the new drivers, seems blisteringly quick.


Hyundai’s main assault weapon is Thierry Neuville a.k.a “Belgian Bullet” on a full season program, who will be accompanied by Spaniard Dani Sordo, Finn Juho Hanninen and Aussie driver Chris Atkinson, who will be driving in selected events for the team in the second car.


Michel Nandan, the boss of this young and dedicated team, they are hoping for some realistic results this season as it will be a learning curve for them. According to Michel Nandan, their primary goal is to bring home both the car safely on each rally and gain some valuable experience and later in the season even fight for podium finishes, which we can hope is possible. [Remember, it was the same old slogan of the VW team until almost till the championship was sealed.] All we can hope for is a good show from Hyundai this season!

Well it was all about Hyundai, its quite opposite when we come to Volkswagen camp. They are still “Hungry” for success as recently stated by the team. We can see them defending their titles both of course! They have already revealed that they are going with same team as it was in 2013, so they don’t want to spoil the winning combination and the winning run. So in this season too we can expect Polo WRC’s to dominate the stages in hunt for their second title.


Multiple World Champions, Citroen World Rally Team have completely shuffled their driver lineup, while retaining the livery and sponsors intact from the recently completed season. British driver Kris Meeke & Norway's Mads Ostberg have been selected for their twin full season assault, while their external sponsor Abu Dhabi driver Khalid Al-Qassimi will be driving in selected events, while being on full season at Middle-Eastern Rally Championship.

So there are three works team, one is just born and, another is still evolving but both teams very confident in their approach and the goals they have set.

Well I know there is much more to speak about another factory squad and also about Blue Oval, but its just the beginning, for now its too much to tell so lets discuss in the next part. Untill then Happy Rallying!
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Final Round of INRC ~ Coffee Day Rally of Chikmagalur - 2013

The finale to the 2013 season's Indian National Rally Championship [INRC], kick-starts tomorrow. It is also a APRC's Asia Cup contender event, and the delegates from the FIA will be supervising the course of conduct of the entire rally.
 
Opening day witnesses with the SSS at Amber Valley Residential School, Chikmagalur and the next two days the event moves over the terrains of the coffee plantations. The total Special Stage distance of the rally will be 113.50 km and liaison distance would be 171.20 km. For the first time in many years, the event has moved inwards the lush green forest lined and over a well prepared, yet narrow mud roads through the coffee land.
 
Mr. Venkatesh, Director, Coffee Day Hotels and Resorts, said "The Coffee Day Rally has become a tradition and year after year people from all over the country arrive in Chikmagalur to witness world class rally drivers compete against one another in demanding conditions. This year too we expect over 7000 spectators to be present for the rally. At Coffee Day we are very passionate about motorsports and hope to see India become a force to reckon with in the international circuit in the next few years. This year, for the first time, the Coffee Day Championship Rally – 2013 will run in four Coffee Day estates spread over 2500 acres namely Chetanahalli, Kumaragode, Chandrapore and Jagrimane."
 
The event has received a good 42 car entry, and both the manufacturers, Volkswagen & Mahindra along with a host of privateers along with the sole Evo X, will be fighting for the honors, albeit in a different category. Complete entry list here, and the revised itinerary can be downloaded/viewed at this link.

'Auto Track magazine' will be broadcasting the event video highlights, at the end of the day at their website.
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M-Sport confirms return of Mikko Hirvonen & Elfyn Evans for WRC 2014

Today, M-Sport officially confirmed the return of its former driver, Mikko Hirvonen, who after 8-year drive had moved to Citroen during 2012-13. Joining the attack lineup for 2014 along with the veteran would be the younger Elfyn Evans.

Read the excerpts of the official news-report, here below.
M-Sport will field a mix of youth and experience in the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) as the winning potential of Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are combined with the raw talent and ambition of Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt. Both crews will take to the Cumbrian firm's Ford Fiesta RS WRC for all 13 rounds of next season's championship.

The news that Hirvonen is coming home will bring a smile to the face of many a rally fan. Having started his WRC career with the Ford / M-Sport operation in 2003, the Finn enjoyed eight years behind the wheel of M-Sport machinery and was instrumental in securing Ford's back-to-back manufacturers' titles in 2006 and 2007. With fourteen of his fifteen victories claimed with M-Sport's range of award-winning rally cars, Hirvonen's return also provides the team with a real contender for rally wins.

The Finn is hungry for success. Having finished as vice champion on four separate occasions, he was one of nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb's main rivals and missed out on the 2009 championship laurels by a single point.

As he and Lehtinen return to the team which delivered the bulk of their success, the squad will be keen to see the Fiesta RS WRC piloted to the best of its potential. Since parting ways with M-Sport in 2012, the two Finns remained a popular crew in the eyes of the M-Sport family, and their homecoming brings a real enthusiasm for the season ahead.

Occupying the seat of the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, is one of rallying's most promising up-and-coming young talents. Evans' breakthrough performance in 2013 saw him elevated to the top of WRC competition. The Welshman showcased some impressive pace in the WRC 2 category, but it was arguably his performance at Rally Italia Sardegna which saw him stamp his authority on the world stage.

A world rally car debut is no mean feat, but when combined with unknown stages, an unfamiliar co-driver and a mere two days of preparation, the youngster's sixth place finish was a revelation which saw him join an elite group of 'rookies' to have impressed to such an extent on their world rally car debut.

Working closely with the team, Evans and Barritt will be given the opportunity to learn from their team-mates' expertise whilst refining their own pace and experience ahead of a prospective long-term campaign with the Cumbrian firm.

In 2005, Ford and M-Sport set out to create an effective 'Ladder of Opportunity' through which rallying's brightest talents might progress to the pinnacle of the sport. Evans provides a near-perfect example of that system in operation.

The youngster started his career with the Ford / M-Sport partnership in 2007, winning the Ford Fiesta SportTrophy series in both the UK and Ireland. Progressing from the Ford Fiesta ST to the globally successful Ford Fiesta R2, it was not long before he was a regular on the WRC stage – winning the 2012 FIA WRC Academy Cup with a dominant display on both gravel and asphalt. The WRC 2 category swiftly followed with some inspired performances behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R5, and in 2014, the Welshman will complete his ladder of success by lining-up for a full season in M-Sport's top-specification Fiesta.
Read the complete report here.

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Hyundai Showes Off its Colors / Citroen Recruits New Lineup of Drivers

Finally we get to see some eye-catching colours in a WRC car after a long time. Hyundai unveiled the livery of its i20 WRC, and after which most assembled at the venue carrying smiles around, perhaps even back home. Many of us from the online community too were mesmerised with the livery and were praising for the different looks of the machine. 

Partnered with Shell, the team will run under the name of Hyundai Shell World Rally Team.

Shell is delighted to be returning to the WRC in 2014 with Hyundai,” said Colin Abraham, Shell Vice President Marketing [Fuels and Lubricants]. “Shell and Hyundai have worked closely together to deliver a high quality product to customers around the world for more than eight years. We bring a genuine understanding of each other’s strengths to this exciting new team as the Hyundai i20 WRC prepares for its first competitive season.

We have seen it being evolved for sometime now, and now its colourful outlook. All we need to wait is for a little more than a month to see it in competition in Rallye Montecarlo.

We have worked tremendously hard to get where we are today and to be able to launch our new WRC team to the world,” said Team Principal of Hyundai Motorsport GmbH, Michel Nandan. “In less than one year, we have built and tested a brand new WRC-specification car, the Hyundai i20 WRC, and established a professional team and modern motorsport facility. It’s a huge accomplishment but we know that we have a lot to learn in our first season. Our aims for 2014 are realistic: we want to finish each rally with both cars and build up a database of information and experience so we can develop ourselves into prospective rally winners in the future. If all goes well, we will hope to be competing for occasional podiums as the year progresses.

Thierry Neuville is going to be a permanent driver of choice, as long as he delivers what he has been hired for, otherwise the new regulations states that there is no necessity to hold on to any one driver for more than 10 rounds in a season.

There is quite a long lineup of reserve or non-permanent seat on the no.2 car. Juho Hanninen, Dani Sordo & Chris Atkinson will take their positions in the game of musical chair in the rest of the season, starting from Dani in Montecarlo, later with Juho in Rally Sweden and Atko will drive in Rally Mexico & Rally Australia. The rest of the rounds will be decided individually later.

And lastly, if you are wondering what that 'N' stands for, it is for the first version of the WRC car developed at Namyang, Korea at Hyundai's R&D center. Also the Hyundai's Europe is intent to develop a road going cars in the 'N' series, with technology implementation from the WRC car, is what the Hyundai's official announced. They perhaps, wants to emulate the 'R' series of various manufacturer's, like Volkswagen's Polo R and also maybe like 'M' series from BMW.

Citroen Recruits New Lineup of Drivers

On the other hand, Citroen has changed the two main drivers' lineup to Brit's Kris Meeke & Norway's Mads Ostberg in the coming 2014 season. Although the official press-release is on 16th this month, they couldn't hold themselves and shared the drivers' lineup.

Abu Dhabi's driver Khalid Al-Qassimi will continue to drive in a third car for a few selected events and will concentrate for MERC in a Citroen DS3 RRC.

Now the M-Sport is left as a team to announce its line of attack, since Volkswagen has no intent to change their attack formula!
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Hyundai Motorsport - Official WRC Team Unveils Today!

In less than three hours, today [11.00 CET], Hyundai Motorsport GmBH is all set to officially unveil their World Rally Team to the world, with its lineup and attack strategy for the upcoming 2014 WRC season, and most importantly i20 WRC's livery! Although, most of us kind of know almost all of the info, but an official statement will pull the curtains to their original intent and formula the team will follow through, atleast its initial debut year.

The presence of their lead drivers [& co-drivers] Thierry Neuville, Juho Hanninen & Dani Sordo [?!] are most likely to be present along with their team principal Michel Nandan & Hyundai Europe's channel team. It is a definite question, whether their initial test drivers - Bryan Bouffier & Chris Atkinson will get to drive!? If not, atleast hoping to see them today. Lets end the speculation and see what they are upto in a matter of couple or more hours!

The event will be live streamed over the internet, and we too are showcasing here below.

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FIA - Rally World Updates, Jean Todt Re-elected FIA President & FIA Prize Giving Gala!

In purview of the upcoming season 2014 motorsport series, FIA HQ was busy with meetings in this week. Two important meets were in the interests of the rallying flavour. The first one, being the top level rallying championships' [WRC] minor changes in the season format.

We remember the last time the meeting was held, reportedly had the newly crowned World Champions leaving the meet unhappy. So maybe, this seemed like unanimously accepted. Below is the excerpts from the official news announcement by the federation.

FIA World Motor Sport Council - 4th December, 2013

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

The start order for both gravel and tarmac rallies has been amended as follows, in order to increase the show for fans and reduce the use of tactics:

Day 1: Provisional Championship classification order for P1 and P2 drivers
Day 2: Reverse provisional rally classification order for P1 and P2 drivers
Day 3: Reverse provisional rally classification order for P1 and P2 drivers

Cars having retired and restarting (Rally 2) will be placed the next day after the P1 and P2 drivers group.

In order to allow greater flexibility to contract different drivers, manufacturers will no longer be required to nominate one permanent driver for the season. Instead, manufacturers will be obliged to nominate one driver for a minimum of 10 Championship events.

To bring consistency to events and thereby aid the Promoter, rallies must now follow a fixed format. There will be a ceremonial start on Thursday, with the last stage run on Sunday at approximately 12:00 hrs for European events. The final stage is defined as the Power Stage, the length of which will be set at a minimum of 10 kilometres.

All competitors registered in the Championships – WRC, WRC 2, WRC 3 and Junior WRC - will be obliged to use a colour-coded windscreen sticker to promote and identify the category in which they are competing and scoring points.

It was agreed to rename all classes of eligible cars in order to harmonise the numbering with the other FIA Championships. Therefore, the smaller number will define the most powerful cars (RC1 being World Rally Cars).

Permanent competition numbers will no longer be allocated to P3 drivers competing in the support championships. Drivers wishing to request a permanent number for marketing or promotional purposes will however be able to do so. The restriction on the number of servicing personnel has also been removed and testing during the three weeks preceding an event is now permitted for P3 drivers.

The date for the 2014 Rally d’Italia has changed to 08 June.

RALLYING

In order to increase the presence of professional teams, new titles have been created in the FIA European Rally Championship; the FIA ERC Manufacturers’ Cup, the FIA ERC Manufacturers’ Cup for 2WD Cars, and the FIA ERC Manufacturers’ Cup for Production Cars. The best two cars of each manufacturer entered in the Championship will score points in the respective classifications. The existing team titles have been deleted.

Free Practice and Qualifying will be staged on all tarmac rallies, as well as gravel events, following the same regulations concerning the definition of the rally start order for the first day.

A Junior Championship will be created within the framework of the FIA European Rally Championship to create a genuine ladder between the ERC and WRC for young talent. Designed to be an accessible and cost-effective series for drivers under 25 competing in currently named R2 cars, the Championship will run over seven events with the best four results – including one gravel or snow rally – counting towards the title.

It is confirmed that the currently named R5 cars will not be eligible for points in the FIA African Rally Championship in 2014.

A new award for Teams has been created within the framework of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, increasing promotion and interest among teams and sponsors. To increase competitor participation, drivers must participate in a minimum of three rallies for the Asia and Pacific Cups.

The European Rally Cup has been renamed the European Rally Trophy (ERT) from 2014.

FIA WORLD CUP FOR CROSS COUNTRY RALLIES

If an opening Super Special Stage is run, a new system of determining the start order for the first leg has been introduced to give drivers the option of choosing tactical positions. The 10 fastest drivers will be able to choose from among the first 10 places, with the slowest driver selecting first and each subsequent driver choosing their position relative to those already chosen.

The scale of penalties imposed on competitors for speeding has been redefined in order to punish more heavily those competitors who consistently exceed speed limits.

The date for the 2014 Rallye OiLibya du Maroc has been moved to 09 October. Read complete report here.


FIA Annual General Assembly & Prize Giving Gala - 6th December, 2013

Today in the annual general assembly meet, Jean Todt was unanimously re-elected as the President of FIA for the second 4-year term, while C. Barbosa (Portugal) was elected as WRC commission President, and Robert. Reid (Great Britain) as Vice-President.
Read complete report here.

FIA Prize Giving Gala

Paris also hosted the Prize Giving Gala for the FIA series of events & championships of 2013 season's, in the evening after the Annual General Assembly.

Newly crowned WRC champs Sebastien Ogier & Julien Ingrassia, along with APRC's new champions Gaurav Gill & Glen Macneall joined to the hall of fame in their respective series.

Formula 1 champ, Sebastien Vettel received his third trophy, WTCC champ Yvan Muller his 4th, ERC champ Jan Kopecky and WRC2 champ Robert Kubica their first in Rally Championship, amongst a host of other champions.
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Hurray!! Toyota getting back to WRC, with Yaris in 2016!?

Toyota treats the World of Rallying with the much awaited news of returning back to WRC in the year 2016. Although this has not come from the Toyota's HQ in Japan, the German Motorsport outfit Toyota Motorsport GmbH [TMG] has already begun the preparation of developing for the WRC line-up. It will start with the RRC car, a close proximity to the top-level specification.

In the coming Spring season, the first prototype has been scheduled for tests and the German outfit is expecting a green-signal for the official manufacturer entry.

The whole of motorsport world is preparing with the world engine, aka, 1.6 liter direct injection turbo charged engine. Same is going on with the Toyota for a while now, and the engine is already under bench testing at TMG, and also has partnered with Motorsport Italia for the development of the rally car.

Last year in August, Toyota had announced the Yaris Rally car program and the same car was active this year around the world, especially in APRC.

Finally, the official announcement is at the onus of Toyota, Japan for the final nod.
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Fast & Furious Movie Series Star, Paul Walker [40] Killed in Tragic Car Crash

Paul Walker, the star of the 'Fast and Furious' movie series, was killed in a crash crash yesterday [Saturday, 30th November, 2013].

Walker died Saturday afternoon, Ame Van Iden told the press. His official facebook page updated, as below;
It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide. He was a passenger in a friend's car, in which both lost their lives. We appreciate your patience as we too are stunned and saddened beyond belief by this news. Thank you for keeping his family and friends in your prayers during this very difficult time. We will do our best to keep you apprised on where to send condolences.

Walker was in the area to attend a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's department said that deputies found a car engulfed in flames when they responded to a report of a collision in the community of Valencia. Two people who were found in the car were pronounced dead at the scene.

The Santa Clarita Signal reports a red Porsche crashed into a light pole and tree and burst into flames.

Walker was working on Fast & Furious 7 at the time of his death. He also starred in the suspense drama, Hours, which is set for release this month.
[excerpts from: theglobeandmail.com]

Rest in peace Paul Walker !

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