2015 Wales Rally GB preview - Hyundai or Citroen?
Wales Rally GB, which will start today, traditionally is the last round of World Rally Championship. All the titles have been already secured (Volkswagen Motorsport and Sebastien Ogier), so the main question is which team will take the runner-up spot in the manufacturers’ classification – Hyundai Motorsport or Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT. French team will start the last round with four points more than Korean-German squad, so we can predict excitement until the last turn. Ford M-Sport also has mathematical chances, but they are 29 points behind Hyundai and only can dream about second place.
In a bid to maximise its chances, Hyundai has made a change to its line-up. Team leader Thierry Neuville has been rested from the main squad in favour of New Zealand’s rising star Hayden Paddon who will pilot #8 i20 WRC alongside Dani Sordo. “Wales Rally GB is a bit like a home event for me. Wales is where I competed in my first WRC round outside New Zealand, many years ago, so it is a happy hunting ground for me! Now we are scoring points for the team, we have to make sure we have a strong event and try to bring home good points,” said Paddon.
Citroen will compete with regular line-up: Northern Irishman Kris Meeke in #3 DS3 WRC and Norwegian Mads Østberg in #4 car. “I took part in my very first rally in these forests, so they are very familiar to me. We know what we have to do, we have to finish second in the championship. So we have to try and finish in front of our rivals,” said Meeke.
74 crews are on the entry list, with 17 WRC cars on the top of the list. 19 drivers entered WRC2 class competition, in which Nasser Al-Attiyah already took the title and will miss the event. Quentin Gilbert already took Junior WRC title, but still has to fight with Simone Tempestini for WRC3 class title.
The action begins today with shakedown at Clocaenog and ceremonial start at Llandudno. First special stage is scheduled for Friday morning (09.27 local time), with total of six stages that day. Nine stages are scheduled for Saturday and four more stages for Sunday. Total distance of 19 stages is 310km.
At this year’s Wales Rally organisers will celebrate 20th anniversary of Colin McRae’s WRC title success. The late McRace has won 1995 Wales Rally and secured his first and only world title. McRae’s cars will be on the show at service park, among them original Subaru Impreza 555 which was victorious in Colin’s hands.
British rally driver and multiple Rally America champion David Higgins will join the celebration with all-new NR4-spec Subaru WRX STI. Car #82 will carry distinctive livery that is reminiscent of the blue and yellow colours that adorned McRae’s title-winning Subaru two decades ago. The car has been built by British preparation specialist, JRM and is the newest production rally car in the world.
“It definitely brought a lump to my throat to see the car in its blue and yellow livery and I’m sure it will be pretty emotional when Colin’s father Jimmy waves us across the start ramp on Thursday. Colin was the guy that made drivers like me believe it was possible to make a career out of rallying and, along with Richard Burns who came along a little time afterwards, we have a lot to thank them for,” said David Higgins.
Photo: wrc.com, Citroen Racing