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With a run of orthodox and well established European rounds of the world championship coming up in the next few months, teams are now anxiously waiting for details of China Rally, round 10 of the 2016 WRC.

Didier Auriol competing in the 1999 China Rally in the factory Toyota Corolla World Rally Car. (Photo: Maurice Selden)

Already specific details of the event are late (the official Rally Guide was due out 10 days ago, the regulatory four months deadline ahead of a WRC rally), but teams have been shown the proposed route and timetable, for advice.  

The special novelty is that this event is now all asphalt (the 1999 rally was gravel), but there are only two and a half stages which are the same as in 1999, having been sealed some time during the last 17 years.

In 1999, the only time the series has been to the country, the WRC teams at the event were Toyota, Subaru, SEAT, Mitsubishi and Ford, and none of the current WRC teams have been active in the Asia-Pacific championship, which has been active in China in recent years.  

One of the team representatives confirmed:  “I think the event will present big challenges because a lot of the guys working for teams haven’t been to China before.  The way of life there, the way things work there, the way they operate as a country and people is very different to how it happens in Europe.  

“Chinese is one of those languages you can’t even take a guess at when you see a road sign.  We all come to the events and the majority of our people have normally been at each event for at least two or three years.  

“You know where to go for dinner, you know where the hotels are, you know where the local service areas are. This time, and far more challenging than the return last year to Corsica, we don’t know anything about where we’re going.  

“That shouldn’t be seen as a negative because I think the event is very important and I think going to new places is very important.  We all just hope they can put on a good show.   

“The route looks okay, it is relatively compact which I think is positive for the first time you go there.  You don’t want to be too ambitious for the first time.  We hope it will be a successful rally, all the stages run, the event works and then we can look at increasing the wow factor, but it is important just to have a good first event.”

The teams are going to have the chance to find out things for themselves at the end of May for a week when the team managers can have a look around, check out at the hotels, look at the service areas and the stages, collect information so they can get an idea what we’re going to see when they get there for the rally.  

Teams can meet the organisers and the representatives of their brand in China to get some activation on how to promote the rally.

As for the suitability of the early September calendar date for the event, this will depend on when the containers with the teams’ special long-haul equipment from Mexico and Argentina will get back to the teams’ bases.

The later date assigned this year to Rally Australia, the fourth and last long haul event of the year, make logistics easier for China.
 
Martin Holmes, May 19, 2016

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