French rally legend Francois Delecour is hoping to contest some more rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this season following his successful participation on Rallye Monte-Carlo last month.

The 48-year-old ran as high as second overall at one point and set a fastest stage time before eventually settling for fifth position in a privateer Peugeot 207 Super 2000.

He is now looking to contest the IRC rounds in Corsica and Sanremo – where he has been a frontrunner in the past – after being impressed by the strong level of competition in the IRC in Monte-Carlo.

“I have to say that I was amazed by how quick the action is at the front,” said Delecour, who only had one day of testing before taking the start of the centenary edition of the rally in his Enjolras Sport-run 207. “It was faster and more competitive than even the Monte-Carlo rallies I have done before in the world championship.”

Now Delecour is eager for action again. “I would like to do some more, definitely,” he said. “Corsica could be a good rally for me; also Sanremo – but I love going on gravel as well.”

Scandola hopes for IRC return in Fiesta

Italian star Umberto Scandola is targeting a return to Intercontinental Rally Challenge action this year, at the wheel of the M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 he used on Rallye Sanremo last season.

Scandola’s introduction to the IRC came about when he formed part of the Abarth factory team from 2007, showing himself capable of podium pace after leading on the opening day of Rallye International du Valais in 2008.

However, his most famous moment was probably putting his Grande Punto S2000 into a pond on the Ypres Rally in 2006 when the IRC existed as a pilot series.

“I’ve got fantastic memories of the IRC and I’d like to come back,” said the 26-year-old Scandola. “I think we can do it as we have a good car and some good backers. Hopefully we should have some news soon: the first signs are promising. I’ve learned a lot and I think we could be competitive.”

Scandola was in contention for a points finish on Rallye Sanremo last September only to crash out of the event. He subsequently went on to claim the Italian championship’s Independents’ Trophy.

Entries open for Tour de Corse
     
Crews contesting Tour de Corse, round three of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, will be able to download entry forms from this Monday, 14 February, at the event’s official website, www.asacc.fr. The rally, which joins the IRC for the first time in 2011, runs from 13-15 May.

Skoda UK confirms Mikkelsen’s IRC schedule
    
Skoda UK Motorsport has confirmed Andreas Mikkelsen’s schedule of Intercontinental Rally Challenge events in 2011.

The 21-year-old from Norway will tackle the remaining rounds of the Eurosport-backed series with the exception of Rali Vinho Madeira, which forms round seven from 4-6 August.

IRC regulations allow crews to count their best seven scores during the season and while Mikkelsen insists he relishes driving on Tarmac, his team has chosen to skip the asphalt-based island rally.

“I learned a lot about asphalt rallies when I did rounds of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship in 2007, and since then I’ve had some good results on asphalt in both the IRC and the WRC,” said Mikkelsen, who posted an early retirement on last month’s Rallye Monte-Carlo after damaging his Fabia S2000’s suspension.

Mikkelsen will resume his bid for IRC glory on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles from 14-16 April alongside co-driver Ola Floene.

Importer interest increases with Skoda Sweden entry

The number of car importers contesting the Intercontinental Rally Challenge has increased following confirmation last week that Skoda Sweden will back Patrik Sandell’s seven-round programme in a Fabia Super 2000.

News of Skoda Sweden’s support of Sandell represents one of the biggest undertakings by the country’s importer in recent years. It brings to eight the total number of car importers actively engaged in a major IRC campaign this season.

“Skoda celebrates 110 years in motorsport this year so there’s a long tradition and lots of experience behind this venture,” said Henrik Svensson, Skoda Sweden’s press manager. “It will be very exciting to follow Patrik and Staffan [Parmander] this season and if they succeed this year the future could be very interesting."

Sandell and co-driver Parmander will begin their IRC bid on Tour de Corse, which runs from 13-15 May. Their car will be run by the Czech Republic-based JM Racing operation.

Gardemeister to double as team boss in 2011
    
Finnish driver Toni Gardemeister will double up as a team owner when he contests an expanded programme of Intercontinental Rally Challenge events in 2011.

The 35-year-old has made occasional IRC appearances in the past and took 10th overall on the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo last month.

Although his schedule of IRC rounds has yet to be confirmed, Gardemeister has confirmed that he will compete with his own team, TGS Worldwide Ou.

He said: “TGS is a new brand in motorsport, but it is based on many years of experience. All our mechanics and engineers have a great experience in rally and worked with me during a long time on different world events. I’m absolutely confident in their skills and sure that my team is the best way to realise all my future plans.”

Gardemeister has recruited Tapio Suominen (pictured left) to navigate him in place of Tomi Tuominen who has revealed plans to retire from competition. 

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