IRC ace Wilks predicts incredible Ypres Rally
- 18th June 2010, 8:33am
Wilks, 29, has been forced to skip the Belgian round after sustaining two fractured vertebrae when he crashed at high speed on the IRC-counting Rally d'Italia-Sardegna earlier this month. However, he says he will be keeping a close eye on proceedings in the historic market town and the stages in the surrounding countryside.
"For the neutral, it's going to be a classic event," said Wilks. "It's great for the IRC to be back in mainland Europe and look at the entry list! There are so many cars on the event, it's incredible. It's going to be an incredibly competitive event. It's got everything going for it: great entry list, great stages, fantastic geographical location and a hell of a lot of interest. It's just a pity I'm looking on from the outside."
While the IRC regulars will be in action in Ypres from 24-26 June, Wilks will be continuing his recovery at an oxygen chamber in Middlesbrough, a short journey from his home in County Durham, UK. A decision on when he will return to IRC action will be made in the coming weeks.
Stephane Sarrazin will return to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge when he enters the Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium from 24-26 June.
Sarrazin, who finished fourth on the IRC-opening Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo in January, will drive a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 prepared by the French PH Sport concern and with logistical support from Kronos Racing.
The 34-year-old Frenchman, who started a solitary Formula One Grand Prix in 1999, took up rallying in 2004 and quickly established a reputation as a Tarmac expert. He takes part in the IRC qualifier less than two weeks after competing in the Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race.
"I've been concentrating on Le Mans recently so I've not had chance to think about it but I always enjoying driving rally cars so I'm excited," said Sarrazin, whose best finish in the IRC so far was the third place he achieved in Monte Carlo in 2009.
Sarrazin will link-up with regular co-driver Jacques-Julien Renucci, who also hails from France.
Japanese legend Toshi Arai will make his Intercontinental Rally Challenge debut on the Geko Ypres Rally next week at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX, run by British firm Prodrive.
Arai, 43, is a regular on world championship rallies and is a two-time winner of the Production Car World Rally Championship (PWRC) title. He is using the Belgian event to build his experience of driving on Tarmac, the surface used for two rounds of this year's PWRC.
Daniel Barritt, his British co-driver, said: "To be honest the result isn't of major importance and we've got no real aspirations of where we'll be at the finish. Toshi just wants to get a good feeling with the car on asphalt and get some experience of driving on Tarmac under his belt because he hasn't done a Tarmac rally for quite a while. I've got an idea of the characteristics of the roads but we'll both be doing the rally for the first time."
Arai's FIA priority seeding means he will carry the number six on his Impreza.
Burcu Cetinkaya will use a test in Belgium on Monday (21 June) to complete her preparations for the Geko Ypres Rally, her second of seven planned appearances in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this season.
The 29-year-old from Turkey has competed on the event twice before in a two-wheel drive Ford Fiesta. Next week's rally will mark the first time she has rallied on Belgian soil in her four-wheel drive Peugeot Sport Turkey 207 Super 2000.
"Ypres has not been the best rally for me because I have crashed on both visits," said the Istanbul resident. "It's a very hard rally because there are lots of grip changes. We have done some testing [on asphalt] in France but those roads were not very typical of what we will find in Belgium. Hopefully the test we do on Monday will help me to prepare. It's also the first time we have used the Yokohama tyres on Tarmac so it's important we get familiar with the tyres during the test."
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