Next week will see yet another action-packed rallying event as the FIA World Rally Championship heads towards the Mediterranean coast and Spain’s Costa Daurada for the first of two back-to-back asphalt events – RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España.
The event is paired with the Rally de France, kicking off one week later in Corsica, and the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team welcomes the return of last year’s superstars Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila who rejoin the team for both Tarmac tests. In Spain the pair will be reunited with former team-mates Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin as the two crews look to post some solid results and collect a strong haul of points for the Stobart squad.
After what has been an impressive show of speed this year with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, Latvala will be keen to post a points finish on the second proper asphalt event of the year after missing the opportunity in Germany by one position.
The 23-year-old showed phenomenal speed on the sealed surface with the team last year by claiming the first ever podium of his career on the newly featured Rally Ireland. Currently lying fifth in the Drivers’ Championship the young Finn will be looking to advance on this placing as crews roll onto the first stage next Friday morning.
With several weeks break since the previous WRC round in New Zealand, Wilson will be hungry to get the ball rolling once again in Spain. In preparation for the event, in addition to his habitual fitness regime, the young Brit has spent a day with renowned driver coach Rob Wilson fine-tuning his Tarmac skills. The 21-year-old will also contest the Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally tomorrow in an 05-specification Ford Focus RS WRC where he will come up against a raft of rallying superstars including four former World Rally champions.  
Rally Catalunya will again be based in the Catalan region from the tourist town of Salou with Rally HQ and Service Park based at the holiday theme park resort PortAventura. Last year the always unpredictable weather conditions washed out the ceremonial start which is once more planned for main street Salou next Thursday evening at 20:00.
The event made its mark on the world championship in 1991 and since then has evolved to become one of the fastest asphalt events in the championship. Despite its speed, it is the twisty and technical sections which have been known to catch out even the best crews as big cuts on the corners spray gravel and dirt across the hard surface. Pirelli’s PZero control tyre should cope well with the conditions though after proving its worth in WRC Germany.
Another feature to this event along with its seaside location are the huge spectator numbers that flock to see the world’s best handle their state-of-the-art WRC machinery. In addition to the rally the Stobart duo will make a public appearance at a special charity auction for the WRC-affiliated Richard Burns Foundation on Thursday evening in Salou.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“This week I have done five hours of asphalt training with one of Finland’s top touring car drivers on a race track and there are quite a few things I have learnt, especially with my braking, which I know I can use on the next two Tarmac rallies. I did the same training 12 months ago only this time I feel like I have taken a lot more from it. This WRC season started on Tarmac and on a new tyre and my confidence was not perfect and in Germany I felt the pressure after my accident in Finland but now I actually feel quite relaxed. I have also been doing some drive days for Ford in a Fiesta and a Focus ST over the past few days and OK they are not rally cars but I was able to practice what I learnt from the touring car which is more time and practice for me. I’m looking forward to Spain and Corsica because I like these rallies and now I will have had more time with the Pirelli PZero tyre so I will be more familiar with its actions.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“It will be nice to go back to a consistent Tarmac event in Spain and hopefully things will stay dry for us. I prefer the nature of these stages to Germany as the roads are consistent over all three days whereas Germany there was a lot of variation. Being with Rob [Wilson] yesterday should be good preparation for the event. We are back scoring points for the Stobart team and I am sporting my lucky number 7 so looking forward to starting the event next week. The weather again will play a big part and if it is consistent and we can get off to a positive start during the shakedown I think a points finish is certainly on the cards.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“The Stobart squad has been strengthened by Jari-Matti’s return and I think this will give the team a really good chance to get some points and build on their great results from this season. Both he and Matthew have been preparing hard for the two Tarmac events and I know they are both focused on performing well over the next two weeks. If we have consistent conditions here in Spain then it will be to the team’s advantage and it will give the drivers more confidence to push from the start and I hope the energy from our young squad will really shine through into solid finishes on Sunday.”
Event Information
Date: 3-5 October 2008
Round: 12 of 15 FIA World Rally Championship
Based: Salou, Spain
Stage surface: Asphalt
Total stage distance: 353.62 km
Number of stages: 18       
Longest stage: El Priorat/La Ribera d’Ebre 1 at 38.27km (SS 7 & 10)
Central Service Park: PortAventura
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