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Round 11 of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship is Wales Rally GB (4-7 October) run as usual extensively on forest tracks and based at the Deeside central service park.  The start is at a holiday facility at Towyn, near Rhyl and the finish will be at an artificial jump on the finishing line of the final stage at Llandudno.  The rally sees a continuation in the close championship fights for both the Drivers’ and the Manufacturer’s series. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), Ott Tanak (Toyota) and Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport Ford) have recently drawn well clear of rival drivers, while Toyota Gazoo Racing pulled five points ahead of previous leader Hyundai Shell Mobis on the preceding WRC round. A major feature is again the dispensation from the FIA allowing the supplemental points Power Stage not to be at the final stage, which is the out-of-character all-asphalt Llandudno stage, but the orthodox forest Gwydir stage held earlier in the final day. Main novelty on this 74th time the event has been run is using recent UK legislation allowing the closure of public roads, an option which is being cautiously trialled.  Friday and Sunday are spent in the north of the Principality, Saturday in mid Wales. Special feature of the Friday route is the double run at the short spectator friendly Slate Mountain, stages 5 and 6 at the Zip World Slate Caverns near Blaenau Ffestiniog.  Midday service on Friday will be at Deeside and there is remote service on Saturday at Newtown. The event is being run three weeks earlier than last year.  It is uncertain if traditional cold damp conditions will give way to dust on the roads! A total of only 60 entries have been accepted for Wales Rally GB.  This number includes 11 cars accepted under special National Car rules for non-homologated cars (including one Mark 2 Escort) and around 10 drivers who are competing for the concurrent final round of the national British Rally Championship.   Only two cars entered by Citroen Racing (Ostberg and Breen).  There are only 11 World Rally Cars, 14 cars in WRC2 and four in WRC3. Total of 24 R5 cars are entered, almost half the fully homologated car entry. In the ongoing battle for the WRC2 title, Skoda Motorsport has entered only Pontus Tidemand for his sixth out of seven permitted entries this year (his rival Jan Kopecky, the championship leader, has entered five to date and won each time).  The team has not yet announced their plans for entries in the two remaining WRC rounds. Nearly 80 crews have entered the national supporting event which is held over the first two days of the WRC event. Only forests in the region of north Wales administered by Conwy Council have been selected, including stretches of closed asphalt public roads.  These are Clocaenog, Brenig, Penmachno and Gwydir forest stages. The new legislation allows closure of roads within the town of Llandudno,  providing an extension to the stage at the special asphalt tourist road around the Great Orme promontory.  The new rules further allow the closure of the closed gravel public road on the Elsi stage, where the rally route goes straight across the historic Sarn Helen Roman Road at a crossroads. The legislation permits the lengthening of stages where adjacent forest areas are individually small, as in north Wales, but close attention will be paid whether the new permitted use of short connecting stretches will adversely alter the character of the event. There will be only limited use of chicanes on the stages.  As for the last two years there is a chicane on Sweet Lamb to slow the cars down before the narrow bridge over the river. There are three chicanes on the Great Orme Llandudno stage; two are again at the Great Orme stage, designed to slow the cars down before corners with large drops, the third chicane is in the town section. The other main feature is the decision to revert the WRC event to being part of the national MSA British Rally Championship.  Even if David Bogie wins both rounds (Thurs/Fri, then Sat/Sun), Matt Edwards will only be denied the title if he finishes lower than sixth on one event and eighth on the other. Llandudno resident Edwards needs 11 points to win the championship, Scottish driver Bogie needs 50. Team By Team news Citroen Craig Breen’s fire in Turkey is initially assumed to have been due to a leak in the catalytic converter but investigation continues. The team continues with their plans as they still have a spare car. Reason why Mads Ostberg and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi were stopped when the turbochargers failed was to protect the engines from damage, the cause of which is still being investigated. No other unexpected technical surprises from Turkey. Ostberg stopped because of a broken steering rod. One day test in Wales for Breen, Ostberg and Sebastien Loeb. Only entries for Ostberg and Breen who are driving their Rallye Deutschland cars. No special technical changes. Nineteen previous Rally GBs between the drivers, but no overall wins, but Breen has two class wins.   Hyundai No technical surprises in Turkey apart from damage from the condition and except for a faulty part which caused the failure in Thierry Neuville’s top strut mounting. It was a broken driveshaft which forced Andreas Mikkelsen to drive in rear wheel mode. Each driver had one day testing in mid-Wales the week before the rally. Notwithstanding the earlier calendar date for the event, the traditional wet and slippery conditions are expected. Neuville and Mikkelsen have their Finland cars, Hayden Paddon has a new car (chassis 15). No major technical changes compared with Turkey. 22 Rally GB entries among the drivers, no overall wins, but one class win. M-Sport Roughness was the sole reason for all the problems in Turkey, notably Ogier’s TCA and Evans’ cracked differential casing. For WRGB Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen both had one day testing in Greystoke Forest in Cumbria, Sebastien Ogier had a two day test in Wales. All three drivers will use the same cars as in Turkey, which means without the latest aerodynamic appendages and the team had eight days in Dovenby to reprep the cars. No technical changes for this event. There is a lot of WRGB experience in the team with 18 entries among the drivers and outright victories for their drivers in the last five years (one for Evans, four for Ogier) and three class wins. Suninen has never before driven a World Rally Car here. At the news that Ogier had decided to move to Citroen in 2019, the team thanked him and his co-driver for two years of pride in what they had achieved together.   Toyota The team in Turkey were very busy making precautionary changes and was relatively fault free. Latvala was allowed to have a different (newer specification) engine because he had not finished in Finland. The originally high ride height setting was intended, as a precaution rather than a set-up error. Lappi’s gearbox change proved to have been unnecessary and the team confirmed the crew personally watched helpless as their driverless car slid 15 metres downhill and suffer damage colliding with a tree, which prevented them restarting. All drivers have new spec engines in WRGB. Each driver tested in Wales the previous week to the event. Wet and muddy conditions are anticipated for WRGB. The same cars as used for the Finland event. Twenty-five previous entries for their drivers and two class wins.
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