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Weekend Rally Round-Up – March 17

After taking a breather last year while he recovered from illness, Marcos Ligato is back again and winning!

Last week saw his Chevrolet Agile MR taking the opening Argentina national championship round, the Toledo Rally run south-east of Cordoba, finishing 2.6 seconds ahead of the Fiesta MR car of Nicolas Diaz.

Seven different models of Maxi Rally car finished in the top 10 places.

Speaking of his year’s absence, Ligato said: “We retired when we were winning and we wanted to return by winning as well”.

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There will be a radical upheaval in the moribund FIA regional Asia Pacific Rally Championship this year.

Initial details released by FIA APRC Working Group president, Vicky Chandhok, has itemised the sweeping changes being made.

Essentially the 2019 APRC is not an orthodox championship series, instead it is a one-round shoot-out Finale event which is supported by two associated Cup series.

The Asia and the Pacific Cup series each have four rounds, the two Cups being each orthodox championships subject to standard FIA regulations. Eligibility for competing on the Finale depends on entering two Cup events.

Cars entered in Cup events are specially categorised, not according to standard FIA grouping and subject to new minimum weight rules. First Cup event will be the Pacific series Otago Rally in South Island, New Zealand.

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Nasser Al-Attiyah won the Manateq Qatar Rally, his home round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship in his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, the first victory for this type of car in an FIA championship rally.

He led from start to finish and was fastest on every stage. He finished over three minutes ahead of Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari.

Notable was that the top four co-drivers were all Europeans, while the top non-Arab driver only finished seventh. This was 54 year old former WRC Italian driver Stefano Marrini, still competing in a Mitsubishi.

Also, all but one of the finishers were given time penalties for deviations taken in the opening super special course.

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Forty-seven cars have entered the Portuguese mid-Atlantic Azores Rallye, opening round of the FIA’s regional European Rally Championship (21-23 March).

Special features of his year’s eight-round series will be the six round one-make Abarth Rally Cup, a series which starts in the Isla Canarias Rally in early May.

Series favourite is reigning champion, the Russian Alexey Lukyanuk.

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Former Hyundai WRC driver, Hayden Paddon, has a confirmed 2019 programme including NZ Rally Championship events and the new Global Rallycross series.

He said: “While we would obviously still like to be in the WRC, that is a decision that was outside our control”.

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Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 cars finished first and second on the first round of the French championship Le Touquet Rally, with Nicolas Ciamon finishing 13.7 seconds in front of Quentin Gilbert.

Third and fourth were the Citroen C3 R5s of champion Yoann Bonato and Stephane Lefevbre.

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Top five places on the opening round of the Swiss championship were taken by Skoda Fabia R5 cars. Winner of the Rallye Nationa Pays du Gier at Saint-Chamond was Ivan Ballinari.

More rally news:

In the beginning: 39 years of the Audi Quattro

Martin Holmes is widely considered as world rallying's most experienced, and most respected journalist. Martin covers the WRC, ERC and all major rally championships around the world.

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