IRC Prime Yalta Rally preview : The challenges
4th round of the IRC championship
in store for the Intercontinental Rally Challenge when the 12-round, all-action series heads to Ukraine next week for the Prime Yalta Rally.
Based in the country’s Crimea region, the event is well established but joins the IRC for the first time in 2011 with a demanding asphalt route.
Yalta etched its name in history when it hosted the wartime conference between the governments of the United States of America, United Kingdom and Soviet Union to agree Europe’s reorganisation following World War II in February 1945. Now, Yalta is better known for its Mediterranean climate, stunning backdrop provided by the Ai-Petri Mountains and a glamorous waterfront on the north coast of the Black Sea.
The Prime Yalta Rally stages are typically fast and flowing, not uncommon with the undulating asphalt roads found in the south of France and similar in places to Tour de Corse, which hosted the IRC for the first time earlier this month. Road surfaces are generally smooth with a good line of sight into the corners that should enable drivers to push to the maximum.
Jean-Pierre Nicolas, the IRC’s Motorsport Development Manager and former top-line rally driver, has completed a reconnaissance of the route. He said: “It’s a proper driver’s rally, with the sort of roads that enable you to find a good rhythm, which is still quite fast. The corners are a lot more open than they are in Corsica, so this is a rally that should appeal to the usual asphalt specialists. But you have to be committed and have very precise pacenotes.”
Nicolas has been to visit the Ukrainian stages twice before, but never at the time of year the rally will be held. The weather remains a question mark, but conditions are expected to be on the whole dry and warm with ambient temperatures in the region of 22 degrees centigrade and no rain expected. The asphalt is not especially aggressive, which should minimise tyre wear.
The Crimea region of the Ukraine has a healthy tradition and interest in motorsport, which means that tens of thousands of spectators are expected to pack the stages. With the event brand new to the bulk of the IRC regulars, it’s not just the asphalt experts who will be able to make the most of this opportunity.
Unusually, the stage action begins prior to the ceremonial start overlooking Yalta’s Black Sea shoreline. Two short stages will take place on the afternoon of Thursday 2 June prior to a spectacular waterfront start that will be attended by a number of Ukrainian VIPs and dignitaries.
Friday’s action is made up two loops of three repeated stages separated by service on Yalta’s waterfront. The longest is the 28.95-kilometre Orlinoje test located south west of the city. Saturday’s route features three repeated stages again split by service in Yalta. The first car is due to finish at 15:22hrs local time on 4 June following a total of 14 stages over a competitive distance of 261.87 kilometres. A closing ceremony, complete with fireworks and a party will bring proceedings to a close on Saturday evening.
All drivers competing in Yalta will be in contention for the prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy, which is awarded on all rounds of the IRC to the driver whose performance best embodies the spirit of the rally legend.