IRC Prime Yalta Rally preview : The competitors
4th round of the IRC championship
Fifteen headlining Super 2000 machines will be in action on the Prime Yalta Rally with Peugeot France driver Bryan Bouffier topping the 51-car entry in his 207 S2000. Bouffier won the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo but crashed out of the last round in Corsica. Determined to make up lost ground, Bouffier will be on a charge in Yalta.
Juho Hanninen tasted success on round two in Canary Islands but skipped the last event in Corsica owing to the factory Skoda driver’s restricted IRC schedule this season. The reigning IRC champion has become a potent force on asphalt and is set to shine in his Fabia S2000.
Partnering the ace Finn at Skoda Motorsport is Czech hero Jan Kopecky, who has finished second on the last two rounds to move five points adrift of title leader Freddy Loix. But with BFO Skoda driver Loix not competing in Yalta, Kopecky is well placed to move to the top of the drivers’ classification. However, to do that he’ll have to beat Thierry Neuville, the rising star of the IRC and the winner of the Tour de Corse in his Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg 207 S2000.
The 22-year-old Neuville, joint second with Kopecky in the drivers’ table, hadn’t originally included the Yalta Rally on his roster of events this year but opted to compete in the Ukraine at the expense of a planned appearance on August’s Barum Czech Rally Zlin. Rapid Briton Guy Wilks will partner Neuville in a second Kronos Racing-prepared 207 under the Peugeot UK banner. Both drivers are capable of challenging for victory.
Giandomenico Basso heads the three-strong PROTON Motorsports attack in one of the Malaysian-built Satria Neo S2000s. The Italian is vastly experienced and has won four IRC rounds in the past. Joining him in the MEM-run team will be Swede PG Andersson and Ukrainian Oleksandr Saliuk Sr. Saliuk, a former USSR rally champion, is deputising for his son Oleksandr Jr, who has been forced to stand down after breaking his arm. Evgeniy Chervonenko, the driving force behind the Prime Yalta Rally, will co-drive.
Italian Marco Tempestini, who competes under a Romanian licence in a Peugeot 207, is one of the few leading contenders with previous Yalta Rally experience and finished third on the event last season. Ukrainian Oleksiy Tamrazov is also no stranger to the Crimean roads and will line up in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000.
In addition to its brace of factory cars, Skoda will count on four other Fabia exponents: Skoda UK Motorsport’s Andreas Mikkelsen, TGS Worldwide’s Toni Gardemeister, Skoda Sweden’s Patrik Sandell and promising teenager Karl Kruuda, who starts his first IRC event in an S2000 car for the Estonian ME3 Rally Team.
IRC Production Cup
Homegrown talent Valeriy Gorban heads the IRC Production Cup entry in his Mentos Ascania Racing Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer but will face strong opposition from Yuriy Shapovalov, a regular podium finisher in Yalta. Gorban has impressed in the Production Car World Rally Championship this season and will be hard to beat. Anton Kuzmenko is the leading Subaru Impreza entrant.
IRC 2WD Cup
Honda Civic driver Martin Kangur, Eric Mauffrey and Jean-Michel Raoux are expected to run at the front in the IRC 2WD Cup, while Janos Puskadi will also be a threat in his Civic. Raoux scored class points on Rallye Monte-Carlo while Mauffrey had been due to compete on the Tour de Corse but failed to start after damaging his Megane beyond immediate repair in a testing crash.