IRC news in brief after Rally Acores
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Mikkelsen ready for Tarmac challenge
Andreas Mikkelsen says he can see no reason why he can’t continue his successful start to the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge season when the series resumes on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés later this month.
Mikkelsen has yet to win a round of the IRC on asphalt – the surface used on round two of the 13-event campaign – but insists he has no preference for gravel over Tarmac.
“We are coming to Canarias in a couple of week’s time and the first rally on Tarmac,” said the 22-year-old ŠKODA UK Motorsport driver, who began the defence of his IRC title with victory on SATA Rallye Açores last month. “If I get a podium on the next rally I will be happy. I don’t prefer gravel any more, I prefer both.”
Mikkelsen and co-driver and fellow Norwegian Ola Fløene finished sixth overall on the Gran Canaria event last year, their first points of their title-winning IRC season.
Açores finish delights Al-Ketbi
The Middle East’s first full-time Intercontinental Rally Challenge driver Rashid Al-Ketbi says he learned "so much" by crossing the finishing ramp on SATA Rallye Açores last week.
Although the Skydive Dubai Rally Team star didn’t feature in the final classification following his retirement on Friday’s second day, he was able to restart on the final day of the event to gain vital knowledge of a European-style gravel rally.
"I have driven the ŠKODA since 2009 in the Middle East and I feel that I know the car quite well now; it is just a question to improve my driving to make progress," said Al-Ketbi. "On the Açores we had some small problems but then it was perfect for us, although these conditions with the mud and rain were quite difficult. Now I am looking forward to the Canarias and being on asphalt."
High demand for Canarias entries
The Intercontinental Rally Challenge heads to Gran Canaria for a third time this month with event organisers reporting a high level of interest from competitors planning to tackle the asphalt contest.
Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés forms round two of the 13-event IRC season from 15-17 March. With entries due to close on 2 March, event bosses say they have been "pleasantly surprised at having a long list of teams interested in participating" on the Las Palmas-based rally.
Among those set to take part on the event are Rashid Al-Ketbi, defending IRC champion and current title leader Andreas Mikkelsen, Hermann Gassner Jr, Oleksandr Saliuk, Oleksiy Tamrazov and Sepp Wiegand. Enquiries have also been received from Giandomenico Basso and Bryan Bouffier, while likely IRC 2WD Cup participants include Robert Consani, Harry Hunt and Janós Puskádi.
Organisers have also confirmed interest from last year’s runner-up Jan Kopecký although no confirmation has been forthcoming from the factory ŠKODA Motorsport team.
Peugeot S2000 switch for Swiss star Gonon
Florian Gonon, who finished runner-up in the IRC Production Cup in 2011, will step up to Super 2000 technology on three rounds of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this season.
The Swiss will contest the GEKO Ypres Rally, Barum Czech Rally Zlín and Rallye Sanremo in a Peugeot 207 Super 2000 that he will share with co-driver Sandra Arlettaz. Outside of the IRC, they will also tackle two events in their homeland.
Gonon’s latest-specification Peugeot will be run under the Annie Spiers Rallye Team banner in conjunction with the French preparation specialist Saintéloc. It will mark the end of Gonon’s four-year stint driving Subaru Imprezas.