Friday, 30 April 2010
The sunshine island of Gran Canaria has joined the 2010 IRC calendar after the loss of the Asturias rally on mainland Spain in September.
With only a short break for the teams after the two rallies based in South America, it was full steam ahead to get the cars prepared for the first all-tarmac rally of this year's IRC. With the recent travel issues due to the Icelandic volcano, many teams have had major challenges just to get team personnel, equipment and cars out to Gran Canaria.
Peugeot UK, however, decided to go out early to test on the fast, smooth mountain roads which will make up the fifteen stages of the 34th Rally Islas Canarias. The special nature of the roads on the island makes the stages more like a race track with wide, fast-flowing corners and very high grip levels.
Both Kris and Co-driver Paul Nagle spent Monday testing their Peugeot 207 S2000 on a special test stage in the hills near the island's capital Las Palmas. The test provided the team and Kris with the opportunity to fine tune the set up of their Peugeot 207 and get accustomed to the type of roads, ready for the start of the rally on Friday.
After Monday's test Kris and Paul then got on with the job of creating the all-important pace notes which they will use during the rally. To do this they are allowed to drive each of the special stages a maximum of three times, no faster than 80 km/h and write down detailed notes about each corner and any hazards etc. Paul will then use these notes during the rally to guide Kris through each stage as quickly as possible. Unlike a racing driver on a race track, a rally crew is not allowed to practice on the actual rally stages so the only prior knowledge comes from experience of an event or their pace notes.
The 34th Rally Islas Canarias begins with the Ceremonial Start in Las Palmas tonight before the crews tackle the first stages on Saturday. On the first day, a total of 382.81 km will be covered by the crews, of which 137.25 km will be on timed special stages. The first stage starts at 9am on Saturday morning with the rally halting for the night around 8:30 pm. A total of nine stages will make up Day 1 with the first three stages run twice. The longest stage is 29.95 km - the longest of the rally - and will be run only once.
Day 2, Sunday provides the crews with a total of six stages, totalling 84.34 km, but the crews will have to cover a further 203.24 km just to get to the stages. The Sunday stages are run twice, three in the morning and three in the afternoon, before the rally finishes on Sunday afternoon. By the end of the rally, Kris's Peugeot 207 S2000 will have covered a total distance of 670.39 km and tackled 221.59 km of special stages.
After the disappointment of Argentina, Kris and Paul are ready and focused on getting back into their winning ways. As this rally did not feature in last year's IRC, it will be the most open of the season so far. None of the IRC's leading drivers has driven this event before.
Kris, who is currently lying in fourth place in the drivers' standing after just three rounds, said: "It's going to be a very open rally because, apart from the local drivers, nobody has done this event before so nobody will have an edge. That will make it really interesting and a hard one to call in terms of the result."
"It's also going to be much the same as we experienced last year on some of the island events on the IRC: there are guys that always compete in their local Championships, and when you're going to compete on a very small island, there's not that many roads. It's quite clear that those guys will know their roads very well, but we're happy to go and to focus mainly on our IRC rivals. Obviously the local guys may come into contention, but it's up to us to try to steer that to our advantage."
Kris continues regarding the stages: "I think the road offers very, very good grip even when it's raining, and though the forecast seems to be bone-dry, I know the island can create its own sort of climate and it can get quite misty with the odd spot of rain here and there in the mountains, so even if it does get quite humid, I know there's a lot of grip there in the asphalt. There's not a lot of cutting off the edge of the road like other events - I think all 4 wheels have to be on the asphalt all the time, and it's very close to what we would call a circuit-type event, though every corner will be different."
A total of ten S2000 cars and drivers will join Kris in his Peugeot 207 S2000 and the 49 other cars signed up for this year's event. A total of thirteen manufacturers will be represented across all the classes, with six Peugeot 207 S2000s battling for a Peugeot victory.
Follow the day-to-day progress of Peugeot UK and Kris Meeke in the Rally Islas Canarias via the team's Twitter link www.twitter.com/PeugeotNews, web-based rally radio hosted on the Peugeot.co.uk website and all main rally websites and, for iphone users, the free-of-charge Peugeot sponsored irally App.
Coming soon from Veloce! Kris Meeke Intercontinental Rally Challenge Champion by Simon McBride.
Kris Meeke – protégé of rally legend Colin McRae – and Peugeot UK won the Intercontinental Rally Championship in their rookie year. From the disastrous opening round in Monte Carlo, to the ecstasy of winning the San Remo Rally and the championship in the same weekend, this is the chronicle of a driver destined for greatness. More info.