The Rally of Great Britain, the final round in the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship, was officially launched on Wednesday (July 22) and Crash.net's
Rob Wilkins caught up with event co-ordinator Andrew Kellitt to get his thoughts on this year's 65th edition, which runs from October 22-25...Q:
What's the thinking behind this year's route?Andrew Kellitt:
It is really virtually a tidying up of last year's route. The whole format is very similar. In 2008 we moved north back into the Hafren and Sweet Lamb area for the first time in many years and that was a very big change. This year then it is just sorting that out and changing a few details.Q:
As you said there are only a few changes this year, but one of the bigger ones concerns the service park and the move to Cardiff.AK:
That's right. The special stages are very similar - but as you say - the major change is the fact the event will be based entirely in Cardiff this year for the first time with the service area down in Cardiff Bay.Q:
What is the rationale for that switch?AK:
It is to make it a big event all in one place. Swansea was very helpful to us and worked very well. But it meant the event became fragmented along the South Wales coast. It is much better for it to all be based in one place with the rally headquarters, service area and all the teams staying in one area. It should create a much better atmosphere.Q:
There will be 16 stages overall this year, instead of 19, as the super specials have been axed. Why has that decision been taken?AK:
Last year on the way back down on the Friday we ran in Walters Arena - just a short spectator stage - twice and that is not being run. We are not going to the Millennium Stadium on the Saturday either because of the time of year we are running the event. There is a pitch in [for the Rugby] and we can't have the use of the stadium due to that. But while we have lost three stages numerically, the actual competitive distance is only a few hundred metres different to last year.Q:
There are no night stages this year either…AK:
That is just due to the time of year we are running. The last few years by running in the first week of December there was not a lot of daylight around and so without running the event particularly late in the day it ran into the dark. Whereas in October, especially with Friday and Saturday running before the clocks change, which they do on the Saturday night, the event would have to run very late to achieve any darkness.Q:
Talk us through some of the other main changes for 2009.AK:
There are very little changes - just some small details. On the first day for example, Sweet Lamb has been extended so there will be much more to see from the main viewing area. They will be using the river crossing competitively and that doubles the amount of time in the main spectator area there.
On the Sunday, while it is shorter competitively to last year, there is no service between the two loops around Port Talbot and Rheola. That will make it a bit of an endurance test, as well as a speed test for the competitors. You can do 80 kilometres of stages maximum between services under the regulations and this is just 160 metres less than that limit. It is measured to fit.
Otherwise though, it is very similar and not a lot different to what we have had set up for a number of years now.Q:
Do you have any predictions for this year's Rallly GB?AK:
I don't think so. The way the world championship is building it is going to be a big fight. Sebastien Loeb
showed by taking the victory last year in Wales and having had a close battle with Jari-Matti Latvala
that he is certainly up to winning in the British forests.