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IRC: Spanish debut beckons.

The Intercontinental Rally Challenge will hold its first-ever event in Spain this weekend, when competitors take in the all-asphalt Principe de Asturias Rally, based in the city of Oviedo - the birthplace of F1 star Fernando Alonso.

The Principe de Asturias Rally has run as a round of the Spanish Championship for many years, but this is the first time that it will count as a round in the IRC.

For the vast majority of the regular IRC drivers then it will represent a leap into the unknown and that will give the local crews an advantage, especially reigning IRC champion Enrique Garcia Ojeda.

The Peugeot Spain driver will be making his second appearance in the IRC this year, following his participation in the Barum Rally Zlin last month, and he is sure to be a strong contender for victory.

"This is the most charismatic round of the Spanish Championship," said Ojeda. "I love the atmosphere and there are always big crowds. I enjoy its stages, too. It's not as fast as the recent Barum Rally Zlin. The stages in the mountains bear Oviedo are narrower. It's more like the Sanremo.

"The roads give average grip and there are a few slippery, trickier portions. I know the stages well following my victory last year when the route was identical. I am fully aware, though, that my rivals in the IRC are all very quick. It promises to be very close. The first day will be particularly tough, with a menu of nine stages totalling more than 150 km."

Another Spanish contender making a welcome return to the IRC is former Junior World Rally champion Dani Sola, who will be present once more in a privately-entered Abarth Grande Punto.

They will both be challenged by other leading lights in the Spanish Championship, such as Miguel Fuster in an Abarth Grande Punto and Yeray Lemes in a Mitsubishi Lancer - all of whom are determined to use their local knowledge to upset the established order.

Joining them on this all-new event will be the IRC regulars fighting it out for the title, and they will find it difficult to know just how hard to push on unfamiliar territory.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Peugeot driver Enrique Garcia Ojeda. Rallye du Valais 2007. [Pic credit: IRC]
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