IRC: Preview - Rally Russia

The Intercontinental Rally Challenge heads behind the former iron curtain this week for round six of the series, the Rally Russia.

Following the complex and narrow asphalt roads of Ypres, Russia provides a complete contrast with its wide and flowing gravel stages, which some drivers have compared to the classic speed tests of Finland.

This comes as no surprise given that the rally is based in Vyborg, which is less than 100 kilometres from the Finnish border.

The stages in Russia are mostly made up of compacted gravel roads, which can be as smooth as a motorway in the right conditions.

However, the surface can cut up after several cars have been through, exposing sharp rocks that are capable of causing punctures. These are often in evidence through the corners, where the competitors try to save time by cutting the ideal line in order to find the quickest trajectory.

Whereas Finland is well known for its rollercoaster crests, the roads in Russia tend to be flatter but no less spectacular.

The weather in Russia at this time of year is usually warm, but sudden rainstorms are far from unknown - and these can turn the rally on its head in an instant.

This unique mix of stages and weather, coupled with the risk of punctures, makes tyre choice even more complex than usual. But it is an event that tends to favour the usual gravel specialists: in particular the Finns, who are virtually playing at home. For the past two years, the winner of the Rally Russia has been from Finland.

Since joining the IRC two years ago, the Rally Russia has gradually expanded, and this year it is up to 15 stages and 223.45 competitive kilometres.

The start of the event takes place on the evening of Thursday 9 July from the podium in Vyborg, with an opening leg of four stages that ends late at night. For the first time night stages are set to be a feature of Rally Russia, adding yet another challenging element to what is already an extremely technical event.

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