The opening round of the Kwik Fit Pirelli British Rally Championship - the Pirelli International Rally - will feature a short, sharp format with the entire, 10-stage event, and the reconnaissance, all crammed into just 36 hours as the organisers strive to reduce costs for competitors while still providing an International standard event.

Deputy clerk of the course Alan Blake is the man charged with coming up with an acceptable schedule and he has produced an interesting format with some new twists to the well-known classic Kielder stages to meet the required criteria.

Stage reconnaissance will take place on the Friday morning and early afternoon before the event proper blasts off from Gateshead's Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts; the 7.30pm start timed to avoid the rush hour traffic that marred last year's event.

The normal, curtain raising city centre stage has been dropped and the rally heads straight to the giant Kielder complex for a batch of three stages before an overnight Parc Ferme in Hexham. Due to the later start time it is anticipated that at least one of these will run in darkness, giving crews the unaccustomed pleasure (!) of nighttime stages.

Saturday morning will see an early [7.00am] restart from Hexham, and a hectic, full day featuring seven classic Kielder stages interspersed with central servicing at the well equipped Hexham Auction Mart venue, before a 7.00pm finish back in Gateshead, the usual ramp formalities being followed by a raucous Pirelli after rally party.

In addition to the Pirelli International Rally, the weekend's action will also include the Pirelli Clubman's Rally, a one-day event offering some 60-stage miles, and a new innovation, the Pirelli Historic Challenge. This will run over both days, at the front of the field, and will give Historic enthusiasts the opportunity to drive the famous Kielder stages, which were for so long a feature of the Lombard RAC Rally.

As a bonus, this event will offer unique awards in the form of Pirelli's recently introduced 13" competition tyres.



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