Two weeks after the inaugural Rally Ireland, the FIA World Rally Championship now heads to Wales for the final rally of the season.

Wales Rally GB is one of the classic events on the WRC calendar, and the varied nature of the gravel roads, coupled with the traditionally unsettled Welsh weather, also make it one of the toughest.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, Wales Rally GB gets underway on Thursday November 29 with a ceremonial start in the capital city, Cardiff, before moving 65 kilometres west to a brand new rally base at the SA1 waterfront complex in Swansea.

The rally consists of 17 stages, which total 359.54 competitive kilometres. The longest stage is Sunday's 28.89km test at Brechfa (SS14/16). The first car is due onto the finish ramp in Cardiff's Cathays Park at 15.10 (local time) on Sunday December 2.

Special notes:

The undulating forest tracks of South Wales always provide a stern challenge for drivers, and December's wintry weather is bound make conditions even more difficult.

The first stage of the rally, Port Talbot, is a revised version of the former Margam stage. Together with Resolfen and Rheola it forms the opening loop of stages which are run twice on Friday.

Resolfen features many surface changes and takes the crews 600m up Rhigos Mountain, so fog and ice could be a factor during the first run through the stage on Friday morning.

Rheola is no place for a mistake: it is fast, but contains some huge, intimidating drops off the side of the road. The stage also includes the fan-friendly Walters Arena section near the end.

While leg one takes place in the valleys of south Wales, the crews travel north to the fringes of the Brecon Beacons for leg two.

It includes two runs through a trio of well-known tests: Crychan, Halfway and Epynt, before the day ends with the 1.1km Cardiff Super Special held inside the Millennium Stadium.

In front of an expected sell-out crowd, the evening also hosts a Rally GB tribute show that will include the Championship winning 1995 Subaru Impreza WRC of Colin McRae and the 2001 variant in which Richard Burns clinched the 2001 Drivers' Championship.

The third and final leg comprises two runs through Brechfa and Trawscoed. These two long stages take place on a hard-packed surface, but while the former test is fast and features some long, cambered corners, the latter is much tighter and strewn with hairpins.

FIA World Rally Championship news:

Sebastien Loeb re-took the lead in the battle for the 2007 FIA World Rally drivers' championship following his victory on the Rally Ireland two weeks ago. Loeb now leads by 6 points, after Marcus Gronholm crashed out on the asphalt event and failed to score.

In the Manufacturers' championship, the BP Ford WRT secured its second consecutive crown, as the Citroen Total WRT is now too far back to make up the deficit.

Ford 'B' team, the Stobart squad meanwhile moved up to third - one point in front of Subaru.

As for the Production Car World Rally Championship, Gabriel Pozzo did enough to keep his title hopes alive by taking second place. He now needs to win this weekend though to overhaul Toshi Arai and secure the PWRC honours. Mark Higgins is no longer in contention.

News from the Manufacturers' teams:

Citroen Total WRT:

[Sebastien Loeb, car #1 and Daniel Sordo, car #2]

Loeb: Title the priority.

Sebastien Loeb has confirmed that he will be driving to finish on the Rally GB in order to ensure he picks up enough points to take the 2007 drivers' title.

The Frenchman goes to Wales, six points up on his arch rival, Marcus Gronholm and well placed to secure his fourth drivers' crown and equal Tommi Makinen and Juha Kankkunen, the only other drivers' in the history of the WRC to have managed that feat.

If Gronholm wins on Sunday, Loeb only has to bring his C4 WRC home in fifth, as while they would both end the season with 114 points, Seb would take the title on the count-back with eight wins to Marcus' six.

"Unless the event produces a big surprise, we probably won't be adding our names to the list of past winners of this event this time round," Loeb admitted. "I don't mind, however, if that means securing a fourth world title.

"We lead by six points, so we won't need to win at all costs. Should Marcus win, we will have to finish in at least fifth place to make sure of the title. That would put us equal on points but we have more wins to our name.

"We will consequently need to find a pace that permits us to finish inside the top-five. I don't enjoy driving to finish but, given the importance of the stakes, it's only logical," he added.

Loeb has done the Rally GB six times to date and it is one of the few events he has never won - his best results, two second places in 2003 and 2004 and a third place finish in 2005. He missed the event last year after his mountain bike accident, which forced him to sit out the final four events.

"The Wales Rally GB has never gone well for us in a WRC car," he added. "We didn't even start the 2006 event!

"However, the stages haven't changed much in recent years so I hope our absence last year won't be too much of a handicap. The way the Rally of New Zealand went suggests it shouldn't be."

Loeb's team-mate, Daniel Sordo meanwhile has only contested Rally GB once before and as such he has modest objectives for the Welsh event.

"Above all, I will be looking to finish," he stated. "It will be important for my experience to contest all the stages.

"I have only done Rally GB once before and that was last year with Marc [Marti - my co-driver] driving the Xsara WRC. Given that it was our first attempt, our times weren't too bad and I was pleased about that. I enjoyed the stages which I found to be rough and technical, with some very fast portions which put the accent on driving ability.

"I didn't like the fog, though. When you lack benchmarks on a terrain like that, it's difficult to be quick.

"We won't be under any particular pressure however, so I will also try to enjoy myself with the C4 WRC and post some decent times compared with our rivals who have more experience of the event."

BP Ford WRT:

[Marcus Gronholm, car #3 and Mikko Hirvonen, car #4]

Gronholm draws strength from Raikkonen comeback.

Marcus Gronholm has said that the way Kimi Raikkonen bounced back to win the Formula 1 drivers' title will spur him on this weekend in Wales.

Gronholm goes to the Rally GB, with everything to do after losing the lead to his arch-rival S?bastien Loeb in Ireland. He is now six points behind the Frenchman and must win in Wales and hope that Seb finishes sixth or lower to claim the title.

Gronholm, who has been given a clean bill of health after crashing in Ireland, knows he faces a tough task but he hasn't given up hope.

"It will be difficult to win the title but I have a chance and have to make the most of that opportunity. What happened in Formula 1 is a good example," he explained. "With two races left, Kimi Raikkonen had a big gap to make up to win the title - and succeeded.

"That's a big spur for me because for Finland to win both the Formula 1 and the WRC titles would be something special for my country. I don't feel under pressure because it is out of my hands now. All I can do is try to win the rally and hope Seb has problems."

The event will be an especially significant one for Gronholm, as it will be his last outing in the WRC before he hangs up his helmet for good and retires. Rally GB will also mark a milestone in his career, as it will be his 150th start.

Gronholm is not so concerned with that or winning though, his focus is on taking his third drivers' title.

"This is my 150th WRC start so it would be great to mark that and my last rally with a victory," he added. "But it's the title I'm thinking about. I would swap a win for a top three finish and the title if that was all that was required."

Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile has said that the uncertain weather will probably be the 'biggest concern'.

He goes to the event with only one target and that is to do everything he can to help his team-mate and fellow countryman, Gronholm.

"All we can do is to try to finish in front of Loeb and do our best to help Marcus," said Hirvonen, who was fourth in Ireland, a result that helped Ford sow up the manufacturers' championship.

"The roads in Wales will be fast and slippery and after my win in Japan last month, I feel confident in those conditions.

"The uncertain weather is the biggest concern on this rally though. Some stages will be held entirely in the dark and if it rains or is foggy then it will be extremely tricky.

"I've not driven proper stages in the dark since the Monte Carlo Rally in January but when I began my rallying career in Finland there were plenty of night stages so I'm used to it. Our pace notes will be more precise than usual in case it is foggy in the forests so that's also a benefit for the night stages," added the 27-year-old.

OMV Kronos Citroen WRT:

[Manfred Stohl, car #5]

Stohl going for fifth points finish on trot in GB.

Manfred Stohl has promised that he will attack from the off on the Wales Rally GB.

Stohl's future in the WRC - and that of Kronos too - is currently uncertain following OMV's decision to terminate its sponsorship activities in international and national rally sports.

The Austrian, who has enjoyed substantial backing from the company since 2005, is therefore extremely determined to do well and the fact the season as a whole has not gone especially to plan - he has only notched up 12 points and had six points finishes - will also spur him on.

The signs for GB however are quite promising and he has scored points on the Welsh event the last four years in succession, including taking second in 2006, one of the best performances of his career.

"We will attack right from the start," confirmed the 35-year-old. "This rally suits me very much as is generally known.

"I scored points here four times in a row and last year we were even able to put pressure on eventual winner Marcus Gronholm for quite some time. Also, I have nothing to lose anymore this year."

Asked about the event in more detail, Manfred added that the final day could be especially significant and even though it features only four stages, with 114 competitive kilometres on the bill, it may prove crucial.

"I believe that this is the longest final leg in the whole WRC. There the result could be turned completely upside down," he continued. "One will have to stay focused right down to the last kilometre - and if it stays dry the extremely high speeds will be a criterion, as well.

"The rhythm of this rally nevertheless suits me and I'm eager to meet this last big challenge of the year."

For the record, Manfred will be the sole OMV Kronos Citroen WRT team car on Rally GB, as has been the case more often than not throughout 2007.

For more see Part 2 of our preview for the Wales Rally GB.