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.

Subaru WRT:

[Petter Solberg, car #7 and Chris Atkinson, car #8 [and Xavier Pons, car #17 - not nominated for manufacturers' points]]

Petter: We will push as hard as ever.

Petter Solberg believes that unsettled weather conditions could help him and the Banbury-based outfit to get a good result on the season ending, Rally GB.

Petter has only managed to notch up two podiums to date this year, but usually goes well in Wales. Indeed he took his debut WRC win back in 2002 on the event and then won it again in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Last year he finished third and another podium this time out would be especially well timed following another trying season, in which he has only managed to score 42 points, less than half of that achieved by Sebastien Loeb and Marcus Gronholm.

"Rally GB is the final round of the championship and we have always gone well there, so we'll be pushing as hard as ever for a good result," said 'Hollywood'.

"If it's typical Rally GB weather, wet with lots of mud on the stages, then those are the conditions I think we can go well on.

"It's the team's home event so they have lots of experience of the tricky conditions. Phil [Mills - my co-driver] lives close by so we always get lots of support."

Subaru World Rally team managing director, Richard Taylor meanwhile is eager to see Petter and his team-mates, Chris Atkinson and Xavier Pons deliver on what is their second home event.

"Rally GB, the closest to the team's Banbury base, has traditionally been a strong event for the team," he added.

"The team was testing in Wales last week and we hope we have achieved a set up which will be good in the tricky conditions and that will give all three of our drivers the opportunity for a good result."

Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally team:

[Jari-Matti Latvala, car #9, Henning Solberg, car #10 [and Matthew Wilson, car #16 - not nominated for manufacturers' points]]

Stobart team gunning for P3 in manufacturers'.

Malcolm Wilson believes that Ford's 'B' team, the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team, are in 'quite' a strong position going to Rally GB.

The Stobart squad moved back in front of Subaru in the manufacturers' championship on the recent inaugural Rally Ireland and following the teams strong run there, Wilson Sr reckons that they stand a very good chance of staying in front of the Banbury-based outfit and securing the 'bronze' medal.

Indeed Stobart Ford's two nominated drivers', Jari-Matti Latvala and Henning Solberg both have a lot of experience of the Rally GB and that will definitely be advantageous.

"The Stobart team are in quite a strong position now and I genuinely believe they can beat the Subaru team in Wales," Malcolm confirmed. "Both Jari-Matti and Henning have a huge amount of experience here which will count for a lot in the slippery conditions.

"They have also both performed very well on gravel this year so it would be fantastic if they can string it together and hang onto the place in the manufacturers' championship. Hopefully, too, they can help Marcus [Gronholm - one of Ford's 'A' team drivers] with his quest to win his first drivers' championship with the BP-Ford team."

Henning is feeling especially bullish: "I will be going flat out on this rally I promise you," he added. "All the Stobart Ford guys will be going hard, firstly for Stobart to be number three in the manufacturers' championship and secondly to help Marcus [Gr?nholm] win the drivers' championship; this is very important."

Munchi's Ford WRT:

[Luis-Perez Companc, car #11 and Federico Villagra, car #12]

Munchi's still high.

Following on from their breakthrough performance on the Rally Japan, the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team has got a taste for points heading to the final round of the WRC in Wales.

A fifth and seventh place finish for Luis Perez Companc and Frederico Villagra in Japan proved the first time either driver had finished inside the top eight this year.

It is a result that gives both plenty of confidence heading to the Rally GB, another event that is renowned for having a particularly high attrition rate.

However, while Companc expects the muddy stages to be akin to those in Japan, he accepts he will probably find things difficult on his event debut.

"This is my first time at this rally and I have heard both good and bad things about it. One thing for sure is that it will be very fast with the difficult weather conditions of rain, fog and of course mud," he noted.

"The stages should be similar to those in Japan and we had an excellent result there. This suited me very well and so hopefully we can have another performance like that on Rally GB.

"We will have a similar strategy to Japan but will probably start with more caution as it will be our first time on these roads and we just need to make sure our pacenotes are working at race speed. I have a very good feeling and high confidence after the last rally and generally I am quite happy with how the year has gone for us.

"We had a change of driver in the middle of the season and I think this made us stronger as a team and helped us all to achieve more experience of the rallies and the rally car. For sure this will help us in the future."

Villagra, meanwhile, comes to the event having just secured the Argentine Rally Championship title. He too though is anticipating a difficult rally with plenty of unknowns.

"We had a fantastic result in Rally Japan so I think my confidence on gravel is quite good at the minute," he continued. "If things are feeling good in Wales then we will try to push and aim for a good result again to finish off the year.

"The stages will be similar to Japan and although this is my first time on the roads, I have heard that they are very good to drive on. The only thing I am concerned about is the weather."

Suzuki WRT:

[Sebastian Lindholm, car #19]

Second outing for Suzuki SX4.

Suzuki's new SX4 WRC car will make its second appearance in the WRC this weekend, when the Japanese manufacturer takes in the Rally GB.

Nicolas Bernardi gave the SX4 WRC car its maiden outing in the WRC on the all-asphalt Rallye de France-Tour de Corse back in October and now fellow tester Sebastian Lindholm will drive the car in Wales, what will be another new challenge, as it will be its first competitive outing on the loose.

Like in Corsica though, Suzuki's main objective will be to get to the finish and bring back the maximum amount of data as it gears up for its first full season at the top level in 2008.

Speaking ahead of the event, Lindholm, who is a seven-time Finnish Rally champion, confirmed that he will take things sensibly, especially as the last time he did Rally GB was back in 1998.

"I feel very pleased that I'm going to create a bit of history by driving the SX4 WRC on its first gravel rally," he noted. "So far, our performance in testing has been promising but there's still quite a lot of work to do and that is why we are here on Rally GB.

"I like the car a lot, but I can think of some ways to improve it further and I will be trying those ideas out on the rally. It's been a little while since I have competed on this event, so I am going to make sure we get to the finish above everything else.

"I always have a very good feeling on gravel and I am sure we will do a lot of useful work here. That will be the key thing, rather than the overall result," he added.

Suzuki World Rally Team boss, Nobuhiro Tajima meanwhile is aware that GB is likely to be another steep learning curve, however he feels confident that the team is making progress step-by-step.

"Our mission in Great Britain will be exactly the same as it was in Corsica: to bring the car home in order to learn as much as we can for the future development of the SX4 WRC," he continued.

"If anything, gravel is an even bigger challenge than asphalt: we do not have so much experience on this surface with the car and the surfaces are a lot harder to predict. Wales Rally GB is a very difficult event.

"Sebastian must be careful and accumulate as much data as possible for us -this is the aim!"

Production Car WRC:

Pozzo still in contention.

Gabriel Pozzo could win the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship title this weekend providing he takes the victory.

Pozzo finished second last time out in Ireland and now lies 9 points behind Toshi Arai, who cannot add to his 39-point tally this weekend as he has already taken in all of his six nominated events.

Pozzo is likely to face fierce opposition though, not least from Mark Higgins, who looked set to win in Ireland until he rolled on the final stage on day 2 after picking up a puncture. Higgins though will have to bear in mind his BRC title aspirations and that may compromise him somewhat.

Of the rest, Andreas Aigner, Araujo Armindo and Juho Haninnen should all be strong contenders, as should 'wild cards' Guy Wilks and Gwyndaf Evans and David Higgins, who has taken over the TACK entry of Niall McShea.

Wilks, Evans and David Higgins, like Mark Higgins, will all be able to score PWRC and BRC points.

Stuart Jones meanwhile will switch to an MG Super 2000 Sport and in the process will make a bit of WRC history as he will be the first PWRC registered driver to use one of the new S2000 category cars.

"I am really excited to be using the MG Super 2000 Sport this weekend," said Jones. "The car is still very much a development project but MSD have plenty of experience in this game.

"Wales Rally GB is the one event this year where I have previous experience and I'm hoping that it will help us end the season on a positive note."

In total, 20 drivers' will be able to score PWRC points in GB, including Moto X star, Travis Pastrana, who won his second consecutive Rally America National Championship Series title back in October.

PWRC regulars such as Toshihiro Arai, #31, Fumio Nutahara, #35 and Nasser Al-Attiyah, #39 are not in action as it is not one of their nominated events.

Other significant entries:

Over 100 crews are due to start.

The Wales Rally GB once again sets the standard this year with the most competitors for a single round in the WRC.

Only two other events have managed to break into three figures this season, namely Finland and Germany, but GB betters both with 116 set to start.

All the manufacturer teams' will attend the event, although the OMV Kronos Citroen WRT will not field a #2 car for Francois Duval.

In total 25 WRC cars are entered with Sebastian Lindholm in the new Suzuki SX4 WRC, Jan Kopecky in privately entered Fabia WRC and JRC regular, Conrad Rautenbach in a Citroen Xsara WRC.

Mads Ostberg will also compete in a WRC car, using a Subaru Impreza, while Andreas Mikkelsen, Gareth Jones and Peter van Merksteijn boost the number of Ford Focus RS WRC cars entered to ten.

Of the rest, in addition to those competing for PWRC points, there will also be a number of BRC runners - 25 in total - four of which will be able to score points in both categories.

Six drivers' remain in contention for the 2007 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship, including Mark Higgins, Guy Wilks, Gwyndaf Evans, Wyn Humphries, Rob Swann and Phillip Morrow [see the RALLY UK channel on for further details].

Other notable names include 2007 FSTi champion, Barry Clark, who will use a Group N car, as well as Martin Prokop, who finished third in the JRC this season, Dani Sola and Tony Jardine.

All-in-all 32 nations will be represented, including teams from Australia, Barbados, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, the USA and Zimbabwe.


The rally is again based in the forests of south Wales, with the start and finish in Cardiff.

The service park has been moved from the edge of Swansea to a more central location in the city's marina area, about 70km from Cardiff.

The route is virtually identical with just Sunday's Trawscoed stage showing major differences - it will be used in the opposite direction to 2006.

Friday's opening leg is the longest and is centred on the Vale of Neath forests, including the classic Resolfen and Rheola tests.

Saturday's competition is located further north, close to the Epynt military land. The day ends with a spectacular test inside Cardiff's Millennium Stadium and, as in previous years, the arena's sliding roof will be shut.

The final leg takes competitors west to Brechfa Forest, notorious for being foggy and slippery.

Drivers tackle 17 stages in total covering 359.54 kilometres in a route of 1271.94 kilometres.

Last year:

Marcus Gronholm won the Rally GB last year, having led the event from the very first stage on Friday morning.

He eventually took the victory by over a minute, after Mikko Hirvonen and then Petter Solberg, the only two people who seemed able to take the fight to the Finn, hit problems.

Manfred Stohl secured the runners-up spot, 25 seconds up on 'Hollywood', while Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth for the Stobart squad. Xavier Pons, Chris Atkinson and Daniel Sordo came in fifth, sixth and seventh, while the final point went to Francois Duval.

There were a number of retirements, the most noticeable: Hirvonen, who retired post-SS3 due to roll-cage damage. Red Bull's Andreas Aigner also failed to finish after crashing out, as did Andreas Mikkelsen.