Based in the seaside resort of Salou on Spain’s Costa Daurada from 24-27 October, the unique event is one of the highlights of the WRC season and attracts tens of thousands of fans to its stages.
This year, rally organisers have reversed the 2012 order of the asphalt and gravel stages so that after starting out as a classic asphalt rally on the first two days, it will turn into a loose-surface event on Sunday.
Friday’s opening day has had a revamp too. The hugely popular ceremonial start in the Catalan capital Barcelona stays, run after shakedown in Salou earlier in the day, but this year it will be followed by three asphalt stages run in complete darkness and without a service break.
The night trio comprises the 21km Querol and 24km El Montmeil tests, last run in 2009, and ends with the 2012-spec 16km Riudecanyes stage, during which crews will be required to complete a high-speed donut - a full lap of the roundabout located 4.21 kilometres from the start.
On Saturday, crews will face another five race circuit-style asphalt stages in the mountains north west of Salou. After a second pass though Riudecanyes, they will tackle the daunting 42km El Priorat - the longest stage of the rally – and then the 26km Colldejou, which is last year’s Pratdip test run in reverse. El Priorat and Colldejou are repeated in the afternoon after a 30-minute service in Salou.
In a further change to the 2012 itinerary, the repeat of Colldejou (Stage 8) has been designated the rally’s Power Stage, where bonus points will be awarded to the fastest three crews. The day closes with a short blast around the mixed surface 2km stage in Salou that runs along the beach promenade.
On Saturday evening, the rally will begin its Jekyll and Hyde style transformation, and teams will have just 75 minutes to convert their cars from asphalt to gravel specification for the third and final day.
Sunday features a loop of three stages on the westernmost edge of Catalonia. All three featured in the 2012 itinerary and each will be run twice after a service in Salou. The loop begins with two all-gravel tests – Gandesa (7km) and Pesells (26km) followed by the 35km Terra Alta that features a mixture of asphalt and gravel roads.
After 15 stages and a total of 355 competitive kilometres, the winning car will cross the finish ramp in Salou at 1636hrs.
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