And with Loeb - on the brink of world title number nine - announcing only a partial WRC campaign in 2013, the scene is set for an emotional four days of thrilling competition on demanding stages around host city Strasbourg.
Alsace has been home to France’s WRC qualifier since 2010 following a lengthy stint on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. While that event was characterised by its tight and twisty stages, Rallye de France Alsace is a thrilling mixture of forest, mountain, vineyard and urban sections with high speeds commonplace.
Organisers have marked the third anniversary of the move to the mainland with a revamped route that kicks off with a stage finishing near Strasbourg’s European Parliament building in the afternoon of Thursday 4 October following an autograph signing session and drivers’ parade in the city centre.
Friday’s route is based to the west of Colmar and features three stages each run twice, including the new Soultzeren-Pays Welch test, plus the day-closing standalone Mulhouse town centre stage.
Saturday’s action is made up of four repeated stages with the Pays d’Ormont stage measuring 43.45-kilometres in length, up seven kilometres from 2011.
The final day is a slightly more tame affair in comparison with crews covering 61.54 competitive kilometres. These include two passes of the Vignoble de Cleebourg and Bischwiller-Gries tests, the latter now running entirely on asphalt having featured a gravel section in the past. Loeb’s former hometown Haguenau will again host the event-closing Power Stage.
In total the rally will consist of 22 stages over a competitive distance of 404.14 kilometres, an increase of 20 per cent compared to 2011, with 44 per cent of the timed distance new. Strasbourg’s Zenith entertainment and conference venue again hosts the event headquarters, permanent service park and retail area, plus the ceremonial finish, which is scheduled for 16:00hrs on Sunday 7 October.
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