Although the route of Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship is not too dissimilar to the exciting adventure format trialled in 2011, the switch from a November to a September date is set to create an entirely new challenge.
While November was a cue for inclement wintry weather, warm and dry conditions could form the backdrop to this year’s rally, which brings the prospect of a faster and more spectacular battle for WRC glory over the 19 all-gravel special stages.
Following the Qualifying Stage at the Walters Arena complex on Wednesday afternoon, crews head north to Llandudno for the ceremonial start on Thursday evening, where the World Rally Car drivers will select their starting positions for Friday morning when the first special stage takes place.
It promises to be a frenetic opening day of competition with two passes over three testing forest stages, Dyfnant, Hafren and Myherin, awaiting the crews. With the shortest of these runs 20.48 kilometres in length, competitors will face a tough introduction to the rally, particularly as there is only an opportunity for limited service at a remote halt in Newtown.
Day two’s route takes competitors north from the overnight halt in Cardiff to the Crychan, Epynt and Halfway stages located within the Epynt military training ranges either side of a midday service halt in the Welsh capital. Rather than return to Cardiff following the second run through Halfway, crews will negotiate an all-new stage at Celtic Manor - a former Ryder Cup venue - on Saturday evening, which is expected to attract huge numbers of fans.
Sunday’s route is based towards Swansea, west of Cardiff, for three repeated stages, Port Talbot, Rheola and Walters Arena, separated by service in Cardiff. The final 14.90-kilometre Walters Arena stage will form the event-closing Power Stage from 13:23hrs local time.
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