The rally is based in Sebastien Loeb’s native Alsace region, and with this scheduled to be the Frenchman’s last WRC outing before retirement, the scene is set for an emotional four days of competition on the demanding stages around host city Strasbourg.
That emotion, however, won’t dampen Loeb’s determination to round off his career with another win. Meanwhile his arch rival Sebastien Ogier - poised to take the 2013 world title next week - is also out to seal the deal with a victory. This is the fourth and final Seb versus Seb encounter this year, and it’s shaping up to be the best yet...
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.
Organisers have made a number of tweaks to the 2012 itinerary, and have reduced the competitive distance by 22.76% to 312.14 kilometers, arranged over 20 stages, from an overall total of 1247.80 kilometers. One constant is Strasbourg’s Zenith entertainment and conference venue, that continues to host the event headquarters, permanent service park and retail area.
The rally gets underway on Thursday 3 October, with a morning shakedown in the Hautepierre quarter, an autograph signing session and a drivers’ parade in Strasbourg city centre, before the competitive action kicks off in the afternoon.
After a successful debut in 2012, the first test is the Strasbourg Super Special that finishes near the European Parliament building. This year’s stage features an extra 920m section to provide better viewing conditions for the crowds of spectators that are expected. Breaking with rally closing tradition, organisers have made this Super Special the rally’s bonus-point Power Stage.
The action continues on Friday 4th October, when the drivers will set out on the Bas-Rhin and Vosges roads to tackle a loop of three stages to be covered twice, split by a 30-minute service. Of the trio, the 34.34km Vosges-Pays d’Ormont stage is the most modified since last year, and is around ten kilometers shorter with a completely new section through the Raids pass in Ban-de-Sapt.
On Saturday, crews will face the longest day of the rally, with 134.93 timed kilometres on roads in the Haut-Rhin region. The challenge begins with the classic Hohlandsbourg-Firstplan and Soultzeren-Pays Welche stages followed by a shortened (16.72km) version of the The Vallée de Munster test. The stages are repeated after a service break before the day-closing standalone Mulhouse town centre stage.
Sunday's final day is a slightly more tame affair in comparison, with crews covering six stages but just 56.58 competitive kilometres on a route almost identical to 2012. Loeb’s former hometown Haguenau will again host the final stage before the crews return to the Zenith in Strasbourg for the finishing ceremony, scheduled for 17:00hrs.
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