04 - 07 Oct 12
Categories:WRC, SWRC, WRC Academy
France’s round of the World Rally Championship was contained on the stunning island of Corsica from 1973 until 2008. But the event’s return to the WRC schedule in 2010 following a gap year wasn’t to the Mediterranean island and its unrelenting mountain roads but to the Alsace region of France in the east of the country.
Alsace is Sebastien Loeb country and it was highly fitting that the French ace secured his seventh world crown on a special stage run through the streets of his hometown of Haguenau when the region hosted its first WRC qualifier in October 2010.
With a base on the outskirts of Strasbourg, the rally utilised a remote service halt in the town of Mulhouse on day one, which quickly became swamped by enthusiastic spectators who gathered in there thousands. Indeed, the event’s central location - not to mention the Loeb factor - ensured a phenomenal turnout of fans on all three days.
While victory for Loeb was never in doubt, the inconsistent stage surfaces, mixture of narrow and fast sections and cold temperatures made for a challenging spectacle. Stages ranged from vineyard-based tests similar to those found on ADAC Rallye Deutschland, undulating forest roads, plus a 24-kilometre test through the Bitche military training area, before the final stage in Haguenau.
Last year’s route included several tweaks with the first two stages on Friday’s opening day run in an opposite direction. The remote service halt moved to Colmar, while Mulhouse played host to an exciting street stage. Two new stages were added to the itinerary on Sunday with Haguenau the location for the event-closing Power Stage.
Organisers are marking 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 October 4 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 former counting as the Power Stage on the second pass and 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 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 October 7.