The Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse enters a new era this weekend. With more than 70 percent of the route being run for the first time, the 2016 event presents the WRC crews with a refreshing challenge.
Here’s an overview of what caught our eye when we completed the pre-event recce alongside the competing crews earlier this week.
Although the event isn’t blessed with the greatest number of stages – only ten across all three days of competition – the organisers have still created a rally that will be a big test of man and machine.
Long, long stages
Five of the tests touch around 50km in length and the 49.72km opener on Friday morning will provide an early wake up call. Anyone that’s snoozing in Acqua Doria – Albitreccia is likely to lose a chunk of time.
The locals describe the test (above) as a “mythical stage of the Tour de Corse” and the legendary hairpins at Pietrosella, Bellevalle and Albitreccia are particular highlights.
As you would expect in Corsica, straights are in short supply on this mammoth test. The first arrives after 5.8km and is only 400 metres long. The rest of the stage is a feast of twists and turns on both narrow and wide roads, most of which is run on a good-quality road surface and not the broken asphalt that has been synonymous with the route in previous years.
The key is in the detail
With stages that are so long and challenging, the amount of information that has to be harvested during the pre-event recce is enormous. And it has to be as accurate as possible.
The driver’s job is hard enough, but the pressure on the co-driver to deliver accurate and perfectly-crafted pace notes is huge.
British co-driver Seb Marshall, the man that will sit alongside Kevin Abbring as Hyundai gives its i20 R5 a competitive WRC debut in Corsica, told us that he has written 76 pages of pace notes for the 53.72km test that is used as SS5 and SS7 on Saturday (above).
And when the rally is described as the ‘rally of 10,000 corners’, that’s not strictly true. New Zealanders Hayden Paddon and John Kennard actually counted 4,836 corners during their recce.
A different breed of spectator
The 30.80km test that forms SS6 and SS8 on Saturday may be one of the shortest on the rally route, but the crews could come face-to-face with a different type of hazard in this one.
Between 17.5km and 27kms we spotted a number of cows grazing by the roadside (above) and the hope is that they won’t be there when the competitive action gets underway. After all, cows have a history of causing an upset in Corsica.
Four-time world champion Tommi Mäkinen had to withdraw from the event in 1997 when his Mitsubishi Lancer bumped into a cow on the second day, causing severe damage that couldn’t be repaired by his team.
As for the stage itself, it is a brand-new test that has never been used in the modern era and contains a bit of everything (below).
There are downhill sections, narrow and mid-width roads, bumps, abrasive asphalt and twisty corners that are supremely fast. This is a stage that typifies the challenge of the Tour de Corse.
Photos: Julian Porter