Wednesday | 11 Nov 2015

Recce Notes: Wales Rally GB

It's November and we're in Wales, so it's muddy out there. And slippery too. In short, perfect conditions for a belter of a WRC season finale.

Earlier this week we took the recce car through the stages to see the challenge for ourselves. Here's what we found:

1: Special mud
It wouldn't be Wales Rally GB without mud. And this year's route has plenty. But as mud aficionados will know, this stuff is special. Forget the sort of deep squelchy stuff you would find in a ploughed field. The mud we encountered on the recce was more like a thin layer of slime. And after a shower it spreads like an oil slick right across the road - as you can see below. It's slippery stuff, especially if the road beneath is hard-packed and smooth.

2: Don't cut, logs...
Much of the route is on roads built by Natural Resources Wales, formerly the Forestry Commission, to enable logging trucks in and out of the forests. These hard packed shale and slate tracks are in excellent condition and most have been recently graded to leave them super smooth. To keep some of the soft edges in good nick, Natural Resources Wales have added logs and earth banks to deter corner cutting. The ones below are 29km into Hafren (SS1&SS4).

3: Other cuts, okay...
In other places corner cutting is inevitable. And from the picture below you can see why. Expect drivers to cut straight across this sequence, 19km into Myherin (SS3/SS6), to take the shortest route and use the road camber to catapult them around the corners.

4: The Myherin return
Back after a year off in 2014, this is a Welsh favourite for many drivers. In fact it's one of Jari-Matti Latvala's favourite stages in the whole championship. Set amid some stunning terrain, including forests, open moorland and the wind farm below, the road surface is unusually smooth and for the second pass it tends to polish and become extremely slippery.

5: Postcard perfect Orme
It might be only 4.75km long, but Sunday's Great Orme (SS18) packs a hell of a punch. Skirting the absolute edge of North Wales, the aptly named Marine Drive features jaw-dropping views and almost no margin for error. A stone wall on one side of the road and a rockface or pavement on the other mean mistakes rarely go unpunished. Just ask Sébastien Ogier who crashed here in 2011.

Pictures: Julian Porter & Jaanus Ree

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