- Sep 29, 2009
60 Drivers on the entry list, is nearly a new record for the traditional RaceDepartment Rally Championship. And the 60 entries are heading from snowy and cold Norway, to the spring of the Alsace region, the most eastern region on the French mainland. The stages will be run near and across the border to Germany, so tight bumpy roads near wine-grapes is a common sight. The weather forecast is mainly good, with some chances of rain on the last stages.
Rally Alsace consists of 11 stages, all run on tarmac. There is no wide roads in these areas, so it is vital to move away from the driving style from Rally Norway, and try drive as tight as possible, without any drifting, as that will just put tires on the grass.
This rally should fit the tarmac-specialists very well. As it is important to have smooth, effective driving, little, to none drifting and knowledge of the surface.
It couldn't be more difference between the last rally and this, and it will be very interesting to see if there are any drivers who will struggle with the difference on the first few stages.
Manuel De Samaniego and Sandro Pinho is the two big favorites heading into this rally. They have both shown extremely good pace on tarmac, and is expected to rise here as well, taking to fight for the win between them. However, coming back into the championship at the last round was Norbert Serban, and he did a very good effort in Norway, and could throw up a little surprise here on the tarmac. One should never forget Magnar Haarstadsveen either, but he is still in the R5 car, and is most likely to stay a bit behind the top WRC drivers, and pick up positions if they make mistakes.
Michael Nelson comes from his first ever stage win in RDRC in the last rally, and with that extra confidence, and a surface he should be a bit more accustomed to, he might throw himself into the fight for a podium position. Emil Pribanic in his RRC MINI, will most likely be right behind Magnar all the way, and just like Magnar, he will be there to pick up positions if the other drivers make mistakes. Torbjørn Withbro is coming into his first tarmac event in WRC-car and is not expected to star here. Dubravko Sparovec and Atilla Kiss however can do very well on the tarmac. Dubravko showed good speed at the end of Jänner Rallye, while Atilla Kiss is a very good tarmac driver. His brother Balasz Kiss is known as a very fast circuit racer, but in a RRC car, he have to fight with Pribanic and Haarstadsveen.
John Cunningham is as always a safe bet on setting steady stagetimes, and without mistakes he should be able to pick up his first points for the season.
First point for the season was something Erik Tveit got in Norway, he is joined by a second Polo in Alsace as Roy Magnes have swapped his Peugeot 208 R5 to a VW Polo WRC. It will be interesting to see if they can do well in Alsace.
In RDRC-2, there isn't much doubt about the favorites. Karl Raudsepp have won both events so far, while Miguel Balado is the only driver who have really pushed Raudsepp so far. Oscar Hardwick should do a better job on the tarmac, than on the snow. But in the old car, he should've had wider roads to make full use of it. Magnus Lindgren came back to the championship in Norway, and is expected to fight in the top here as well. He was the big favorite going in to the season. But missing out on the first round have really hurt his chances.
Other than that, we would expect the rookie Jon Grainger to be in the top as well. Tommi Ojala have a very good chance of some great points if he could stay on the road.
Norbert Leitner have been very steady this season, and it would not be a surprise to see him enter the top 5 for the third time this season.
We might also see some of the drivers that have struggled on the snowy stages earlier this season start to shine in France. We would not be surprised to see Stefano Cocco, Alex Albernaz or Sam McDonald getting well inside the points here, and with a perfect rally, anything can happen!