The countdown is almost over and Wales Rally GB is revving up to fire into life, with the new town centre Llandudno Service Park in place and the recce run ahead of the UK’s highly-anticipated round of the thrilling 2019 FIA World Rally Championship.
Wales Rally GB is one of the most traditional and invariably one of the most challenging events on the WRC calendar, with its 22 competitive special stages, totalling 194 miles, run against-the-clock through the spectacular and famously unforgiving north Wales scenery.
The speed tests will be tackled this year by more than 53 international crews, with a further 60 competitors doing battle on the supporting two-day WRGB National Rally – the latter includes the legendary Jimmy McRae who is competing in a classic Porsche 911.
The key to success will inevitably be preparation, and yesterday and today, the drivers and co-drivers entering the International event have been recceing the stages in road cars to establish a feel for the conditions and perfect their all-important pace notes ahead of the flat-out blast through the region’s legendary forests.
With just two further rounds in Spain and Australia remaining on the 2019 WRC calendar post Wales, battles for both Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles are reaching fever pitch. Ott Tänak (Toyota Yaris), Sébastien Ogier (Citroën C3) and Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20) are locked in a titanic three-way tussle for the former while Hyundai holds a slender lead over Toyota in the latter.
“Recce was good and there were not too many surprises,” acknowledged Ogier who is gunning for a seventh World Championship title and an unprecedented sixth victory in Wales. “Of course, there are stages we know, but there are some new sections and it looks like we are going to have the traditional conditions for Wales Rally GB. Shakedown tomorrow will be important to find the right set up and to be ready to fight for the win. The rally is exhausting for teams and drivers, but it has always been like this, so it is not a new challenge.”
Ogier is confident of a strong result for Citroen WRT and his title chances.
“Without playing with words, Toyota has been in a different category this year, but I’m always very optimistic and I like this rally. I feel comfortable on these roads, and I’m ready to push, try my best and put Ott under pressure.”
Local hero Elfyn Evans is another driver who has savoured victory in Wales. The M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver famously won in 2017 to become the first Welsh driver ever to win a World Championship rally. Having missed the previous three rounds through injury, he is desperately keen to make a winning return this weekend.
“Of course I`ll be doing everything I can to win, it’s what we are here for” says Evans.
“The recce has been good and the stages are looking excellent. It’s looking like the first real day (Friday) will be more tricky in terms of, let’s say surprises on the stages thanks to the conditions that we were perhaps not expecting, but overall, it’s been a pretty good two days”.
Next up will be the Shakedown at Gwydir Forest tomorrow (Thursday) morning, followed a high-profile Ceremonial Start on Liverpool’s historic Pier Head at 4pm in the afternoon. Crews then head straight for the Oulton Park circuit near Chester for the rally’s first competitive speed test under the lights on Thursday evening.
Three days of spectacular action in the Welsh forests follows before the winners are crowned in front of the teams and fans back in Llandudno on Sunday afternoon.
Tickets are still available via the official www.walesrallygb.com website, ticket hotline on +44 (0) 1492 817113 or at Venue Cymru ticket office.
The four-day World Rally Pass is the all-inclusive ticket for fans. It provides access to all the individual Special Stages (aside from Oulton Park) as well as Thursday’s pre-event Shakedown. It is priced at £123 for adults and comes with a desirable hard card and lanyard plus an event programme valued at £9. These tickets will need to be collected at Venue Cymru during the event.
Forest Passes offer a similar level of flexibility as the World Rally Pass but for individual days of the event. Again, they include an official programme and can be purchased in advance for just £38 for Friday and Sunday and £42 for Super Saturday – a considerable saving on Single Stage tickets costing £35 on the gate for all the forest tests or £20 for Colwyn Bay and the Great Orme.
Tickets for the family-friendly Saturday stage in Colwyn Bay are available now for £20 with, as for all stages, free admittance offered for accompanied children aged 15 and under. Full ticket information can be found on the WalesRallyGB.com website.
2019 WALES RALLY GB ROUTE
Thursday 3 October:
8:00* Shakedown: Gwydir
16:00 Ceremonial Start: Liverpool
19:08 SS1: Dayinsure Oulton Park Stage
21:17 Overnight: Llandudno
Friday 4 October:
07:18 SS2: Elsi 1
07:46 SS3: Penmachno 1
09:56 SS4: Dyfnant 1
10:53 SS5: Aberhirnant 1
13:07 Service: Llandudno
14:40 SS6: Elsi 2
15:08 SS7: Penmachno 2
15:57 SS8: Slate Mountain
18:11 SS9: Dyfnant 2
19:08 SS10: Aberhirnant 2
21:11 Service and overnight: Llandudno
Saturday 6 October:
08:06 SS11: Dyfi 1
10:08 SS12: Myherin 1
11:02 SS13: Sweet Lamb Hafren 1
12:40 Regroup: Newtown
14:08 SS14: Myherin 2
15:02 SS15: Sweet Lamb Hafren 2
16:19 SS16: Dyfi 2
19:13 SS17: Colwyn Bay
19:49 Service and overnight: Llandudno
Sunday 6 October:
07:28 SS18: Alwen 1
08:08 SS19: Brenig 1
09:26 SS20: Great Orme
11:10 SS21: Alwen 2
12:18 SS22: Brenig 2 (Wolf Power Stage)
13:32 Ceremonial Finish: The Promenade, Llandudno
*all times for first car and subject to change