Rd.8 Wales Rally GB

Production Car World Rally Championship
 
30 Nov. to 2 Dec. 2007

LEG THREE

And then there were four...
Toshi Arai Once Again Crowned P-WRC Champion

2 December 2007
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The final day of Wales Rally GB was just as trying for the crews as the two previous legs, howling wind and driving rain adding to the difficulty in the ever-deteriorating road conditions over the final four stages. After an initial entry of nine IMPREZA runners in the P-WRC, fewer than half would make it to the finish. It was a chilling indication of just how tough - over the entire three days - this Wales Rally GB was.

Some bright, sunny patches did occasionally punctuate the roiling skies, though only for short, intermittent periods - and that was during Service.

The day featured two passes of the legendary Brechfa and Trawscoed stages, each roughly 28 kilometres in length, for over 114 kilometres of competitive running. The first pass through the pair saw conditions that could only be described as frightening, with zero visibility for long stretches on both.

At the mid-morning Service, only five IMPREZA runners came in, Leszek Kuzaj having not started the leg, Evegeniy Vertunov going off the road into a ditch on SS14, and Spyros Pavlides ending his rally at the time control at the start of the stage.

David Higgins and Mirco Baldacci both moved up when Mitsubishi rival Armindo Araujo fell back on SS15; Higgins one place to fifth, Baldacci two spots to sixth. The pair would be the only SUBARU-equipped entrants to score points in the P-WRC in this car-breaker of an event. They and the three other remaining SUBARU entrants; Patrik Flodin, Loris Baldacci and Travis Pastrana, all reported treacherous conditions on the first pass of the Brechfa test (SS14), Flodin stating: "It was just crazy. Even with the wipers on full power, I couldn't see a thing. We had to slow a little because there was no way to see the road."

Travis Pastrana echoed similar sentiments with this comment: "We're just happy to still be in the rally! To be honest, we're not pushing as hard as we can because it's just so rough out there - and the rain has made it impossible to see where we're going."

The second run through the Brechfa and Trawscoed tests was no less difficult for the competitors as the rain came back with a vengeance on the now sodden stages, making not only visibility, but also keeping the car in the 'tram lines' - the deep ruts caused by so many entrants running over the soft ground - a difficult proposition.

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Nevertheless, there were changes in the order over the last 56 kilometres that saw no fewer than five retirements in the P-WRC last year. Loris Baldacci made a jump up to tenth on SS16 after the demise of Patrik Flodin on the same stage, the Swede suffering an event-ending three punctures so close to the end of the rally. Baldacci maintained the position to the end of competition.

Travis Pastrana was another to move up, from 14th to 12th on SS16 - and then one more position on the final stage of play. He ended his first visit to Wales Rally GB in a highly respectable 11th place, and will no doubt have been refining his pace notes for next year's event over the entire rally.

The season now officially over, the crews and teams have only a short winter break before the 2008 P-WRC season kicks off in Sweden on February 8th.

George Donaldson

STI Group N Project General Manager:
"It's been one of the hardest events of the year .We had our own local star here, David Higgins, holding up our end very nicely in the TaCK team entry for this year's event. Poor Patrik Flodin suffered three punctures on the second last stage and has retired. It's a bitter tragedy, and really a rotten end to his year. We do hope we see him back because we know he's a fast driver and we know he'll come good for us.

"Mirco Baldacci has managed to come back through and finish second SUBARU and score points. The next SUBARU up is his brother Loris, and it's nice to see him up there fighting.

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"A lot of attention was focused on Travis Pastrana this weekend - and rightly so because I think he did a great job. He did end up on SupeRally after slipping off the road a little bit, but that's hardly surprising considering the conditions on what is simply the most difficult event of the year - all power to the SUBARU Rally Team U.S.A. squad for picking the toughest events, and not opting for the easy ones. They didn't give themselves anything but hard work all year, and that's to be respected.

"On what is basically the swansong outing for our spec C IMPREZA, we didn't get the dream result, but two weeks ago we had an incredible result with Niall McShea in Ireland when we showed that our IMPREZA is very much up to the challenge.

"I think this year on this event we've been subject to the vagaries of the appointment system, with a huge number of very, very quick local drivers - who happened to all be in Mitsubishis.

"We've won four out of the eight rounds this year against Mitsubshi's three, - and I'm very, very happy about that performance. If there was a Manufacturer's Cup, we won!"


Toshi Arai Once Again Crowned P-WRC Champion

Japanese ace and veteran Group N driver Toshi Arai has taken his second world championship title in the Production category. Although he was absent from both this, and the previous event, Rally Ireland, Arai had enough of a points' gap over his rivals to safely make it to the end of the championship with a lead. In the end, he took the title by nine championship points.

2007 FIA Production Car World Rally Champion Toshi Arai:
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"I'm so happy to have won the title again. It seemed like it took a very long time and I'm relieved the wait is finally over. This year it was much tougher than in 2005 as there were twice as many drivers who could have taken the title. Not competing in Ireland or Wales, I was very worried because Mark is so strong on both those events. When he won in Mexico I knew he was the guy to beat, though he's not so consistent and that helped me for sure. Gabriele Pozzo too was right up there, and he's a very stable driver.

"This year, there were both young guys and veterans who were very, very fast so it's a great pleasure to have the title again in that kind of totally competitive environment.

"If I was to say what my favourite moment of the entire season was, it has to be New Zealand. I had such a fight with Niall McShea - it was incredible! Really, I had to push 100% - and more - every stage of that event. It's a favourite win of mine, and it's just fantastic to take the title after such a hard-fought battle all season long. I'm really looking forward to next season and the new car.


Pos Driver Car Name Time   Diff  
1 Guy WILKS Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:44:23.7 0.0
2 Juho HÄNNINEN Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:44:57.9 +34.2
3 Mark HIGGINS Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:46:10.2 +1:46.5
4 Alessandro BETTEGA Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:49:47.3 +5:23.6
5 David HIGGINS SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:51:32.8 +7:09.1
6 Mirco BALDACCI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:53:12.8 +8:49.1
7 Armindo ARAUJO Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4:00:48.9 +16:25.2
8 Štěpán VOJTĚCH Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4:02:31.4 +18:07.7
9 Andreas AIGNER Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4:07:01.2 +22:37.5
10 Loris BALDACCI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 4:14:28.3 +30:04.6