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Apr 28

Subaru announces Impreza R4 IRC bid

Danish ace Martin Knudsen is targeting an IRC bid with PROTON

PRi - IMAGE DOWNLOADPRi - IMAGE DOWNLOADSubaru will enter a brace of Impreza WRX STIs, conforming to the new R4 technical regulations, on selected rounds of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge for respected Japanese drivers Toshi Arai and Fumio Nutahara.

Arai, 44, will begin his programme on next month’s Tour de Corse-E.Leclerc before entering July’s Sata Rallye Acores, the Mecsek Rally in Hungary in mid-September, October’s RACMSA Rally of Scotland and the IRC season-closing Cyprus Rally in November.

Forty-seven-year-old Nutahara, meanwhile, will contest three events: Azores, Barum Czech Rally Zlin and Scotland. Both drivers will use Yokohama tyres.

The R4 regulations have been developed by the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body, to increase the competitiveness of Group N cars against the pacesetting Super 2000 machines. This has been made possible by allowing weight saving, improved cooling, enhanced engine performance and modified suspension.

Subaru’s participation in the IRC dates back to 2010 when it registered as an official manufacturer for the first time. As part of its involvement in the series, the company launched the Subaru Individual Award to support Subaru customers contesting the IRC.

Arai made his IRC debut on last June’s Geko Ypres Rally in an Impreza. Nutahara tackled his first IRC event on Barum Czech Rally Zlin last August in a Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer.

PRi - IMAGE DOWNLOADSubaru will enter a brace of R4-specification Imprezas in the IRC 

Knudsen aims for PROTON IRC chance

Martin Knudsen is aiming to become the first Danish driver to compete for a manufacturer-supported team in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

The 30-year-old former Danish champion is in talks with PROTON Motorsports about driving a third Satria Neo Super 2000 on the Geko Ypres Rally, which is due to run from 23-25 June.

Knudsen went on a fact-finding mission to Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles earlier this month where he met PROTON Motorsports team principal Chris Mellors with a view of tackling a programme of IRC events with the Malaysian make.

“It’s a big jump but I want to gain more experience by competing in the IRC and it has always been a dream to drive a Super 2000 car,” said Knudsen, who hails from Kolding in Denmark. “We have some of the money needed but by having these discussions we now have a target to aim for. PROTON is a small team where I know I can fit in and the Ypres Rally is probably the closest to the kind of rallies we have in Denmark with long straights and tight junctions.”

Knudsen first emerged as a star of the future when he won the Danish championship Talent of the Year accolade in 2002. He became Danish Super 1600 champion in 2004 and has tackled a selection of rallies in Belgium, France and Germany in recent years in a Honda Civic Type R R3.

 PRi - IMAGE DOWNLOAD
Danish ace Martin Knudsen is targeting an IRC bid with PROTON

Loix: IRC title still a strong possibility 

Freddy Loix is convinced that he can be a contender for the Intercontinental Rally Challenge title this season even though he isn’t currently scheduled to contest the final two rounds in Scotland and Cyprus.

The BFO Skoda Rally Team driver is three points adrift of Juho Hanninen in the IRC drivers’ classification following the second round of the year in the Canary Islands earlier this month.

However, because points and a half will be awarded on RACMSA Rally of Scotland and double points handed out on the Cyprus Rally, Loix fears he will be up against it in his bid to become the fifth IRC drivers’ champion.

“Definitely I try to win the championship but I know as well with seven rallies only on my schedule [my chances] will be quite limited because the last two events in Scotland and Cyprus are very important for the points,” said the 40-year-old Belgian. “I hope I can leave Sanremo, [which is currently scheduled to be my last rally in the IRC this year], close to the front of the points and that I can get some help from Skoda.”

Competitors can count their seven best scores from a total of 12 rounds. Loix and co-driver Frederic Miclotte are scheduled to contest seven rounds only.

Competitive team-mates helps Kronos

Kronos Racing boss Marc van Dalen says that having two competitive drivers in his team is helping to up the level of competitiveness of his squad in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Van Dalen’s operation manages the Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg entry of Thierry Neuville and Peugeot UK’s programme for Guy Wilks.

Neuville was a podium finisher on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles earlier this month in his Peugeot 207 Super 2000, while Wilks took third overall on Rallye Monte-Carlo back in January in a similar machine.

“I’m very happy to have two strong crews,” said van Dalen, who helped guide Nicolas Vouilloz and Kris Meeke to back-to-back IRC crowns in 2008 and 2009 respectively. “They are working very hard together like a real family. We open everything to each other and it helps the team improve, which is very important. I believe that both of our drivers can win this season.”

New online video content service for IRC 

The IRC has established a new online content distribution platform via the Eurovision-Worldlink system to distribute short videos to partner websites covering the IRC throughout the year. In order to offer exciting video content to their users, partner websites can register at www.rally-irc.com in the Media section/Video downloads or by going to this link:

http://www.eurovision.net/worldlink/front/view/mediaList.php?categ=51

source: ircseries.com, rally-irc.com

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