Wales Rally GB 2017 set to be the most thrill-packed event ever

Reporter:

Patrick Glover

The World Rally Championship (WRC) event returns to North Wales from Thursday as the world’s best drivers battle it out through the Welsh forests and surrounding towns.

For the first time ever, the Tir Price Raceway in Towyn will stage a Thursday night curtain-raiser to the packed four-day schedule.

This year’s event heads into Denbighshire and Powys again and sees the welcome reintroduction of the super-tricky night stages – on Saturday – before again concluding in Llandudno.

The Rally Village will again be located alongside Toyota UK's engine manufacturing plant in Deeside, Flintshire and will be home to all the teams for the duration of the world championship event.

Fans will be able to watch the crews bring their cars in to be repaired and serviced in their dedicated service areas as well as enjoy a full schedule of entertainment.

Thousands came out to welcome the stars and cars to the heart of historic Chester in 2016.

The crews return to Chester city centre from about 6.45pm on Friday October 27, en route back to the Deeside Rally Village.
A world-class field of 77 international cars, representing 22 nations, will be lining up to compete against the clock on the 21 gruelling special stages, all but two of which are set in the forests.

It’s the biggest international field since the rally moved to a new base in North Wales in 2013 and is topped by no fewer than 14 of the new-era, more powerful WRC cars.

Crews are coming from as far afield as New Zealand, Japan, South Africa and Argentina to contest what is predicted to be one of the most exciting and challenging in recent years.

It could also be the fiercest-fought in memory as the first 10 rounds of the 2017 series have produced six different winners, meaning that the title race will still be raging when the teams arrive in the UK.

Eyes will be on Cumbrian-based M-Sport’s new recruit, Sébastien Ogier, who currently heads this season’s points table, as he aims for his fifth Rally GB win to close in on his fifth world title.

He will face tough competition from rivals Hyundai Motorsport star Thierry Neuville and fellow Fiesta ace Ott Tänak who also enjoyed podium finishes at this event last year.

To rewrite the record books, Ogier will also have to overcome the most competitive field yet.

For the first time this season, Hyundai Motorsport is fielding four of its latest i20 Coupe WRCs for Neuville, Hayden Paddon, Danni Sordo and new signing Andreas Mikkelesen.

Back in the WRC for 2017, Toyota has entered a trio of Yaris WRCs for Jari-Matti Latvala, Juho Hänninen and young gun Esapekka Lappi. Latvala and Lappi are already among this year’s winners.

Citroën has also returned to the WRC fray with a factory-team and its three-pronged attack includes local hero Kris Meeke, Irishman Craig Breen and Khalid Al Qassimi, from the United Arab Emirates.

Ulsterman Meeke won in Mexico in March and finished second in Wales two years ago.

Both he and Welshman Elfyn Evans, who lines up in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC, are hoping to become the first home winner since Richard Burns last sprayed the champagne back in 2000.

Other notable entries include an encouraging number of British contenders in the R5 class.

Among these are Callum Black, David Bogie, Tom Cave, Matt Edwards, Gus Greensmith, John MacCrone, Euan Thorburn, Matthew Wilson and Rhys Yates.

Other notable entries include an encouraging number of British contenders in the R5 class.

Among these are Callum Black, David Bogie, Tom Cave, Matt Edwards, Gus Greensmith, John MacCrone, Euan Thorburn, Matthew Wilson, Rhys Yates and Rhos-on-Sea’s Matt Edwards.

Another legendary rally family name is on the entry list, too, with Jimmy McRae contesting the main event for the first time since 2004.

The five-time British rally champion and father of the late Colin McRae joins 2016 FIA 2WD European Rally Champion Chris Ingram in a pair of Opel ADAMs supported by the ever-enthusiastic Network Q dealer group.

Adding yet more diversity and interest, enthusiastic amateur crews with nationally-registered machinery have been allowed to join the main WRC event for the first time.

As a result, the entry list boasts the return of much-loved Subaru Imprezas, Mitsubishi Lancer Evos, plus a pair of Ford Escort Mk2s.

More than 80 amateur crews have registered for the accompanying WRGB National Rally – which shadows the main event–  eager to seek a once-in-a-lifetime experience to compete alongside the best drivers in the world. A full capacity 160-car entry is all set to provide some spectacular entertainment.

Fans wanting to catch the World Championship action can take advantage of significant savings when buying their tickets in advance.

Adult ticket prices start at just £10 for the first stage at Tir Prince, £23 for the family-friendly RallyFest at Cholmondeley Castle, £28 for a day ticket or £99 for the full four-day event pass.

All tickets (excluding Tir Prince) include free parking and an event programme priced at £9. Accompanied children aged under 16 are admitted free of charge.

Full details of the 2017 Dayinsure Wales Rally GB including route, timetable and ticket information can be found on the official website, www.walesrallygb.com

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