M-Sport Academy crews ready for Rally de España

As the FIA WRC Academy embarks on the season finale at the RACC Rally de España next week, there is still much to fight for.

With four drivers in the running for the final podium positions and the Co-drivers’ Championship still up for grabs, the WRC Academy is once again poised to provide some of the most intense and close-fought rallying in the field.

As the only true ‘mixed-surface’ event on the calendar, Rally de España will see the crews put all they have learn into practice as they combine the art of gravel rallying with the precise lines and technique required for competition on asphalt.

With the gravel stages on the first day of competition interspersed with sections of Tarmac, the crews will have to have their wits about them as they strive to keep their pace and rhythm amidst continuous changes of grip and driving style.

Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Smyth, Ford Fiesta R2
Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Smyth, Ford Fiesta R2

Photo by: xpb.cc

As the rally moves to the hills north of Tarragona, the challenges of dual surface rallying are replaced by wide circuit-like roads that pose a challenge in themselves.

With the wide roads and flowing corners demanding expert precision, the prospect of rain could also make the Tarmac treacherously slippery.

After securing the title on the previous asphalt outing in France last month, Elfyn Evans will be free from pressure and keen to prove his pace once more. The Welshman will have a new co-driver next week in the form of former WRC Academy competitor Sebastian Marshall.

The duo are currently competing behind the wheel of an M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta R1 at the Rallye du Condroz-Huy in Belgium to perfect their partnership and gain extra seat time ahead of the final round in Spain.

One of four drivers gunning for the runner-up spot, Brendan Reeves returns to Europe hungry for his first victory as part of the WRC Academy.

The Australian’s sister and co-driver, Rhianon Smyth, is also a firm favourite to take the co-drivers’ crown – a feat which would make her the first woman in history to secure an official WRC championship (other than the WRC Ladies’ Cup which ran from 1990-1995).

Since the previous round in France, the pairing have been competing in their homeland and will boast 40 supporter names on the bonnet of their Ford Fiesta R2.

Embarking on his home-event, Jose Suárez is another favourite for the runner-up spot and his first WRC Academy victory in front of his home crowd.

With the smooth circuit-like asphalt suiting the Spaniard’s driving style – and an improved performance on gravel – Suárez will be one to watch throughout the two-day event.

Co-driver Candido Carrera will also be hoping home advantage pays dividends as he fights for glory in the Co-drivers’ Championship.

As one of the most impressive new-comers to the WRC Academy, Pontus Tidemand is also capable of claiming the runner-up spot next week.

With two podiums to his name and an ever-improving performance on Tarmac, the Swede will be aiming for another strong result as he chases second place and navigator Stig Rune Skjærmoen seeks the coveted Co-drivers’ Championship.

Preparing for the season finale, Tidemand drove a Ford Fiesta RS WRC at the 2013 Swedish Rally Championship preview in Stockholm and strengthened his fighting spirit by contesting the NGK Masters Scrap-car race in his native Sweden.

Also in contention for the runner-up spot, John MacCrone will be looking to build upon his impressive performance on asphalt this year. With two podiums from two Tarmac events, the Scot will be looking to do one better next weekend.

Navigator Stuart Loudon is also in the hunt for the co-driver laurels and will be preparing by swapping the pacenotes for the pedals as he contests his second rally behind the wheel on the final round of the Scottish Tarmac Championship at Crail this weekend.

Looking for his first and long-awaited podium of the season, Timo Van der Marel is another driver looking to impress next week.

Partnered by experienced co-driver Erwin Berkhof, the Dutch driver has been tantalisingly close to the podium on numerous occasions this season and will be looking to make his presence known as the WRC Academy embarks on the season finale in Spain.

Fredik Åhlin will be hoping to end his season on a high next weekend. Since France, the Swede has been continuing his work as an instructor for Audi Driving Experience and will be aiming for his first podium finish of the year.

Åhlin and co-driver Morten Erik Abrahmansen were hoping to complete a gravel test ahead of the Spanish event, but as the Scandinavian winter came in early this year, the duo have been working on their fitness and ensuring that they are mentally prepared for the challenges ahead instead.

Making his debut in the WRC Academy, Aron Domżała and co-driver Kacper Pietrusiński will be hoping for a good finish on their maiden WRC event next week.

Using the rally to compare his speed against some of the most impressive young talents in the sport, the Pole will gain a wealth of experience as he looks into the potential of competing on the world stage in 2013.

Fresh from competing on the asphalt roads of the Po 22 Rajdzie Dolnośląskim in Poland, the youngster is relishing his maiden drive in the WRC.

Brendan Reeves said: “We have a little bit of experience from rallying in Spain – we were here for the Pirelli Star Driver programme in 2010 and we did a pre-Portugal test in the north of Spain earlier this year.

But when it comes to the stages, this event will be completely new to us.

“The dual surface will certainly be a challenge. We’ll do the Academy test on gravel which will prepare us for the first day, and we are coming off the back of two Tarmac rounds so hopefully the feeling will still be pretty fresh for the second day.

“The first day will have the odd section of Tarmac, but for us it will be less about set-up and more about preserving the tyres.

You can get a lot of oversteer driving gravel tyres on Tarmac sections – and the stages seem to be quite twisty – so you have to be careful not to completely destroy the rubber.

“I am really looking forward to the battle for second place. Jose [Suárez] will be hard to beat on his home event, but we want to win and second in the championship is our goal.”

Jose Suárez said: “I am looking forward to competing at my home event and our goal will be to get second place in the championship. Of course if I can win, I will push for it, but second place overall is our main aim next week.

“Having both gravel and Tarmac on the same event will be hard. You must protect the tyres as there could be a lot of wear, but we will all have to face this challenge.

“I am looking forward to the second day of competition as this sort of smooth Tarmac is my favourite type of rallying. I will want to go flat out when we get to the Tarmac stages, but I must keep my head.

Candido [Carerra, co-driver] is always telling me to keep it calm and I will need to listen to him on this event as we really want to finish second in the championship.”

M-Sport

shares
comments
On Rally Spain Volkswagen will use cars of the Group’s Skoda brand for the last time
Previous article

On Rally Spain Volkswagen will use cars of the Group’s Skoda brand for the last time

Next article

Maxi the MINI ready to take on gravel and tarmac in Rally Spain

Maxi the MINI ready to take on gravel and tarmac in Rally Spain
Load comments
How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers Prime

How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers

After winning his eighth WRC title, Sebastien Ogier has drawn the curtain on his full-time rallying career. To understand Ogier's legacy, many of his former rivals, team-mates and colleagues have shared their thoughts on a vastly successful career

WRC
Nov 26, 2021
Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies Prime

Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies

Richard Burns was a determined driver who took on the best rally drivers in the world during a boom period in the early 2000s, and beat them. On the 20th anniversary of his crowning glory in winning the 2001 WRC title, and 16 years on from his death on the same date, we pick out his 10 greatest drives

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion Prime

The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion

At the turn of the millennium, WRC was full to the brim with rallying's great and good - and 20 years ago on this day, Richard Burns became England's first world rally champion. Although Burns' natural talent drove him to the top, his steely determination and mental strength was the key attribute behind his title-winning form

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
How Ogier emerged from Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend Prime

How Ogier emerged from Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend

OPINION: Adding an eighth WRC title to his name, Sebastien Ogier has bowed out from full-time rallying in style. Having been compared throughout his career with nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb, Ogier has convincingly demonstrated that he can stand on his own as one of the greatest rally drivers in history

WRC
Nov 22, 2021
How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend Prime

How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend

This weekend's Rally Monza marks the end of an era in the World Rally Championship, as Sebastien Ogier prepares to bring down the curtain on his full-time career with an eighth title. For all his enduring success, the Toyota driver reveals in an exclusive interview that lingering insecurities have compelled his quest for perfection

WRC
Nov 18, 2021
The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC Prime

The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC

The McRae family name is steeped in rallying history, with eight British titles between Jimmy, Colin and Alister - plus the small matter of the 1995 WRC title too. Next on the conveyor of talent is Alister's 17-year-old Max McRae, who’s setting out in Australia to conquer the world of rallying and return the famous name to the WRC...

WRC
Nov 12, 2021
Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era Prime

Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era

As the World Rally Championship undergoes its biggest shift in regulations for a generation, teams are taking radical measures to prepare for its new era. Hyundai's unique approach involved conducting a private 1500km rally in Italy and Motorsport.com went to see how the team is preparing for 2022

WRC
Nov 4, 2021
How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain Prime

How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain

While all pre-event chat focused on the two World Rally Championship title fighters, their closest challenger charged into the spotlight on Rally Spain. Thierry Neuville's star turn and another strong drive from Elfyn Evans in his fight with Sebastien Ogier made for an intriguing event as the 2021 campaign nears its crunch point

WRC
Oct 18, 2021