BRENTWOOD, England - Qatar M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC crews will be hoping to continue their good form with another strong result at the Rallye de France-Alsace later this week.
As the final all-asphalt round of the 2014 World Rally Championship, the event offers a challenging route. From undulating forest tracks to fast country roads and steep inclines through the Vosges mountains, precision-driving and all-out commitment are a must.
Since the fixture moved to its current base in the north-east of France, M-Sport has achieved a strong track record. Despite the rally being dominated by the country’s local heroes, the Cumbrian outfit has claimed at least 50 per cent of the overall top-ten including an impressive 70 per cent in 2011.
The Qatari backed squad will be hoping for more of the same this time, but with Sébastien Loeb’s return and Sébastien Ogier keen to wrap up the drivers’ championship, glory will be hard fought.
Rarely fazed by the prospect of a hard-fought battle, the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC of Mads Østberg should not be discounted for a strong result. Asphalt may not be his preferred surface, but with a fifth place finish on last year’s outing, the Norwegian will be looking for another top-five result in 2013.
As the man behind Østberg’s pacenotes, Jonas Andersson will be celebrating his 100th WRC start next week. Having started his WRC campaign in 2002, the Swede’s vast experience is sure to benefit the young Norwegian as he strives to match the Tarmac specialists.
In the sister Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, Evgeny Novikov and Ilka Minor will be eager to build on their solid performance at Rally Australia. Proving that he can finish events without incident, the thousands of fans that flood to the stages around Strasbourg can look forward to the Russian’s usual dose of ‘maximum attack’ as he aims to combine consistency with his customary speed.
One man who is certainly capable of upsetting the status quo is Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville. As the one driver able to halt Ogier’s charge to the championship, Neuville has been sensational this season and with another all-asphalt fixture, the Belgian will be keen to add another podium to his rapidly growing collection.
The Belgian is determined to battle with ‘the Sebs’; and with their recent results as they are, there would be few to bet against the Fiesta RS WRC of Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul being in the hunt for trophies.
Whereas most crews return to asphalt following the gravel tracks of Australia, Neuville will spend the weekend getting back into the swing of Tarmac rallying when he contests the East Belgian Rally with a Floral Racing Ford Fiesta R2.
One man who knows how to challenge the French on the Alsatian stages is Elfyn Evans. Proving that the Welsh don’t just have the edge when it comes to rugby, Evans wrapped up the FIA WRC Academy Cup with victory on the event last year. Returning alongside co-driver Daniel Barritt, the Welshman will have another victory in mind – this time behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R5 in the WRC 2 category.
The event, which features 20 stages covering 312.14km, starts Thursday and finishes on Sunday.