Next year’s Rally New Zealand features two new competitions within the World Rally Championship schedule – the FIA WRC Cup for Teams and the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship (SWRC) – and two international rally stars are already confirmed
Spanish driver Xavier Pons, a former Citroen and Subaru factory team driver, and Finnish driver Janne Tuohino, a former Skoda team driver, are both entering a Ford Fiesta S2000 car which makes them and their teams eligible for the new competitions.
“The new Super 2000 WRC, or SWRC, will run alongside the Production World Rally Championship, or PWRC, so this is a competition for drivers and co-drivers,” explains Rally New Zealand clerk of course Willard Martin. “And the Super 2000 teams will earn points towards the WRC Cup, in a similar way to the way the official WRC teams earn points for the World Rally Championship for Manufacturers.”
Rally New Zealand, 6 to 9 May 2010, is one of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship events specified for WRC Cup and SWRC competitors.
“Competitors need to contest seven of the ten specified rounds, including two outside Europe, to be eligible to enter both the SWRC and WRC Cup.
“Given the fantastic reputation our event and roads have with rally competitors the world over, we expect to see Xevi Pons and Janne Tuohino among a strong field of competitors running Super 2000 cars in New Zealand,” says Martin.
“It’s very exciting to have drivers of this calibre rallying in New Zealand. They, and others, are sure to add to what is already shaping up to be a tremendous rally with its home-base moving back to Auckland.”
Pons, age 29, is the second big name driver to announce his WRC comeback, just days after Tuohino, 34, revealed he was aiming for a return to the full WRC by tackling the new WRC Cup in a Ford S2000 car. From 2011, Super 2000 cars will form the basis of the new WRC car to be used by the WRC manufacturer teams. The current WRC car formula which has been in place since 1997 will no longer be eligible from the end of 2010.
“The S2000 cars run non-turbocharged two-litre engines with a maximum of 8,500 rpm rev-limit,” explains Martin. “At present a number of vehicle manufacturers, including Peugeot, Proton, Fiat, Toyota, VW and Skoda, have built S2000 cars which are already competing in international events around the world.
“Ford has taken the initiative with their rally team, M-Sport, now having developed, tested and begun production of the new Ford Fiesta Super 2000 rally car. Based on the Ford Fiesta road car, the team has confirmed this is the vehicle which Ford will use to campaign the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship, replacing the Focus RS WRC. And this next year, both Pons and Tuohino have confirmed they’re driving the new Ford Fiesta S2000.”
Pons will drive for a new team headed by Luis Moya, the former championship winning co-driver who won 24 WRC rallies alongside four-time Rally New Zealand winner Carlos Sainz. The team, backed by the Nupel pharmaceutical company, will also run Fiesta S2000s and Fiesta R2s in the Spanish championship.
Moya said: “I can confirm that Xevi will do seven WRC rallies next year in the Fiesta S2000. His first event will be Mexico, and he will definitely do the rallies in Jordan and New Zealand with co-driver Alex Haro. We'll announce more details later on.”
Pons’ WRC background includes signing with the factory-supported Kronos Citroen squad in 2006, partnering reigning champion, Sébastien Loeb. He joined the Subaru team midway through the 2007 season, driving alongside Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson for seven events. In 2008 and 2009, he has competed on Spanish national rallies and remains in contention for Group N victory in this year's championship, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer. Pons’ best result in a world rally remains fourth, which he has achieved five times: in 2005 at Rally Catalunya, and in 2006 at Rally d'Italia Sardegna, Rally of Turkey, Rally Australia and Rally New Zealand. He is also remembered for his high speed accident which brought his 2007 Rally New Zealand campaign to an end which was captured on live television.
Tuohino has contested 40 WRC events with several World Rally Cars over seven seasons, and in 2005 became an official Skoda manufacturer driver. After Skoda departed the international rally scene, the double Finnish rally champion was left without a seat, but contested several WRC events in 2006. Currently based in Dubai, Tuohino’s plans for 2010 involve a privately-run team with the new M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 car.
Rally New Zealand 2010 will see the S2000 cars seeded among the Production World Rally Championship cars, which follow the WRC cars through the three-day event. The event’s home-base is Auckland City and the route takes competitors north to the Whangarei and Kaipara districts on day one, south to Franklin and North Waikato on day two and to Raglan on day three. Along with the prime spectator viewing areas on selected rally stages, rally fans can get close to the action at the remote service parks used on each of the three days at the Quayside Town Basin in Whangarei, Hampton Downs motorsport complex and the Raglan airfield, as well as the event’s main Service Park on Auckland’s Queens Wharf.
2010 Calendar: WRC Cup for S2000 teams and Super 2000 World Rally Championship
(Seven out of 10 events to count, including at least two outside Europe)
12-14 February Sweden
5-7 March Mexico
2-4 April Jordan
7-9 May New Zealand
28-30 May Portugal
30 July - 1 August Finland
20-22 August Germany
10-12 September Japan
1-3 October France
12-14 November Great Britain