P-WRC title fight heads to Australia…and beyond
The battle for this year’s FIA Production Car World Rally Championship will reach an intriguing stage on the Repco Rally Australia (Round 7 of 8, September 3-6) with six drivers still in with a chance of winning the title. However, the standings will remain provisional regardless of the result in Australia pending a hearing at the FIA International Court of Appeal regarding the result of Round 6 (at a date to be confirmed).

Championship leader Armindo Araújo (P, Mitsubishi) has made a strategic switch, using a different entry which enables him to contest Rally Australia instead of Rally GB (as he had planned), whilst his main rival Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT, Subaru) has to pass this event owing to other motorsport commitments with the Volkswagen off-road team. Araújo has provisionally taken the lead in the P-WRC after Al-Attiyah was excluded from the results of the Acropolis Rally of Greece (June 12-14) – a decision which Al-Attiyah’s team has subsequently appealed.

Knowing that Al-Attiyah could not compete in Australia, Araújo is using the Errani Team Group (car 39) entry in an attempt to score points in Australia whilst his nearest rival is absent. If Araújo wins in Australia and Al-Attiyah loses his appeal, Araújo will be FIA Production Car World Rally Champion - but if Araújo wins and Al-Attiyah’s appeal is successful, Al-Attiyah can finish second on the final round, Rally GB (October 23-25), and still win the title. Rally Australia is Araújo’s sixth and final points-scoring opportunity and so he is ineligible to score further points in GB.

The tactic of competing under more than one team entry during a season is perfectly within the rules and is one that several drivers have taken advantage of this year – including Al-Attiyah, who competed under the Autotek JM Enginnering (car 44) team entry in Cyprus, when the Qatari driver recognised a new VW off-road contract, signed after pre-season PWRC event nominations had been lodged, meant he couldn’t take up his Barwa Rally Team (car 50) entry in Australia.

Eyvind Brynildsen (N, Mitsubishi), Martin Prokop (CZ, Mitsubishi) and Toshi Arai (J, Subaru), who are 4th, 5th and 6th respectively in the P-WRC, can still win the title and will be aiming for nothing less than victory in Australia. Thirdplaced Patrik Sandell (S, Skoda), who won the opening two rounds of this year’s P-WRC, will not contest Rally Australia, but will be hoping that a favourable result will keep him in the title hunt, come the final round of the series.

In addition to the Championship contenders, there will also be five new faces on this year’s P-WRC start list in Australia. Three times FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Cody Crocker (AUS, Subaru Impreza) and four times Australian Rally Champion Neil Bates (AUS, Toyota Auris) will both be Guest drivers, while double New Zealand Rally Champion Richard Mason (NZ, Mitsubishi Lancer, Barwa Rally Team, car 50), Pirelli Star Driver hopeful Chao-dong Liu (CN, Mitsubishi Lancer, Team Sidvin India Racing, car 48) and former P-WRC points-scorer Stewart Taylor (NZ, Mitsubishi Lancer, Uspensky Rally Tecnika, car 45) will all compete.

Bates with give the new Toyota Auris Super 2000 (a model known as Corolla in Europe) its global debut in Australia, subject to an FIA homologation inspection prior to the event The rally organisers have also elevated local drivers Brendan Reeves (car 53), Steven Shepheard (car 54) and Nathan Quinn (car 55) to priority status running amidst the P-WRC start numbers, but these competitors are ineligible for P-WRC points.

This week’s Repco Rally Australia will begin with two runs over the Tweed Super Special Stage at Murwillumbah on Thursday 3 September and finish in Kingscliff on Sunday 6 September after 35 special stages totalling 344.72kms, run in the Tweed and Kyogle Shires of the New South Wales Northern Rivers region.

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