This year, the Wales Rally GB is the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and in the WRC2 Championship, it promises to bring much excitement and drama because we approach a thrilling conclusion to the season.
The rally itself takes place on gravel roads in north Wales centred around the town of Deeside. Amongst more than 330km of competitive distance and 22 special stages, there is also a parkland stage at Cholmondeley Castle, which will see the rally cross into England for the first time since 1999.
With plenty at stake, there will be no shortage of ŠKODA FABIA R5s on the starting line, looking to score what at this stage of the season could be crucial points.
All three ŠKODA Motorsport teams will be taking part with the Finnish duo of Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm and the Czech pairing of Jan Kopecký / Pavel Dresler both still in with a chance of winning the drivers’ championship. Swedes Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson will also be taking part but under the ŠKODA Motorsport II team banner.
Of the customer teams, most eyes will be on Team Oreca’s Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula. The Finns are currently in second place in the championship, but unlike Lappi and Kopecký this is their final nominated event of the year. They will need to finish first or second to jump ahead of current leader Elfyn Evans in the WRC2 standings, but having won in the WRC2 standings here last year, they will go into the rally feeling positive.
Peruvian Nicolás Fuchs returns for his first WRC2 event since the Rally Poland back in July. With co-driver Fernando Mussano, he currently sits sixth in the WRC2 standings and good finishes here and in the final rally of the year in Australia can see him secure a top three finish in the championship. Fuchs has already won one WRC2 event this year, the Rally Argentina, and having finished sixth here last year, is hoping to push for a top-four finish this time out.
Young Norwegian driver Ole Christian Veiby will also be taking part alongside co-driver Stig Rune Skjærmoen for the Printsport Oy team. Veiby impressed with a fifth-place finish in the WRC2 standings in the last round at the RallyRACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada in Spain. That was just his second WRC2 event in a FABIA R5 and after also impressing on the snow in Sweden earlier in the year, the Wales Rally GB will be his first gravel event in the car.
Completing the line-up of ŠKODA FABIA R5s will be the British pairing of David Bogie / Kevin Rae. They are entered with the car of the Wevers Sport team and Bogie will be looking to finish his year on a high after a mixed season on his return to the British Rally Championship.
Qatari driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and his co-driver Killian Duffy also appear on the entry list for this rally for the Culture & Sport Qatar Rally Team, but they will unfortunately not be taking part this weekend.
So with three ŠKODA Motorsport and four customer FABIA R5s to follow, and plenty of WRC2 championship permutations to work out, this year’s Wales Rally GB promises to be an event not to be missed.