Hot on the heels of the Tour de Corse comes the 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), the RallyRACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada. Taking place just a fortnight later, between 13th and 16th October, the RallyRACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada is a 19 stage event, which takes place over 321 km of competitive distance. It is also unique on the WRC calendar for being the only mixed surface event of the season.
After opening on the Thursday night with a street stage in the Montjuïc district of Barcelona, it is the first leg on the Friday which presents the biggest challenge to drivers. Four of the six stages take place on gravel, but the long Terra Alta stage, which is run twice, consists of both gravel and asphalt sections.
This means that the settings of the car have to be set-up to suit both surfaces as much as possible, which is no easy task. It also requires drivers to modify their styles between surfaces, which is also not straightforward and requires maximum concentration to avoid making mistakes which at any other event might be seen as quite simple errors.
If the drivers and cars make it through the first leg unscathed, they will then be faced with two all-asphalt legs on the Saturday and Sunday. But these are far from simple too. Firstly, the car settings have to be changed from gravel setup to tarmac one in what is a longer than usual service on the Friday evening.
Then, in the second leg, drivers will be faced with some unfamiliar stages – some stages that are completely new and others that are along roads not used since 2013. Add in a couple of stages being driven in the opposite direction to the 2015 event and once again the drivers and co-drivers will have to be on their toes to avoid making mistakes.
Whilst the mixed surface stages bring obvious challenges, it is no plain sailing on the asphalt ones either. Many of the stages are on fast and smooth asphalt, which has been compared by some to a race track and will tempt drivers into going fast, where it may not always be wise to.
Then there is the issue of heat. Even with special asphalt tyres, the hot conditions in Catalunya will heat up the surface and cause tyres to wear down quickly. This means, drivers will have to manage their tyres throughout the rally to avoid the risk of punctures and blow-outs.
On the final leg, the first drivers to start will begin the day in total darkness. They will take on four more asphalt stages, with the final Power Stage being broadcasted live worldwide as usual.
The RallyRACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada is a rally of unique challenges, but also opportunities. ŠKODA enjoyed a ‘one-two-three-four’ finish here for FABIA R5 cars in the WRC2 standings last year. And there will be plenty of FABIA R5s on the starting line this year, looking to help repeat that impressive feat.