The decline of world economy near the end of the 00’s saw the teams disappearing and FIA responding with a shorter WRC calendar. At the same time, a number of events were rotated – some taking years off, some joining the new IRC series – allowing new countries to join in as well. Mixed surface events made a comeback bringing also tarmac sections onto gravel rallies. Meanwhile three countries relocated their rallies.
Cover image by Kyn Wai Chung / Flickr
|1||Rally Ireland||Tarmac||Fri 30th Jan – Sun 1st Feb|
|2||Rally Norway||Snow||Thu 12th – Sun 15th Feb|
|3||Rally Cyprus||Tarmac/gravel||Fri 13th – Sun 15th Mar|
|4||Rally Portugal||Gravel||Thu 2nd – Sun 5th Apr|
|5||Rally Argentina||Gravel||Thu 23rd – Sun 26th Apr|
|6||Rally d’Italia Sardegna||Gravel||Fri 22nd – Sun 24th May|
|7||Rally Acropolis (Greece)||Gravel||Fri 12th – Sun 14th Jun|
|8||Rally Poland||Gravel||Wed 24th – Sun 28th Jun|
|9||Rally Finland||Gravel||Thu 30th Jul – Sun 2nd Aug|
|10||Rally Australia||Gravel||Thu 3rd – Sun 6th Sep|
|11||Rally Catalunya (Spain)||Tarmac||Fri 2nd – Sun 4th Oct|
|12||Wales Rally GB||Gravel||Fri 23rd – Sun 25th Oct|
There were many things which made the 2009 season resemble 1996. First of all, the season was short. There were only 12 events, so it was the shortest since 1996. Secondly, there were only two full tarmac events, making it have the least paved stages since 1996.
Just like the era from 1994 to 1996, the years 2009 and 2010 involved a rotation system where some rallies took their turns to have a break off WRC. Thus for the first time since 1996 Monte Carlo was off the calendar, taking instead part of the new IRC series. As if that was not enough, Sweden, Mexico, Jordan, Turkey, Deutschland, New Zealand, Corsica and Japan were also on their rotational breaks. Only six events carried over from the previous year.
“With the new alternation system put in place by the FIA, we looked at a number of possibilities in order to keep the organisation of the Monte Carlo Rally going. The IRC is the perfect solution. In its debut season, this series has demonstrated all its dynamism, value and potential. The idea won us over, so we are very happy to join this intercontinental series in 2009 and benefit from some exceptional media coverage that highlights the fundamental values of rallying: a healthy majority of amateurs, some stunning landscapes, a diverse field, close competition, and the emphasis firmly on the talent of individual drivers and co-drivers. “– René Isoart, the Clerk of the Course of Rallye Monte Carlo
The maximum length of WRC events was increased back to 400 km after three seasons of shorter events. In addition, mixed surface rallies were allowed again, under the condition that two consecutive legs are driven on one surface.
The season started now very exceptionally with the returning Rally Ireland. Their event was again split in half between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. All the Sunday stages were again single-runs. The Belfast twin-car super-special was replaced with a simpler street stage in Donegal, which also concluded the rally. The Cavan stage on this video is familiar from Circuit of Ireland.
Rally Norway was also back after one year off. The route was mostly on the same stages as in 2007, but now all forest stages were run twice. The biggest addition was a super special on a trotting track in Oslo – joining the sparse group of WRC stages run in a capital. Meanwhile this is the Lillehammer stage visiting an Olympic skiing center.
Mexico’s place was taken by the returning Cyprus, who took advantage of the possibility of running a mixed surface event. The first day was on tarmac and the two last days on gravel. However, the teams decided mutually to save in expenses by using gravel setup and gravel tyres for the tarmac stages, and here’s a good example of that.
The Anadiou stage became the longest of the season. It was also the the only one to exceed the 40 km mark – albeit by only 540 metres – proving that marathon stages were out of fashion at the time.
Portugal was the next to make a comeback, meaning that the four first events of the season had not featured on the previous year. The event was still based in Faro, and the stages were around the same areas, but there were new stages and new configurations with only one stage driven similarly to 2007, and even that in slightly shortened format. However, the whole 2009 route would remain very similar for 2010. Meanwhile, the beginning of the stage on this video was familiar from 2007, but the ending new.
The Friday leg of Rally Argentina was almost identical to 2008, while Saturday brought El Mirador back for the first time since 2002. In addition, none of the single-run Sunday stages were familiar from the previous year. This is one of them, ending in on gravel streets of a small town.
Acropolis relocated to Loutraki near the city of Corinth. The first leg was driven towards Itea with a remote service, including the return of the Bauxites stage. Saturday took the cars to the Peloponnesian peninsula for the first time since 1991. However, it appears that all the stages of the leg were completely new compared to the past decades and this is how they looked like.
Sardinia had two new stages South of Ozieri on Saturday. Both of these stages had short bits of tarmac on the way, and haven’t been used since. The tarmac starts at 8:16 into the video.
One of the WRC originals from the inaugural season of 1973 returned in the form of Rally Poland. However, the base was now in Mikolaji, 530 km from Krakow where the 1973 event had been based in, so it was in fact a completely new rally.
Most of the stages are held in smooth and flowing stages almost like those in Finland except with fewer crests and jumps. There also are narrow country roads with steep banks. In some places the soft sandy road cuts up pretty badly, especially during second pass over the stage– juwra.com
The route was very compact and all stages were run twice. The rally started and ended with a twin-car super special near the service park. Three double-run stages were over 30 km in length. The Pianki stage reached stage winning average speed of 129 km/h, otherwise the average speeds were between 106 and 117 km/h.
For the first time in Rally Finland, the Friday itinerary was set in a modern 2×4 stage configuration, the way most WRC rallies have today. However, Saturday and Sunday still included a handful of single-runs, including the return of Kavala (although the route shared nothing with 1986). The whole Ouninpohja area was absent from the route for the first time since 1976, but Myhinpää returned for the first time since 1995.
After two years off the calendar, Australia returned in a new location in Kingscliff, on the East coast of the island. The itinerary was ambitiously crowded with a total of 35 stages, most of them relatively short. The super special street stage of Tweed was run a total of six times during the rally, always twice consecutively. Meanwhile, only one stage was single-run. The stages had sponsor titles, which is very uncommon in today’s WRC.
The Kingscliff stages were very fast. Five of them exceeded 130 km/h of average speed, and also included the three fastest stages of the whole season. In fact, it was an exceptional year when only a few Finnish stages were on the top ten fastest stages of the season. This was one of the hyper fast stages.
The season wrapped up with Catalunya and Wales whose routes were practically identical to those of 2008. However, both would have new things to offer the year after.
|1||Rally Sweden||Snow||Thu 11th – Sun 14th Feb|
|2||Rally Mexico||Gravel||Fri 5th – Sun 7th Mar|
|3||Rally Jordan||Gravel||Thu 1st – Sat 3rd Apr|
|4||Rally Turkey||Gravel/Tarmac||Fri 16th – Sun 18th Apr|
|5||Rally New Zealand||Gravel||Fri 7th – Sun 9th May|
|6||Rally Portugal||Gravel||Wed 26th – Sun 30th May|
|7||Rally Bulgaria||Tarmac||Fri 9th – Sat 10th Jul|
|8||Rally Finland||Gravel||Thu 29th – Sat 31st Jul|
|9||Rally Deutschland||Tarmac||Fri 20th – Sun 22nd Aug|
|10||Rally Japan||Gravel||Thu 9th – Sun 12th Sep|
|11||Rally Alsace (France)||Tarmac||Fri 1st – Sun 3rd Oct|
|12||Rally Catalunya (Spain)||Tarmac/gravel||Fri 22nd – Sun 24th Oct|
|13||Wales Rally GB||Gravel||Thu 11th – Sun 14th Nov|
A new rule limited the competitive distance between two services to be 80 km at most. In turn, the whole event maximum length was increased up to 500 km. However, the events seemed to just get shorter and shorter, with Deutschland being the only one which exceeded even 400 km and Japan being the shortest at 303 km.
The calendar kept rotating with only four rallies carrying over from 2009. Ireland, Norway, Cyprus, Argentina, Sardinia, Acropolis and Poland were now gone but a number of rallies returned from 2008. The IRC shadow series had now drafted Argentina, Sardinia and Cyprus on its list in addition to Monte. Meanwhile, even Rally Indonesia tried to get its WRC slot back, but in vain.
In contrast to the gravel-heavy 2009, two new tarmac rallies joined the series, making 2010 actually one of the most tarmac-heavy seasons of all time!
Swedish Rally – now titled officially Rally Sweden – was the first returning event, now once again the season opener like in 1989. The service park was moved back to Hagfors. The route reached now more to North and East instead of the returning Western stages of 2008. Viggen was a new stage close to the border of Norway, as shown here:
Mexico also returned back to its slot. The route remained the same as always, but now there was a new street 1.5 km street stage in Leon. This onboard is from 2011, but the stage was almost the same in 2010.
The route of the second ever WRC-level Rally Jordan was largely unchanged. The rally was run from Thursday to Saturday. All stages were run twice, except for this opening stage.
Rally Turkey was back with a drastically new location up North in Pendik, near Istanbul. The character of the rally was also changed from slow and rough to fast and flowing, with even big jumps! The struture of the route was fairly modern with 2×4 and 2×3 stage legs and a twin-car super special on tarmac in Istanbul. Some of the forest stages also involved lengthy tarmac sections, such as here from 5:19 to the finish.
The returning Rally New Zealand had brought its base back to Auckland. The first leg consisted of stages North of the city, which had been unused since 2005. Each day included remote services and only two stages were single-run. There was also a new super special at Auckland Domain, although the same area had been used for the opening super special in the late 80’s. Meanwhile, Whaanga Coast – one of the absolute WRC classics – was again the rally-concluding finale.
Rally Bulgaria was a new tarmac event, although familiar from the ERC, arranged near the capital of Sofia. There were only 14 stages to form 353 kilometres, which means the stages were long. There were no single-run stages or super specials – instead many stages reused parts of their routes from previous days. The stages were relatively fast with average speeds ranging from 100 to 115 km/h. This onboard shows how broken the tarmac was on many stages.
Rally Finland was now more compact than ever, driven from Thursday to Saturday. Thursday included only the returning Laajavuori super special, and the rally finished on the Saturday evening. To fit enough stages, a creative method of repeating stage loops within a leg was implemented on Friday. For example, the morning leg consisted of Urria and Jukojärvi both driven twice before returning to service.
Rally Deutschland returned almost unchanged from 2008. Panzerplatte was extended to 48 km of length, which is the longest version of the stage ever used, and the longest of the 2010 season. One new stage was added for this year, with the title Hermeskeil – Gusenburg, shown here.
Rally Japan returned in its Sapporo location, where it had relocated in 2008. These narrow but fast-flowing gravel forest roads are quite unique and difficult to compare with any other rally.
Rally Alsace was another new event to join in, replacing Tour de Corse as France’s WRC round. Like Bulgaria, it was a rather fast tarmac rally, but run on smoother roads. All stages of the rally were run twice, and Haguenau was the only super special on Sunday.
For 2010, French motorsport federation FFSA decided to move the French round in WRC from classic Tour de Corse to mainland France. New rally is based on Strasbourg, an important administrative city for European Union and route winds around the surrounding country side rich in motorsport and motor industry heritage. Event is built upon foundations of French national championship event Rallye Alsace-Vosges and along the route is city of Mulhouse, site for a large Peugeot plant.
For number of reasons Alsace can be called a twin brother for Rallye Deutschland. Rally takes place in area around Strasbourg, which is just 200 kilometers south-east of Trier, headquarters for Deutschland. Both rallies have similar format, having different character for each of three days of competition – though not quite with the same polarity. There are forests high up in the hills, there are vineyard stages and there even is a stage in a military camp.– juwra.com
Here is a good example of Alsace, the stage starts at vineyards like Rally Deutschland, then becomes very fast and in the end it’s twisty like in Tour de Corse!
Rally Catalunya became again a mixed surface event for the first time since 1992. Friday was driven on gravel, Saturday and Sunday on tarmac. Two of the three Friday gravel stages even included lengthy tarmac sections, including the now-legendary Terra Alta. This Garrigues stage actually contains more tarmac than gravel.
Catalunya also included a 42 km version of El Priorat, which was the second-longest stage of the season and one of the three to exceed 40 km of length in addition to Arena Panzerplatte and Jordan River.
Wales revived the Rednor stage for the first time since 1999. Another interesting addition was Four Ways Crychan, which started on a tarmac section familiar from the Tour of Epynt, and then proceeded on the familiar gravel roads of Crychan.
Another new feature on the itinerary, albeit less impressive, was the Cardiff Bay super special.
After these turbulent rotation years the WRC calendar would stabilize, but other factors would shake up things enough for the upcoming years.