WRC Calendar History XI: 2011-2013

The years 2011 – 2013 were saw the calendar becoming more persistent after two years of rotation. However, new experimental rules were again introduced and the event schedules were more free than before.

Cover image by Kyn Wai Chung / Flickr

2011 was a big milestone in the history of WRC with the introduction of the new 1.6 l engined WRC cars, which were based on the smaller S2000 cars. The milder performance of these cars would also shape the average speeds, especially on fast sections with lower top speeds

The calendar looked already now more familiar with most of the traditional events again forming the 13-event season, but Monte Carlo was still missing. Norway, Bulgaria and Cyprus wouldn’t return anymore, and it would take years for Turkey and Japan to get new chances in new locations.

1Rally SwedenSnowThu 10th – Sun 13th Feb
2Rally MexicoGravelThu 3rd – Sun 6th Mar
3Rally PortugalGravelThu 24th – Sun 27th Mar
4Rally JordanGravelThu 14th – Sat 16th Apr
5Rally d’Italia SardegnaGravelFri 6th – Sun 8th May
6Rally ArgentinaGravelThu 26th – Sun 29th May
7Rally Acropolis (Greece)GravelFri 17th – Sun 19th Jun
8Rally FinlandGravelThu 28th – Sat 30th Jul
9Rally DeutschlandTarmacFri 19th – Sun 21st Aug
10Rally AustraliaGravelThu 8th – Sun 11th Sep
11Rally Alsace (France)TarmacFri 30th Sep – Sun 2nd Oct
12Rally Catalunya (Spain)Tarmac/gravelFri 21st – Sun 23rd Oct
13Wales Rally GBGravelThu 10th – Sun 13th Nov

One of the biggest changes in WRC sporting – since Super Rally – was the introduction of Power Stage. The idea had been prototyped as early as 1999 in two rallies, but now it was brought back with full force. The three best drivers would receive bonus points from the result of the last stage of the rally, which would be also televised live. Many rallies opted for 4-8 km power stages, but there were also exceptions.

The rally itineraries still varied a bit in terms of the starting and ending day of week and time. Most of the rallies had all double run stages, but there were also some exceptions, which are mentioned here.

The 2011 season started from Sweden. The route was relatively unchanged, but a notable thing is how the Løvhaugen stage crossed the border to Norway and returned to Sweden’s soil during its course. The power stage was Gustavsfors, last driven in 1989. Meanwhile the Värmullsåsen stage ended in an old skiing slope near Hagfors.

Rally Mexico started now with the Guanajuato Street stage, infamous for its sections in the tunnels. However, the most drastic thing was that the stage included a full circle in a roundabout, crossing its own route, being the first stage ever to include a donut in the road book. This video is from 2013 but the route was the same already in 2011.

Other than that the rally was familiar. The power stage was what we know now as El Brinco.

Portugal’s power stage was the 31 km long Santa de Serra, the longest power stage of the season with clear margin. A new thing on the route was the rally-opening street stage in Lisboa, far away from the other stages.

Rally Jordan remained quite unchanged for its third occasion, but all Thursday stages were cancelled because of logistics issues. The 41 km Jordan River was the third longest stage of the season and one of the three that exceeded 40 km in length). The 10 km Baptism Site was used as the power stage, being the second-longest power stage of the season after aforementioned Portugal.

Rally Italia Sardegna was back with a revised itinerary. The rally now started in the middle of the island on Friday, with Saturday and Sunday driven on familiar stages near Olbia. The power stage was the 8 km Gallura and Sunday included the single-run Terranova stage.

Rally Argentina was also back after one IRC year. The rally started with a new twin-car dirt super special in Carlos Paz, that would be later known as Parque Tematico. Sunday itinerary was weird with one 48 km stage – the longest of the whole season – in addition to one super special and two runs of the 3.9 km power stage.

The event was made essentially mixed surface with two stages containing lengthy and fast tarmac sections. The most famous of them was definitely El Condor, which was augmented with a 19 km tarmac section.

The first 15 kilometres of El Condor [on Tarmac] is fast, abrasive but generally quite good. But after that it gets really, really quick and you need to have a big commitment over those sections. You can easily lose a lot of time there if you hesitate. That’s a very important section.

On Saturday it is fast but more flowing and with some nasty downhill braking. This rally can be easily lost on the Tarmac sections if you hesitate. But on the other hand you don’t want to push too much to save the car.

– Jari-Matti Latvala / Eurosport

“We’re here for a gravel rally but we’re going to be rallying on Tarmac with gravel suspension, gravel tyres. It’s not the perfect solution and I don’t see what it’s really adding.”

– Malcolm Wilson / Eurosport

On this video you can see the classic technical El Condor stage turn into fast tarmac at 13:32.

Acropolis was another rally back in WRC after one IRC year. The rally had retained its overall structure with Friday North near Itea, Saturday on the Peloponnesean peninsula and Sunday near Corinth. New Loutraki was the power stage. Most of the Friday stages were single-run and a number of stages in the Loutraki area shared sections between each other.

Rally Finland experimented with going deeper South with the Friday route going around the lake Päijänne with a remote service and a super special in the city of Lahti. This resulted in a number of single-run stages and a return of many old stages, such as Evo, Mynnilä and Koivukehä. Ouninpohja was absent, with Hassi being used instead for the first time since a long time, with the small road of Konivuori.

The rally started already with three stages on Thursday evening, while the finish was again on Saturday evening. Saturday packed in eleven stages, including Laajavuori as the power stage.

Rally Deutschland decided to use Trier as the power stage. Otherwise the route remained relatively identical to 2010. Arena Panzerplatte was now shortened to 34 km, but still as difficult as always.

Rally Australia was again back on the calendar after one year off, and in yet another new location, Coffs Harbour. It was still on the East coast, but further up North. Some of these roads had featured in the Southern Cross Rally in the 70’s, as a part of the FIA Drivers Cup – including the short and fast Clarence power stage. Friday was driven North-West, Saturday South-West and Sunday North-East from Coffs Harbour.

The average speeds ranged from 73 km/h of Brooklana to 123 km/h of Bucca – the fifth-fastest stage of the season , breaking the line of eight fast Finnish stages. The Shipmans stage pictured here was also relatively fast with 114 km/h.

There was a super special in Coffs Harbour which was driven three times with instant repeats, making it six total runs. The route of the stage was very modern, involving loops and driving the same section in both directions.

In Alsace, Friday and Saturday legs switched places. A new super special was added in the town of Mulhouse, involving a lap on a circuit made from streets, narrowed by concrete posts.

A similar stage in Hagenau was the power stage. This meant that the two neighboring rallies of Alsace and Deutschland were the only ones to choose super specials for a power stage.

The fastest stage of the rally was Firstplan with 119 km/h of average speed. It also was the tenth fastest stage of the season.

Catalunya was run on mixed surface like in 2010, with gravel stages on Friday, tarmac on Saturday and Sunday. The route had only minor changes. El Priorat was the second longest stage of the whole season with 45 km of length. On the other end of the spectrum, the 4 km Coll de la Teixeta was the power stage, essentially a part of Riuducanyes, ending at the roundabout.

Wales Rally GB had relocated to Builth Wells, where a remote service had often been held for the Mid-Wales stages. The rally was now four days long, with Thursday starting on double runs at Great Orme, back in WRC for the first time in 30 years.

Next up was the single-run Clocaenog, which – like all North Welsh stages – hadn’t been used since Colin McRae secured his world title in 1995. The Friday stages in the Dyfi forest had been on the bench since 1997, so there was a lot new for the drivers. The power stage was Monument, a short section of the past years’ Epynt gravel stage.

2012

A new drastic rule was again introduced in the form of qualifying. The drivers would do a qualifying run on the shakedown stage. The driver with the best time would get to choose their starting position first and so on.

Monte Carlo finally returned onto the calendar after three years of absence, practically replacing Jordan. The route seemed monstrous with 433 km of length, ranging from Wednesday to Sunday. Wednesday and Thursday involved 130 km of stages around Valence. Friday had first two Valence area stages, then relocating to Monaco with one stage on the way – all single runs. Saturday action didn’t start until late afternoon with the usual twin-loop over Turini.

Even crazier was that Sunday consisted of only one run of the 5 km power stage of Col de la Madone. It seems you could have squeezed all the mileage into four days – if not even three – had it not been for the long liaisons.

Rally Sweden took further the idea of crossing over to Norway’s border by having a handful of full stages there. Already SS2 Mitandersfors – the longest of the rally and the only single-run one – started on Sweden’s side and ended up in Norway. The following Opaker, Kirkenär and Finnskogen stages had been used in Rally Norway a few years back. There was also a remote midday service in Norway. It’s also worth mentioning the Torsby stage is actually Torntorp with just a new title. The Hagfors stage in the skiing slope served as the power stage.

Rally Mexico added new desert stages essentially for the first time during the rally’s history in the form of Los Mexicanos and Las Minas. These stages were driven close to the city of Guanajuato, which again hosted the opening street stage. The twin-car super special was driven a total of five times and there was also a new park-street super special called Parque Bicentenario. Sunday included a 54 km version of Guanajuatito, which was a partial repeat of Saturday’s Ibarrilla and Otates.

Portugal started already on Thursday with three single-run forest stages on the way from the Lisboa super special. The second loop of Friday – including one new stage – was cancelled due to heavy rain

The weather made for an exceptionally tough morning for the organisers of the Faro-based event, with the field split up when a watersplash became flooded and left half of the field stranded before stage seven.

Fuel had to be driven out to those crews in order for them to make it back to the Faro service area.

Rally of Portugal clerk of the course Pedro Almeida said: — “There is a limit, I must have ambulances and doctors in the stage to get to the accident place in a maximum of 10 minutes and under these conditions that would have been impossible – this is why we cancelled the stages.”

Autosport

Argentina was now back to more traditional full gravel route. Friday ended with the only single-run stage of the rally. Saturday introduced a new 39 km stage that hasn’t been driven since. On Sunday, El Condor was repeated in two parts, the latter 4 km one serving as the power stage.

The Australasian events agreed on a rotation system, and now it was again New Zealand’s turn. Friday stages included Whaanga Coast and Te Akau in the South. On Saturday there was a Northern loop with a remote service in Whangarei, involving three single-run stages. The Sunday stages between Auckland and Whangarei were new or at least new to the drivers of the era, and the Ahuroa stage was run only once.

Rally Finland took now the crews far South already on Thursday, for a short three single-run stage loop with lots of liaisons. However, a welcome return was Ouninpohja as a 33 km power stage.

Rally Deutschland had only minor changes, most notably on stage titles. Ruwertal – Fell was reversed, modified and renamed as Stein & Wein. Similarly, Moselwein became now Mittelmosel, not to be mixed with the nearby Moselland stage, which remained on the route as well.

Wales was arranged already in September, meaning drier and lighter conditions. The rally was again based in Cardiff with Friday in Mid-Wales, Saturday in the Epynt area and Sunday down South. There was also a new super special of Celtic Manor in Newport, involving driving the same park road back and forth.

Alsace changed again Friday and Saturday loops and added some new stages. This time the power stage was not a super special, but there was a third separate super special in Strasbourg to open the rally on Thursday.

Sardinia added two new stages near the city of Sassari, called Castelsardo and Tergu – Osilo. These stages would remain staples of the event for upcoming years. The stages in the middle of the island were omitted. Thursday started with two runs of the 28 km Terranova stage but in contrast Sunday included nothing but the repeated Gallura power stage.

Catalunya was now the closing round of the season. The route changed again only marginally, but there was one notable addition: The Riudecanyes stage involved a full donut in the roundabout. This is the first non-super-special ever to include a donut in the road book. The last stage was again a 4 km test, but power stage was the previous stage, the 26 km Santa Marina.

Friday started with the single-run Gandesa stage and ended by introducing the Salou super special . However, this would remain the only time it was driven on gravel tyres and suspension.

2013

Monte Carlo retained the same structure as before, but now the rally finished already on the Saturday evening. The Sisteron stage returned for the first time since 2002. All the Friday stages were run only once and Col de Turini was driven three times on Sunday.

Sweden changed things around only slightly. Now the Norway loop wasn’t driven until Sunday, with Torntorp (again renamed as Torsby) as the power stage, the only single-run stage of the rally.

Mexico introduced yet another desert stage, this time the classic El Chocolate. In this version it ended where Ortega had started previously. Derramadero was the power stage, but the rally ended after that with the fifth run of Autodromo de Leon.

Portugal was made more compact by having two quickly-repeated forest stages precede the Lisboa super special on Friday. However, Sunday was supercharged with two runs of the 52 km Almodovar stage, the second run also acting as the power stage, remaining as the longest power stage in the history of WRC.

Argentina was also compacted but in a different way. The event packed 407 km into 14 stages, two of them super specials, meaning that all desert stages were more or less long! The event was also shifted one day earlier, from Wednesday to Saturday.

Acropolis ditched the Itea stages, doing both Friday and Sunday near Corinth with the routes repeating and some bits of road driven a total of four times. Loutraki with 30 km of length was the power stage. All stages were now more or less double run.

Sardinia compacted its route into two days, with two runs of Gallura added as the third loop on Friday, and Terranova extending the Saturday loop. However, the length of the event was 304 km, barely above the minimum in the rules.

Finland tried a third approach to the Southern leg on Thursday with five stages, including the single run Koukunmaa stage for the third year in succession, the most Southern Finnish WRC stage ever. There was also a new hill climb version of the Himos stage where the cars did two laps on the route. One of the forest stages on the opening leg was Torittu, back for the first time since 1985.

Other than that the route was mostly familiar. The short Painaa acted as the power stage, being actually a composite of past stages Tuohikotanen and Vellipohja, sharing also parts with the Leustu stage, which in turn was now shortened to half of its usual length.

Rally Deutschland started now on Thursday North from Cologne. There were two single-run stages on the way to Trier’s service park. The subsequent route was again familiar, but the Circus Maximus stage was omitted, and the 24 km Dhrontal acted as the power stage.

The Australiasian rotation put Rally Australia back into the 2013 calendar. Now only Sunday was driven North, and the Friday stages were also South from Coffs Harbour, but closer than the Saturday stages, and most of them were new from 2011. Saturday meanwhile had only two repeated forest stages, other of them the 49 km Nambucca. The power stage was also the 29 km long Shipmans.

Alsace switched Friday and Saturday itineraries for the fourth year in a row, but other than that there was little new from the previous year.

The power stage was already the Thursday opening super special in Strasbourg. As we know now it was enough to finalize the championship battle!

Catalunya reversed its mixed surface days by moving the gravel tests to Sunday. Power stage was already SS8 on Saturday. Friday meanwhile was just a short day of three single runs, so the event was more compact than ever.

Wales Rally GB was now based in North Wales for the first time. It was again made four days long with the first day having three forest stages in the dark, including the single-run Penmachno and Gwydyr, back after decades of absence.

All the other days were driven deeper in Mid-Wales with Friday including a remote service in Newtown and Saturday involving seven stages making up 98 km with no service. The single-run Penllyn stage on Sunday is better known as Aberhirnant. Meanwhile Gartheiniog shown here used a shorter configuration than before.

There were two new super specials, Chirk Castle on Saturday, and Kinmel Park on Sunday, both repeated instantly. Neither offered much route-wise.

The rally also concluded with Great Orme. Power stage had been already the last forest stage, the second run of Clocaenog, whose first run was completed already on Thursday.

These years included some interesting itineraries where rallies were able to decide when they wanted the rally to start and end within the week, but it would be over in 2014.

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