Gravel and tarmac next up for Meeke, Breen and Al Qassimi.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2016 -WRC Tour de Corse (FRA) -  WRC 28/09/2016 to 02/10/2016 - PHOTO :  @World

For its penultimate outing of the season, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT has entered three cars at Rally de España. After competing last week at the Tour de Corse, Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and Craig Breen/Scott Martin will be joined in Spain by Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson. With its mixed-surface course – gravel and tarmac – the Catalan round provides the WRC crews with a unique challenge.

RallyRACC Rally de España – Preview

Rally de España has stood out since 2010 when it chose to become the only mixed-surface event on the World Championship calendar. Following a short stage in Barcelona on Thursday evening, the competitors will tackle the opening leg on gravel. The race can then go one of two ways. If it rains or if there is no wind to blow the dust clear from the roads, then the early starters will almost certainly have an advantage. If this is not the case, then the racing line will be cleaned as more cars complete the stages and a position further down in the running order will be ideal.

On Saturday and Sunday, the drivers can enjoy themselves behind the wheel, with the smooth and wide, sweeping tarmac roads enabling them to adopt tighter racing lines. They will nonetheless have to watch out for the rocks loosened by the early runners cutting the corners, as they can cause punctures!

The switch from gravel to tarmac provides an additional layer of suspense and the fans, who always flock to Catalonia in big numbers, can enjoy two rallies for the price of one! For the crews, the challenge involves adapting as quickly as possible to the conditions to stay in the hunt for speed.

Before concluding its season at the end of the month at Wales Rally GB, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT lines up in Spain with three crews.

For Kris Meeke, this is a special rally. In 2011, the Briton claimed his first stage win before going on to score his first points in the WRC. On this, his ninth appearance at the Catalan event, the winner of this year’s Poland and Finland rallies will be aiming to improve on his fifth-place finish in 2015.

This is also the rally at which Craig Breen scored his first points in the WRC. In 2012, the Irishman finished sixth overall despite driving a Super 2000 category car! This will be his fifth appearance at the event.

Like Kris Meeke, Khalid Al Qassimi has already competed in Spain on eight previous occasions, his best result being seventh overall in 2010. A few days after finishing the Rally of Morocco, the Abu Dhabi driver will have to get used to the pace of a World Rally Car again. He will be completing a short test session next Monday around Salou to help him prepare. Meanwhile, Kris Meeke and Craig Breen won’t be back behind the wheel of their race cars until Thursday morning for the shakedown.


Kris Meeke: “I have competed at this rally on many occasions, but my experience of the gravel stages here is limited to two appearances. My aim will be the same as in Corsica: try to find a good rhythm, improve and prepare for 2017. Everything has gone pretty well so far this season, because I have been competitive at all the rallies. So I hope that will continue in Spain. I’d be pleased if we get a good result, even if it won’t make any real difference to my season overall. Friday’s leg will be difficult to manage. It’s far from certain that I’ll have the best road position: in the morning, the dust tends to hang in the air and the first few cars on the road will also have ten kilometres of tarmac on the Terra Alta stage to make up time. After that, driving on the tarmac stages is really similar to being on a race track, with smooth and wide, sweeping roads. It’s exactly the opposite of the roads in Corsica! This rally provides a one-off challenge in the year and I’m very happy to be competing here.”

Craig Breen: “Just a week after the Tour de Corse, it’s great to be starting to prepare for the next event already. And especially since my promotion to Citroën works driver for 2017 and 2018 was announced in between times! Rally de España is a mixed-surface event and the stages are very different to those we had in Corsica last week, so we’ll have the chance to build up even more experience. It’s an event that I know well and that will help me to improve in a World Rally Car. At this stage of the season, I feel confident both on quick gravel roads and on tarmac. So I should be able to use all the knowledge I’ve acquired and switch from one surface to the other in a relaxed frame of mind. I’m looking forward to being in Spain because I know there’ll be a lot of Irish fans there to cheer me on!”

Khalid Al Qassimi: “It’s a year since I last competed on gravel! The test session organised on Monday will therefore be particularly important for me. I’ll need to get my bearings again, especially after competing in the Rally of Morocco, which was a fundamentally different experience, both in terms of the car and the pace notes! The gravel stages in Spain are also specific and that makes this rally a unique challenge in the season. I’m delighted to be back to Spain. There is always a special atmosphere here with the fans and I think that our team will be in the limelight after the announcements made by Citroën Racing this week. I wish Kris and Craig all the best and I hope they can secure further good results for the Abu Dhabi Total WRT.”


Thursday, 13 October: shakedown in Salou at 8am.
Start at 1pm from Salou. Finish in Salou at 8.08pm following the opening 3.20km stage.

Friday, 14 October: start at 8.30am from Salou.
Finish in Salou at 7.59pm following eight stages covering a total of 135.14km.

Saturday, 15 October: start at 7.15am from Salou.
Finish in Salou at 7.15pm following eight stages covering a total of 139.18km.

Sunday, 16 October: start at 6.15am from Salou.
Finish in Salou at 1.41pm following four stages covering a total of 62.80km.










Jérôme Roussel
Media Abu Dhabi Total WRT

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Media & Comunication Top Run Motorsport
Rally Report Magazine Argentina

Photos: André Lavadinho / @World



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