Meeke excited by Rally Islas Canarias

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Defending Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Kris Meeke says he can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of his Peugeot UK 207 Super 2000 on Rally Islas Canarias later this month.

The 30-year-old from Northern Ireland will be among a number of IRC regulars tackling the asphalt event for the first time when it takes place from 29 April-1 May as the fourth round of the IRC.

He said: “I can’t wait to get started, particularly because it’s going to be a new event for a lot of drivers and we’ll all be starting there with a clean sheet of paper.”

Rally Islas Canarias appears on the IRC schedule for the first time this season after being called up to replace Rally Principe de Asturias. Meeke added: “It’s not an issue for me that it’s been scheduled quite late because I’ll go anywhere in the world to do my rallying, even at short notice.”

Meeke, who is co-driven by Irishman Paul Nagle, is currently equal fourth in the IRC drivers’ standings after three events. He will face strong opposition on Rally Islas Canarias from the championship’s top three, Juho Hanninen, Guy Wilks and Jan Kopecky, who all drive Skoda Fabia S2000s.

Oliveira expands IRC programme

Daniel Oliveira will contest ten rounds of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge after adding Rally Islas Canarias to his revised schedule of events.

Brazilian Oliveira, 24, is embarking on his first season in the IRC with Manfred Stohl’s Austria-based Stohl Racing concern. After contesting the opening three rounds of the series, Oliveira wasn’t planning to compete again until the Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium from 24-26 June under his original eight-round programme.

However, he has now confirmed his entry on Rally Islas Canarias at the end of April and will now only skip the IRC rounds in Sardinia and Czech Republic due to other commitments.

Stohl said: “Daniel did quite okay on the Monte Carlo Rally and I think Rally Islas Canarias will be easier to adapt to because he has very little experience on Tarmac. It’s good that he is able to do so many events because, for him, this year is all about gaining experience, not results.”

Experienced Spaniard Carlos del Barrio will co-drive Oliveira’s Peugeot 207 Super 2000 on Rally Islas Canarias.

Smith gets new Honda for IRC 2WD bid

Colin R Smith has got his hands on the Honda Civic Type R he will use on four rounds of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

Smith, from Scotland, travelled to Ypres in Belgium, venue of round six of the IRC from June 24-26, to collect the car from previous owner Martijn Braat. He will be one of the favourites to land IRC 2WD Cup honours when he begins his programme on Rally d’Italia-Sardegna in early June.

The Honda Smith and co-driver Craig Chapman will campaign this season runs to the latest Group N specification. They plan to conduct an extensive test schedule in the G+M Mechanical Services-prepared machine over the coming weeks as they adapt to left-hand drive for the first time.

“The step to purchase an international winning car now means we can concentrate on pushing ourselves to the best of our ability in what will be an exciting year ahead in the IRC,” said Smith.


Villagra impressed by IRC

Federico Villagra believes the Intercontinental Rally Challenge’s first visit to Argentina created a strong impression on the country and says he would love to get the opportunity to take part on more IRC events in the future.

Villagra, an eight-time Argentine rally champion, finished fifth on the IRC-counting Rally Argentina last month, the first time he had competed in the series and the first time he had driven an M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 in competition.

“The IRC is a good idea with good television and a good show,” said Villagra. “By going with national championships they create a really good competition because you had more than 40 Group N cars competing together.

“At the moment I don’t have any plans to do more IRC events but you never know for next year. Also I’d like to get the chance to race the Ford Fiesta again because I really liked it.”