Motorsport: Camouflage comes off
Motor show fanfare as wraps come off
The glamorous international motor shows are where new metal ready for the showroom is debuted and concept cars grab the headlines.
It’s also a stage for car companies to showcase their motorsport programmes.
With the Paris Motor Show looming at the end of September and the Los Angeles Auto Show set for mid-November, there are some important race and rally machines expected to break cover.
The fresh set of World Rally Car regulations for 2017 and a WRC calendar that starts in January with Rallye Monte Carlo means the Paris show is likely to have a strong rally flavour.
There’s likely to be plenty of fanfare as the camouflage comes off Citroen’s all-new C3-based WRC weapon along with at least partial confirmation of a 2017 driver line-up — that will be led by Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke, will also likely involve Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre and might see Thierry Neuville on the move from Hyundai.
Peugeot’s rally Raid contender
And Toyota’s WRC return should have a high profile in Paris.
There’s a suggestion Toyota may have a surprise in store ahead of its 2017 return to WRC competition. The current generation Yaris is very close to the end of its model cycle and in recent times the prototype cars being tested by Tommi Makinen Racing have featured more elaborate camouflage and slightly different proportions. Could there be a next generation Yaris under that disguise?
And the beginnings of Toyota’s driver line-up should be announced, for which young Finn Esapekka Lappi now seems a leading contender.
Paris could confirm how championship front runners Volkswagen and Hyundai will progress to the 2017 rules with evolution of their existing WRC cars. Volkswagen will continue with a Polo-based 2017 car and Hyundai will move to the i20 three-door bodystyle. A Paris debut would reflect some competition glory on to the launch of Hyundai’s sub-brand of N performance cars.
There’s another rally programme sure to have a high profile in Paris. Peugeot and Red Bull have revealed the latest evolution of the Rally Raid contender, which swaps its 2008-inspired bodywork for a design based on the new 3008 crossover. The new 3008 DKR continues with its rear-wheel-drive ``buggy’’ configuration and 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel engine and will chase Dakar Rally success next January with 2016 winner Stephane
Peterhansel returning along with Sebastien Loeb, Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres.
When it comes to racing on the circuits, a September show in Paris is too soon for carmakers to show off 2017 developments of LMP1 endurance cars and other similar machinery. But with the third season of electric single-seater racing in the FIA Formula E category set to begin in Hong Kong on October 9, expect to see Jaguar’s factory involvement and Audi’s raised commitment to the series given a high profile.
In the world of GT racing the Paris show might see Porsche in the spotlight as the venue where the German marque finally tells the world about its 2017-spec 911 RSR racer for the GT-E Pro class of the World Endurance Championship and the GTLM category of North America’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.
Porsche has released teaser pictures of the new car testing but nothing from an angle that might confirm the rumours the car is mid-engine (rather than rear) and might follow the lead of the mainstream 911 range by switching to a turbocharged engine.
Citroen’s C3-based WRC.
The race debut for the new 911 RSR is expected to be the Daytona 24 Hours in January and there are two other major North American racing programmes likely to hit the track at Daytona and in the frame for a news burst at the Los Angeles Auto Show (November 18-27).
The fastest category of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship adopts new rules from next year. These are a variation of the new FIA LMP2 rules but will allow manufacturers to provide engines rather than use the spec Gibson V8 engine required in the FIA WEC and European Le Mans Series.
Early adopters in the new Daytona Prototype International category are expected to be Mazda and General Motors. Mazda will continue its factory programme with a DPI racer powered by the SkyActiv turbo petrol engine and the GM programme is a Cadillac-branded prototype with a V6 turbo engine to replace the current Corvette-bodied Daytona Prototypes.
Waitomo fills a gap in North Island’s depleted rally calendar with Clubmans race
The late addition of a Waitomo-based event has filled out a lean 2016 rally calendar for North Island competitors.
With the cancellation of two late-season events — the Hawke’s Bay Rally on September 10 was replaced by a rallysprint near Tutira while the Paihia-based Rally of the Far North was cancelled earlier in the year — it looked like only four rallies would be held on North Island gravel roads this year.
Now the Hamilton Car Club has stepped up to take over the Saturday October 1 date originally set for the Rally of the Far North.
The Waitomo Rally on Saturday October 1 is being run to the increasingly popular Clubmans format — less than 80km of special stages, a maximum field of 50 cars and no safety notes. It will be decided over five special stages and will be based at the Ngutunui School, west of Te Awamutu, with stages near Waitomo Caves.
In contrast to the North Island calendar there are still three local rallies remaining for South Island competitors.
The finale of the six-round Mainland Rally Series is the South Canterbury Car Club’s Spring Rally this Saturday, while the Rankleburn Clubmans Rally near Gore organised by the Eastern Southland Car Club is on October 8. The Otago Sports Car Club has its five-stage Lawrence Clubmans Rally on November 5.
And the international Silver Fern Rally marathon event runs Nov 27-Dec 4 — starting and finishing in Christchurch.