Corsica will challenge rallying’s best crews with its mountainous tarmac stage this weekend.
The Mediterranean island returned to the World Rally Championship calendar last year as Rally de France moved from the Alsace region back to its traditional home.
Rally organisers have plotted a route comprising 390km of special stages, about 20 per cent longer than scheduled last year, on the island where rallying involves relentless corner-after-corner mountain roads, lower average speeds and abrasive tarmac.
The rally starts on Friday in Ajaccio and offers only a midday tyre change but no service opportunity. Saturday’s competition loops out of Bastia, providing 169km of competition.
A long 53.78km Sunday morning stage is followed by the 10.4km Power Stage as the rally heads south to finish in Porto Vecchio.
The top end of the WRC entry is the standard 2016 line-up of three-car efforts from Volkswagen (Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen) and Hyundai (Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon) while M-Sport fields main entries for Mads Ostberg and Eric Camilli and the DMack Tyres Ford Fiesta of Ott Tanak.
Citroen has committed to three of the remaining four events this year using its DS3 WRC with Corsica entries for Kris Meeke and Craig Breen. For Kiwi WRC star Hayden Paddon, it is another chance for tarmac experience and points.
With four rallies left, world champ Ogier leads the driver’s championship with 169 points from Mikkelsen on 110. Paddon and Hyundai team-mate Neuville are tied in third place on 94 points.
In the Manufacturers’ title Volkswagen Motorsport leads with 256 points from Hyundai Motorsport on 201.
There’s plenty of Tour de Corse interest in the second-tier WRC2 category and also further down the 77-strong entry list. The Corsican event is the first half of a back-to-back late-season tarmac segment of the championship before Rally Espana-Catalunya next month.