After a brief interlude on tarmac, the WRC returns to gravel in Wales. Unlike Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini, who have taken part in the Wales Rally GB on several occasions, the tenth round of the season will be a totally new experience for Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul.
Traditionally contested at the end of the season, in 2012 the Wales Rally GB has been moved to the middle of September. Like the mild weather that Cardiff is currently enjoying, the British round of the WRC may well benefit from something of a summer atmosphere!
As Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul have never competed here before, they won’t be surprised if they don’t find the mud, rain and wind typically associated with the Welsh stages. “Perhaps the course will make me think of the Rally of Scotland, in which I have competed twice”, assessed the young Belgian. “In any case, I’m not afraid of racing in places that are totally new to me. The purpose of this season is to provide me with experience and I’m always happy to take part in rallies that I could only watch on television a few years ago.”
“I had a chance to relax in the weeks following the Germany Rally”, continued Thierry. “I didn’t really get very far away from the world of motorsport, as I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Belgian Formula 1 GP at Spa. It was very enlightening to watch the Red Bull Racing team at work during a racing weekend. After this short break, my aim for the British round will be to make it to the finish without having to resort to the Rally2 rules. I know I have the turn of speed, including on stages that are totally new to me. But for this event, I’m not going to concern myself too much with my times, because my goal will really be to avoid making any mistakes.”
Having already competed here three times, Nasser Al-Attiyah is already more familiar with the gravel roads winding through the Welsh forests. “It’s not my favourite rally when it rains. In wet conditions, it is very easy to get caught out and end up going off the road”, recalled the Qatari. “The Germany Rally was difficult for me, but it gave me the opportunity to refamiliarise myself with the DS3 WRC. I think that this will be a surface on which I’ll be more capable of expressing myself. Like Thierry, I was able to take some time off in the last few days. After having spent a lot of time in Europe for the Olympic Games, I went back to Qatar to spend some time with my family.”
Despite his recent lack of competitive action, Nasser believes he can continue to progress: “The huge advantage that we have is that we benefit from the work done by the works team. When I get into the car, I know that it has already been very well set up. I will be treating this rally with the respect it deserves and I’ll gradually push more and more as I grow in confidence.”