Our new favourite rally driver

The name Inessa Tushkanova might not mean a massive amount to you yet, but give the girl time. Or just give her $3 million and Malcolm Wilson will put her in one of his cars for a season.

At present M-Sport’s second seat is likely to be heading towards another spectacular Russian driver who is unlikely to trouble the championship title battle, Evgeny Novikov. Nevertheless, while Inessa may lack Evgeny’s seat-of-the-pants excitement in the car, she excels in the pants-completely-missing excitement of a glamour girl.

Yes, if the American public is both titillated and appalled by Danica Patrick’s rampant sexiness in America, they ain’t seen nothing compared to dear old Inessa.

 

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Trending now: names with ‘u’ in them

Hot gossip today revolves around Kubica and Subaru. Fortunately, we found a photo of Kubica in a Subaru. Kinda symmetrical.

Rumour no.1: Robert Kubica will drive a MINI in the 2013 WRC

We say… why? He’s a magnet for sponsors and has a good relationship with Citroën. Why not run a DS3 RRC  in WRC2 for a year, get to grips on gravel and then think about the next step?

Rumur no.2: Subaru will not rejoin the WRC, but go to the WTCC

We say… well, this story has been run by Rallye Magazin in Germany with quotes attributed to a Subaru ‘source’. Put simply, Subaru doesn’t have a car in its current line-up to fit existing WRC regulations, and a move to R5 as the top class wouldn’t help. The WTCC seems like a waste of everyone’s time and effort, but if they’ve got to compete somewhere the FIA will surely welcome them back with open arms.

Mads is M-Sport’s man

Mads Østberg has been named as team leader for the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team in 2013. The young Norwegian has had a very impressive season this year in an M-Sport Fiesta WRC prepared by the Adapta team, proving the most consistent of all the Ford drivers through the course of the year, and taking his debut victory on the WRC in Portugal – albeit after the exclusion of Mikko Hirvonen’s Citroën.

This now leaves only the choice of second driver in the team to be resolved. Team principal Malcolm Wilson insists that his drivers must bring funding with them, putting Russian youngster Evgeny Novikov in pole position. But the team’s incumbent driver, 2003 world champion Petter Solberg, is offering to drive for nothing to keep his place at the top table of the sport.

A third car will be entered for Qatar’s former PWRC and Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah when his commitments permit.

Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team announced

Former PWRC champion and Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah has put together the financial package required for Qatar to take title sponsorship of the M-Sport squad in next year’s WRC. A three-car squad of Fiestas will be entered in the WRC, with Al-Attiyah also contesting the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.

Al-Attiyah and Qatar have had a relationship with Citroën Racing this season, but the emirate of Abu Dhabi will partner the French marque in 2013. Initially it was believed that Al-Attiyah would have to call time on his WRC ambitions, but Ford’s withdrawal from the WRC meant that the squad of Fiestas came on the market at an appropriate price.

The Qatar deal is not believed to have any impact on M-Sport team boss Malcolm Wilson’s requirement that potential drivers for 2013 should be prepared to bring funding with them. This has put 2003 world champion Petter Solberg’s seat in jeopardy, as he has stated this weekend that he will happily drive without taking a salary but will not pay the team for his position.

A confirmed driver line-up for the 2013 Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team is expected next Monday.

Yes, this is what success looks like…

Well it’s not often that a burnt-out car can be viewed as a symbol of success, unless you happen to be a rioter, but this husk of an ex-Loeb Citroën C4 WRC marks the rise of Robert Kubica’s international motor sport career like a phoenix from the flames (did you see what I did there?)

The absurdly talented Pole, still plagued with the legacy of injuries he suffered at the start 2011, took a whopping 80+ second lead from Freddy Loix’s Peugeot 307 WRC on the opening day of the Rallye du Var and built to a colossal 5 minute advantage of the the field before it all went a bit wrong. The result of Kubica’s prang was a written-off car with no damage to driver or co-driver – but a huge success in terms of how his skills and his comeback are being viewed at the top level of the sport.

Bravo, Robert – you deserve all the praise indeed.

Opel tiptoes back towards WRC

Opel, the principal European brand of General Motors, has announced a long-term plan to return to front-line rallying along similar lines to that taken by Toyota.

To start with it will hold a one-make championship within the ADAC Rallye Masters package for its new city car, the Adam. The Adam Opel Cup cars will be built to FIA R2 specification with front-wheel-drive and a 1.6 litre non-turbo engine and go on sale at just under €25,000.

According to German outlet Rally-Magazin the new car will be presented to the world at the Essen Motor Show on 1 December as it begins to recruit aspiring stars from Germany and neighbouring countries to the programme. ADAC sports president Hermann Tomczyk has already stated that there will be a € 100,000 prize fund behind the series, meanwhile Opel has suggested that the Adam Opel Cup will, like that of Toyota’s Yaris one-make series, ultimately lead the way back towards the top flight.

An Opel Adam in rally colours prior to the December 1 launch

While the Adam project gets underway, Opel will be developing a competition variant of its next-generation Corsa model to R3 and R5 specification. The new Corsa, which goes on sale in 2014, is expected to take styling cues from the sporty Astra Coupé and present a sporty alternative in the crowded supermini sector.

Opel’s competition department in Rüsselsheim has been tasked with getting the R3 specification Corsa (front wheel drive with a 1.6-litre turbo), ready for 2014 and the 1.6-litre 4WD R5 a year later. If this programme is achieved, the plan is to aim for a full WRC programme starting in 2016.

Dr. Thomas Sedran, Deputy Managing Director, Adam Opel AG, was quoted as saying: “These new motorsport activities play in the strategic realignment of the company an important role, they are a fundamental element in our brand profile.”

Opel was a stalwart of the WRC’s first decade, with several of its models from the sporty Kadett and Manta to the executive Kommodore being seen in action through the 1970s. It was with the mid-range Ascona that it found the most success, however, and in 1982 the German ace Walter Röhrl won a hard-fought title battle to beat the Audi Quattro of Michèle Mouton to the WRC drivers’ title. The Ascona’s success was followed by that of the Manta 400, which did not trouble the 4WD giants of the WRC but achieved honours in national and regional competitions worldwide.

Opel Manta 400 was a star of the Eighties

Since the 1980s, Opel has not enjoyed a particularly fruitful time in motor sport. It dropped its plans for a Group A assault on the WRC with the Calibra coupé in the early 1990s in favour of contesting the German Touring Car CHampionship and FIA International Touring Car Championship but despite the likes of former Formula One world champion Keke Rosberg at the wheel it never overcame the might of Mercedes-Benz or Audi.

A Super 1600 version of the second-generation Corsa was found in competition at the turn of the century, followed by a Super 2000 rally version of the third-generation car that was built by MSV that competed in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Neither of these programmes achieved stirring success, and Opel has suffered heavily in the contraction of European car sales in recent years.

Andreas Mikkelsen shone in abortive Corsa S2000

It would be great to see a return to form for the famous white and yellow colours of Opel at the top level of competition… but three years is a long time in the European automotive industry!

Kubica wins in Como

Former Sauber and Renault Formula One driver Robert Kubica and co-driver Emmanuele Inglesi took victory on the 31st Rally di Como this weekend. As he continues his recovery from the dreadful injuries received at the start of 2011, Kubica set out on the event in a works-prepared Citroën C4 WRC. This was the Pole’s third rally win in as many months, having graduated from a 2007 Subaru Impreza. He’s back out again on the Rallye du Var next weekend… traditionally the best test for drivers wanting to take part in Monte Carlo.