RALLYE CATALUNYA (SPAIN) – Oct 29th – 31st, Round 15
A dramatic asphalt rally based in Lloret de Mar, on the Costa Brava. A warm and friendly rally drawing massive crowds from mainland Europe. Stages are easily accessed in the nearby mountains, which afford stunning scenery and action – especially if you are prepared to walk a little, which few of the locals seem to do.
Stages are stunningly fast and the tarmac often smooth, lined with many Armco crash barriers that wait to pounce on the imprecise. However they do protect crews from many “heart stopping” drops.
Sharing the action with the passionate and excuberant Latin crowd, treats all fans to a “memorable spectacle and an awesome atmosphere.” The fanatical flag waving support for local hero Carlos Sainz, borders on extreme and must be worth one second per mile to the highest paid Spannish sportsman, on his home event.
It must be said that the catering on and around the stages is second to none (carnivores only) and the Catalan sausage varieties are plentiful and tastier than your normal cheeseburger or hot dog. In Lloret de Mar the rally show centres around the parc ferme, which has a lively blend of merchandise stands, video driving competitions, scalextric and go cart challenges to extract those last ounces of energy.
Lloret de Mar – a lively holiday resort.
The host town on the Costa Brava provides an unprecedented selection of bars eateries and nightlife of the whole rally calendar. Many say, the steaks are only bettered by those in Argentina. Also the local paella is always tempting. Established as a summer holiday resort, the entire WRC circus is easily housed within the town. Frequently you can find yourself relaxing in the evenings alongside the teams and crews in the autumn air in the abundant bars and restaurants. The celebrations at the end of the event are always amongst the finest in the calendar, courtesy of the many nightclubs laying on special rally fan evenings.
Loeb / Martin and unfinished business
Both Loeb and Martin could (should) have won last year. Both were pipped by Panizzi amidst a final leg rainstorm. Loeb finished as runner-up (as in 2002), whilst Martin and the Focus were the quickest combination in 2003 but encountered difficulties to finish third. As the penultimate round of the championship, Catalonia is bound to witness a dramatic battle for championship honours over the treacherous mountain roads, which may ultimately decide the championship.