After the snow and ice coated asphalt roads of Rallye Monte-Carlo in January, the Intercontinental Rally Challenge resumes in the Brazilian city of Curitiba from 4-6 March where the conditions could not be more contrasting.
The slippery mountainous lanes and sub-zero temperatures
experienced on the IRC season opener will be replaced by high-speed gravel roads and a near tropical climate for Rally Internacional de Curitiba, the second round of the 12-event IRC series.
Residents of Brazil’s ‘smiling city’ will get an extra treat. Not only will the IRC event be fought out within easy reach of central Curitiba, the city will also host the opening round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
Just like the rally, the WTCC competitors will be based at Curitiba’s race circuit where the opening two rounds will take place on Sunday 7 March. Both series are promoted by Eurosport Events and will enjoy coverage on Eurosport, Europe’s largest television channel.
Rally Internacional de Curitiba, which became a round of the IRC for the first time last year, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2010. The event was originally called the Graciosa Rally in deference to the famous Graciosa Road, which connected Curitiba to the Atlantic Ocean several centuries ago.
Consisting of 15 stages covering 217 kilometres, the event is extremely compact compared to other rounds of the IRC. The total road distance is just short of 500 kilometres.
Friday’s opening leg is identical to 2009 and is made up of seven stages run to the west of Curitiba with a single visit to the permanent service park at Autodromo Curitiba shortly after midday. The first stage, Campo Magro, is run three times during the day with the Ouro Fino and Curitiba tests repeated once.
Saturday’s final leg, run to the north east of Curitiba, will feature eight stages and is set to finish with a spectacular superspecial stage in the district of Pinhais close to the service park. The spectator stage is purpose built and will pitch two drivers running side by side against each other. The bulk of Saturday’s stages will be used only once with the exception of Rio Pesqueiro and Quatro Barras, which will be run twice.
Unlike some gravel rallies, which are held over punishing rock-strewn terrain, the roads around Curitiba are smooth with numerous blind crests peppering the route. Although the surface is largely sandy, because the roads link small towns and villages, the surface is compact and in theory will not deteriorate when the stages are repeated.
Crews making the trip from Europe are due to arrive in Brazil over the weekend ahead of the two-day reconnaissance, which takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday. Following a shakedown test on Thursday morning and a ceremonial start, a run over the Super Prime Pinhais superspecial stage will determine the starting order for day one but won’t have a bearing on the overall result.