Rallying / RAC Rally: The Champion's guide to the challengers

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JUHA KANKKUNEN, the Finn who has already secured the world title for a record fourth time, is confident of bring his Toyota Celica home for his fifth victory of the season. 'I have a lot of experience and I think that is very important. You never know in a rally, you can have an accident or a bit of bad luck, but I have to say I am happy with the car and with the team, and I am going for a win.'

Below he considers five drivers who could thwart his ambitions this week.

Didier Auriol (Fr)

Toyota Celica

Third in the championship, one win. 'Didier goes like hell most of the time and for sure I expect him to go for it here. He has nothing to lose and I think he is going to enjoy himself. He is very talented, very competitive, and of course he has the car. He could be the winner.'

Colin McRae (GB)

Subara Impreza

Fifth in the championship, one win. 'I think he is the best driver to come out of Britain. He has a lot of natural ability, very fast, very aggressive, and his team is getting stronger. It is just that he will have so much pressure. That will make it difficult for him.'

Francois Delecour (Fr)

Ford Escort

Second in the championship, three wins. 'He is very good, very fast, especially on tarmac, and I know he is happier about the car on gravel now. So he should be strong here. He may be more tactical, to plan for next season. He can be a future world champion.'

Ari Vatanen (Fin)

Subaru Impreza

Seventh in the championship, no wins. 'Ari has always been one of the top drivers but perhaps not the luckiest. I think he is better than he was in the old days because now he is staying on the road and if you want to win rallies that is as important as the speed.'

Malcolm Wilson (GB)

Ford Escort

Concentrated this year on British championship. 'Malcolm is always strong in his home country, he knows the forests, he has a good car and I'm sure he will be highly motivated. He could surprise people. I think he will be right there with the leaders.'



BIRMINGHAM (NATIONAL INDOOR ARENA): Rally Show: 07:30-17:30. Admission: pounds 5; under 16 pounds 2.


07.30: Start Centenary Square, Birmingham. Admission: Free. Parking: National Indoor Arena, city-centre car parks.

07.57: Special stage one, Sutton Park (2.96 miles). Set in 2,400 acres of parkland, stage consists of twisty tarmac roads through open heathland and woods and features watersplash, hairpins and flat-out crests and brows. Location: 6 miles north of Birmingham city centre, west of Sutton Coldfield. Admission: pounds 6, under 16 pounds 1. Parking: Spaces for 6,000 cars within the park or park in Sutton Coldfield town centre.

08:46: Special stage two, Weston Park (2.54 miles): Mainly tarmac roads within estate. Excellent viewing, with watersplash, double-hairpin and fast sections of gravel road. Location: 7 miles east of Telford on A5, easily accessible from both M6 and M54. Admission: pounds 6; under 16 pounds 1. Parking: Main car parks between the stage and A5, with an overspill car park (1,000 cars) north of A5.

10:34: Special Stage three, Oulton Park (2.73 miles): Uses racing circuit (not always in the normal direction) and some infield loose-surface tracks. Location: 5 miles north east of Tarporley, off A49. Admission: pounds 6; under 16 pounds 1. Parking: Large car parks within the circuit and in nearby adjacent fields. No parking on any access roads or nearby lanes. Some roads will be closed to traffic.

11:29: Special stage four, Tatton Park (4.27 miles): New stage, using variety of tarmac and loose surface tracks through estate attached to stately home. Several good vantage points within easy access of car parks. Short section through the woods is prohibited to spectators. Location: One mile north of Knutsford on A50, 4 miles from junction 19 of M6, 3 miles south of junction 7 of M56. Admission: pounds 6; under 16 pounds 1. Parking: large car park within grounds giving direct access to stage.

13:25: Special stage five, Chatsworth (6.53 miles): Popular stage, whose route gives excellent viewing and includes spectacular watersplash and jump. Also used by the Rally Britannia (First under 16 pounds 1. Parking: Entry from A619 and B6012.

14:47: Special stage six, Clumber Park (3.19 miles): Car parks open: 09:00. Fast stage on tarmac through National Trust parkland with many difficult corners, a jump and famous Clumber Bridge. Stage is used twice by Rally Britannia (10:00 and 10:20). Admission: pounds 6; under 16 pounds 1. Location: 4 miles south of Worksop. Parking: Large car parks near to middle of stage.

16:31: Special stages seven and eight, Donington One and Two (4.76 miles): Uses circuit and gravel roads. Narrow in places with tricky corners and a jump on the infield section. The stage is used twice. Used twice by Rally Britannia (12:14 and 12:32). Location: 2.5 miles west of M1 near Castle Donington. Admission: pounds 6; under 16 pounds 1. Parking: Access through the main circuit entrance at Coppice, with ample parking.

17:50: Special stage nine (4.66 miles): No Admission.

19:51: Finish, Centenary Square, Birmingham: Admission: Free. Parking: As start.