Ulster driver Mark Donnelly will get a taste of what he hopes are things to come when he takes part in the Rally du Var in France this weekend.
The 20-year-old from Tyrone, one of the few drivers to beat fellow Ulsterman and new British F2 champion Marty McCormack this year, plans to tackle a limited programme of Intercontinental Challenge rounds next year and is using the French event to gain experience of European conditions.
“This rally will be completely different to anything I have done before but it is similar to some of the IRC rounds I am considering for next season so getting experience is key,” he explained.
Donnelly, who turned down a place in the Pirelli Star Driver shoot-out last week because the potential prize did not fit in with his plans, will drive an R3 Renault on the Var rally which features a host of star names including Rally GB winner Jari-Matti-Latvala and Le Mans 24-hour race ace Stephane Sarrazin.
Meanwhile, Sebastien Ogier, whose in-house challenge threatened to end Sebastien Loeb’s reign as World rally champion, has joined the new Volkswagen team.
Effectively sacked by Citroen 10 days ago, Ogier will head the driver line-up in the VW project which will see the German manufacturer join the World championship in 2013 with a WRC Polo.
After Rally GB, Citroen announced that Ogier was leaving and would be replaced by Mikko Hirvonen.
It was expected the young Frenchman, who made one of his first official appearances for Citroen on the 2008 Ulster Rally, introducing the new C2R2 to the UK market,would replace Hirvonen at Ford. Instead, he has opted for VW even though it means his ambition to become World champion will have to wait until 2013 at the earliest.
He is expected to make selected appearances late next year as part of the Polo development programme, just as Kris Meeke and the Mini team have done this season.