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The 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge season will feature 13 all-action rounds in Europe and will be watched by millions of fans around the world. Here’s a glimpse of what’s in store this year.

February:
IRC season six gets underway on Sata Rallye Açores from 23-25 February, the Atlantic Archipelago’s fourth appearance in the IRC. Technical gravel stages run over spectacular landscapes and offer stunning views, while a changeable climate adds to the challenge.
Intercontinental Rally Challenge 2012
March:
The season continues with Rally Islas El Corte Inglés from 15-17 March. Based in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria, the asphalt event is a mixture of undulating roads and narrow and fast sections. The surface is abrasive meaning grip levels are high but tyre wear can be at a premium.

April:
An exciting new addition to the IRC schedule for 2012, the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally, which takes place from 6-7 April, is one of the world’s oldest rallies having run for the first time in 1931. It’s also one of the most popular with thousands of fans set to watch the challenging all-asphalt stages.

May:
Traditionally known as the ‘Rally of 10,000 Corners’ due to its high frequency of turns, the Tour de Corse joined the IRC family for the first time in 2011 with an exciting route covering large parts of the picturesque Mediterranean island. The event forms round four of the 2012 IRC from 11-12 May.

June:
Having enjoyed IRC Supporter Event status in the past, Hungary’s Canon Mecsek Rallye became a fully-fledged round of the series for the first time last season. Based in the city of Pécs – the 2010 European Capital of Culture – the rally uses high-speed asphalt stages and takes place from 2-3 June.

Later in the month (21-23 June), the GEKO Ypres Rally is held on farmland asphalt roads around the historic market town of Ypres in northwest Belgium. The narrow stages are lined by drainage ditches and are popularised by tight junctions to provide a huge test.

July:
One of three all-gravel events on the 2012 IRC calendar, the rally will take place for the 40th time next season when it runs from 6-7 July. The stages in the mountains in and around San Marino are made up of a mixture of fine and sandy gravel tracks and are notoriously challenging.

A former IRC Supporter Event, Romania’s Sibiu Rally now forms part of the full IRC schedule for the first time. Using mainly gravel stages albeit with a handful of Tarmac sections, the event runs from 20-22 July and is established as one of the country’s major sporting events.

August:
Crowds of up to 200,000 are treated to a rallying spectacular when Barum Czech Rally Zlín takes place from 31 August-2 September. The event is ranked as one of the most difficult on the IRC calendar due to the proliferation of high-speed blasts through forests and woodland, sections of broken Tarmac and the bumpy nature of some of the roads.

September:
The all-asphalt Prime Yalta Rally uses stages in mountains overlooking the Black Sea city of Yalta in Ukraine’s Crimea region from 15-16 September. While the compact rally was new to the IRC in 2011, it has been a long-term fixture in the country’s national rally championship.

Due to run for a 32nd time in 2012, Rally Sliven completes the list of IRC newcomers for this season and brings the total number of events in Eastern Europe to five. A mainstay of the Bulgarian championship, the rally is famed for its tricky and unique asphalt surface. It is held from 29-30 September.

October:
With Rallye Sanremo’s competitive action contained within a 24-hour window, a huge strain will be placed on car and crew when the event takes places from 12-13 October. The stages use narrow and undulating roads and feature fast and flowing sections, frequent changes of rhythm and blind and open corners with rapid climbs and descents.

November:
The Cyprus Rally joined the IRC for the first time in 2010 and became an instant hit with drivers and fans alike. Rough and rocky gravel roads, smooth and broken asphalt, plus punishing ambient temperatures combine to make the event one of the toughest on the calendar. The rally runs from 2-3 November and brings the 2012 IRC season to a close.

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