2012…The Year of Rally?

It’s official. The NBA is locking out its players for the 2012 season, unless the players decide to take a few less million dollars’ salary out of the goodness of their heart so that some of the smaller teams can actually turn a profit.
The NFL is well into their lockout, which (I hope) ends when the team owners agree to compensate the poor players who are getting their brains turned into jelly.
So that leaves baseball (slow), hockey (where’s the puck?) and NASCAR (shudder) to fill up 24 hours/365 days of gab-gab-gabbing on ESPN next year.
Hey! Show the American people some rally and F1!
That would break up the all-baseball Top Ten Play compilations, at least.
One can dream!
I hope the NBA hurries up, because I can’t wait to see “World Peace” on the back of this man’s jersey.

June 30, 2011. News, Rally, Sports, Thoughts. 1 comment.

The Sebs, Rising Generations, and the “Global” Rallycross Championship

I honestly thought it had only been a few months since my last post, but alas! It never ceases to amaze me how time marches on, how the seasons pass, and how every day there’s yet another meal to cook (but I let my husband blog about that).

The seasons are changing in the world of motorsport as well. Michael Schumacher’s dominance as we knew it has ended. Just when we thought Lewis Hamilton would succeed him, he was outshined by another German, Sebastian Vettel, who looks poised to reign supreme. Will the same happen in rally? Has a worthy pretender to Sebastien Loeb’s throne been found not in Mikko  Hirvonen or Jari-Matti Latvala, but in Sebastien Ogier? Has Ogier actually been cloned in a French lab by rally-loving geneticists who, in their rush to inject talent into the sport, accidentally gave him the same name as his forebear? Are these people behind Sebestian Vettel as well? If you name your child Sebastien, will he poop his diapers faster than the other babies?

My point is, as much as I hate change, the march of time eventually robs our heroes of their prime, and the next generation must arise. Sure, we’re still far from rally’s heyday back in the 80’s and 90’s. But as much as I hate to see Sebastien Loeb lose, we are witnessing the ascendancy of the next World Rally Champion. And we have the fortuitous opportunity to compare the old and the new, apples to apples. We’ll know, that future day when Ogier is winning rally after rally, that he is as good, or perhaps even better than, the former greats. We’ll know that rally still has masterful talent behind the wheel. We don’t have to worry that rally is losing its glory.

Loeb’s former rival, the ever-entertaining Marcus Gronholm, put himself out to pasture in 2007, at the height of his game. I understand he got a bit bored in that pasture, but in a rather remarkable turn of events, he found a way to cure his boredom and come to California! Marcus has been dabbling in rallycross for a while, but he is now driving a Ford Fiesta in the “Global” Rally Championship. This is its first year, created in response to the interest generated by the X Games’ rallycross event, and it takes place in the western US. There were only three rounds this year, of which Marcus contested two, but even if there were 15, he’d smoke the other guys every time! And I’d imagine he’ll do the same at the X Games in July. There’s just no competition…but it’s always a pleasure to see good driving for the sake of good driving.

Photo Credit: GRC/Jan Tore Brustad

Photo Credit: GRC/Jan Tore Brustad

Photo Credit: GRC/Jan Tore Brustad

Photo Credit: GRC/Jan Tore Brustad

So if you’re in LA in July, make sure to snag some tickets to the two rally events this year! Rally cars in the streets of Downtown LA? Sweet.

PS: If there are any rally-loving American geneticists reading this–would you mind going to the X Games and cloning Marcus Gronholm? America needs a WRC champion!

PSS: If/When the NBA lockout happens next year–I know what to do with the empty Staples Center!

June 27, 2011. Auto Racing, F1, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

X Games 16: “Rally Car Racing” and “Super Rally”

Those are in quotes, because if you aren’t familiar with rallying, they should really be called a super special stage and rallycross, respectively. Now that we’ve got the semantics out of the way…

I remember the very first running of the rally event in 2006. It seemed that the only spectators in the Home Depot Center were curious looky-loos drawn by the sound of engines. Even in 2007, I was able to hang around the service area long enough to eavesdrop on a drivers’ debrief, while everyone else was watching the skateboarders.

Gone are those days. Travis Pastrana reigns supreme over a nation of adrenaline junkies. Ken Block rules the neighboring kingdom of You Tube, with a notable diplomatic visit to Top Gear. The crowd in the Coliseum today? Tens of thousands! I would have been annoyed with all the crowds if I wasn’t utterly amazed by how rallying has exploded.

Not only are the fans out in numbers–they’re dedicated. Ken Block shirts, 199 tattoos, Subaru Rally Team USA hats–these aren’t just looky-loos anymore. The guy behind me was even up to date on Rally Finland (which I’m waiting to see on HD Theater next weekend, so don’t give away who won!).

(Side note: If you’re here and you’re like, “whattheFinlandwhosywhatsit?”  Boy, are you in luck! Head on over to my “What is World Rally?” page and catch up on one of the most amazing motorsports ever conceived. You can thank me later.)

Because you can find a recap of the exact proceedings elsewhere, I won’t get into it. Anyway, it was really hard making sense of all the action from the stands. All I know for sure is that Tanner Foust won two, very well-deserved gold medals. Cars jumped, and people liked it. Three cars jumped at once, and people loved it. A car rolled, and people screamed. Then all mayhem ensued–donuts, jumps, running over foam barriers–and the crowd went wild!

However, despite all the good news, the rallying was marred by poor organization. From the confusion over the course, to the rallycross final that ended one lap early, the organizers need to impose the same decorum that the FIA bestows on the World Rally Championship. In fact, they should call up Marcus Grönholm (he’s not busy, right?), lure him over with a crate of ketchup, ask him to consult on the rulebook, and then push him into a car and order him to drive! Perfect plan.

I’m also frustrated at the lack of professionalism by the drivers. Even without co-drivers, they should have been able to find their way around one stage. An itty-bitty one, at that. There’s no panacea to this problem, but as the fan base expands, so does our talent pool. So if you’ve got any talent at all, get off your bum and get in a car! That’s how all the best rally drivers got started. Even Seb Loeb used to slum it up in a Citroen Saxo.

Back to the X Games: the rallycross event was a huge success. In fact, with the super special stage being such an underwhelming mess, it might be a good idea to make a full transition and drop the traditional rally format. As much as I love rallying, the very nature of a three-day time trial is not spectacular enough to entrench itself into American sports culture. Rallycross, however, has amazing potential. NASCAR on dirt? It’s something we can relate to. One can tune in for the first time and know what’s going on. That’s how the future looks, in my humble opinion. And until Ken Block wins a WRC event, that’s the way it will be.

July 31, 2010. Rally. 1 comment.

Word up: The WRC App

If you’re not already sick of seeing banner ads for the WRC app on the official WRC website, try it out!

Is it perfect? No. (I want real-time splits on every stage, dangit!)

Is it really nice when I want me some portable Rally Radio? Oh, yes.

So go download it. It’s free! If it were a free pretzel, you would’ve done it already.

May 5, 2010. Rally. Leave a comment.

Back from the Dead!

Ouch. I haven’t posted since 2008?

It’s been so long, I forgot my own URL. I had to try my password twice.

So what made me wanna post again?



Kimi and Ferrari made as much sense as a marriage between Lt. Saavik and Roberto Benigni. Down-to-business Citroen and Kimi? Much better. Maybe this marriage can last…

Meanwhile, enjoy your Christmas and your US television coverage of the WRC on HDNet! Fa la la la la, la la la la.

December 23, 2009. Auto Racing, Citroen, F1, Motorsport, News, Rally, Rallying, Sports, WRC. Leave a comment.

Mieskuoro Huutajat – Starspangled Banner

August 15, 2008. Rally. Leave a comment.

Random Update

Surprise! I’m back.

I’m trying to ease back in and get updates going, but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do and precious little time to do it. After all, I’ve had to deal with a huge earthquake centered a few miles from my house that caused havoc and mayhem! OK…well, maybe the worst thing that happened was my Pirelli air horn falling over.

Anyway, before I rush off for a conference call, here’s a random link to a case study of weirdness in Finland. No, it has nothing to do with Rally Finland. But if Finns are crazy enough to drive rally cars, then they’re crazy enough to do THIS.

Update: holy cow! They got ahold of our national anthem! You’d better watch it now, because I don’t know how long I can keep this video up, out of good conscience…

August 14, 2008. Rally. 1 comment.

Thoughts: MexicoArgentinaJordan

I’m in a rush! Rally d’Italia Sardegna starts in an hour and a half, and dangit, I’m posting something before it starts!

I wasn’t really motivated to post anything after Mexico and Argentina, because there was so little to chew on. What can I analyze when Sebastien Loeb easily wins another rally over three other drivers? There were some interesting bits though. There have been plenty of swappage in the leaderboards this year and in the championship standings. But I chalk it up to the high attrition rates and scant entry lists of the rock-strewn, long-haul rallies.

My quick rundown of the drivers looks like this:
Seb Loeb: Lady Luck is done with the honeymoon phase and is treating him like any other driver. He wins AND loses. But he’s mostly winning.
Mikko Hirvonen: He’s getting out of a funk–the kind of funk you get into when someone steals your thunder. That someone being…
Jari-Matti Latvala: He’s young, he’s exciting, he’s sometimes faster than Loeb. But he’s a good boy and listens to his Ford bosses, cuz he’s in this for a career and not a quick thrill. Can we say “rallying’s Lewis Hamilton?”
Chris Atkinson: His brain is wired to be a champion. He may have scored three podiums in a row, but he’s not exactly happy. He’s only happy if he’s winning. Atko also reminds me of Lewis Hamilton in that sense: genial personality, but kind of a drag when he’s not atop the podium.
Dani Sordo: He’d be more exciting if he weren’t so boring. Match that driving ability with a more fun personality, and he’d break through to the level of Latvala.
Gigi Galli: Sardinia, please give him the lucky break that he deserves. Have mercy on your own kin!
Petter Solberg: Running out of excuses why he’s not faster than Atko. At least he’s complaining less and seeing the silver lining on a very black cloud that looks like his car. But I’d love it if the new Impreza were good and he won a rally this year.
Henning Solberg: Where’s the exuberant Henning that we all fell in love with two years ago? I hope he’s not fading away. Maybe he can regain that infectious energy and speed in time to compete against Petter in his new Impreza. That’d make for great stories in the Norwegian press.
Matthew Wilson: He’s still here. Driving. Finishing well when everyone else retires. Same ol’, same ol’.
Special mention: Sebastien Ogier. The J-WRC is usually a group of young pretenders to the throne, hoping to step up to greater things. Ogier doesn’t hope. He will.

Lastly, it was fascinating to see tactics play out on day two of Rally Jordan (which was a great rally, by the way, newcomer or not). Poor Dani Sordo was left to sweep the road when the Ford boys dropped time on the last kilometer of the last stage. Mikko reached a new level of cheeky when he declared, “my foot slipped off the throttle.” I laughed so hard!

PS: Rally Radio is as great as ever, but where are the live split times? Whoever took them away, you stole the wind in my rally sail. It was so much more fun with split times to digest.

Yes! I made it. Sardinia doesn’t start for another hour. Whew!

May 15, 2008. Ford, Funny Quotes, Rally, Rally Radio, Rally Reports, Rallying, The Adventures of Henning Solberg, Thoughts, WRC. 3 comments.

I’m not gone forever…

I promise, I’m perfectly healthy, I haven’t been abducted by aliens, and I haven’t abandoned blogging. It’s just that by the time I’m done listening to the recorded Rally Radio coverage, it’s far too late for anyone to care what I thought about the rally. Besides, there hasn’t been anything spectacularly fascinating about Mexico or Argentina. There were barely any drivers left at the end of the rally to comment on!

So right now, I’m listening to Rally Jordan coverage and hoping to post something juicy in the near future.

Alrighty…back to work. Meh.

April 30, 2008. Thoughts. 2 comments.

Snow found!

The snow we needed for Sweden somehow ended up in Athens.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t stay around for the Acropolis Rally. What a mess the planet’s in…

February 19, 2008. Rally. Leave a comment.

Rally Report: Swedish Rally 2008

Now, things are interesting, aren’t they? For anyone (including me) who thought that the year was just going to be Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen winning every rally, I am pleased to say that Jari-Matti Latvala has just stolen the show.

A lot of Jari-Matti fans have been vindicated surprisingly early. We loved him, sure. Admired his speed. Enjoyed his enthusiasm. But we didn’t think we’d cheer him on to a victory in the second rally of 2008! It’s like Christmas in January: who cares if it’s early, I’m taking the presents! Anyway, he’s already been praised the world over for his drive, his maturity and his ability to handle the pressure at the record age of 22.* So instead, I’m just going to end his paragraph with a “wooooooooo!”

Mikko was the man people expected to win. But when, in all three days, he could only muster enough speed to win one stage out of twenty, we’ve all got to wonder why that was. Jari-Matti had an advantage in the first day’s running order, but I don’t think anyone can fully explain why Mikko couldn’t keep up in the same car. But at least he stayed on the road, which is more than you could say for Seb.

Gigi Galli on the podium! Another “wooooooooo!” So well deserved. Gigi’s been through a lot, struggling to dig up sponsors when they should have come begging to him. Happy day.

Petter Solberg’s fourth-place finish is a good sign. Even in a lame-duck car that’s proven to be so crappy, he finished with a solid five points in the championship. Maybe it’s luck, but maybe David Richards was able to whip the Subaru WRT into shape enough to squeeze some decent reliability in the ol’ S12B. Like him or not, DR is a rare character along the lines of Bernie Ecclestone who can produce results from simple tenacity and force.

Marcus Gronholm-tutored Andreas Mikkelsen has proven to be a good investment of time by the former world champ. Perhaps it was a fifth place benefited from many retirements and problems for his competitors, but hey. Andreas set some great times. The important thing is that he has potential and he’s young. Plenty of time to learn.

Dani Sordo finished in a fine sixth place, despite the five-minute time penalty incurred as a result of an engine change after Monte. And, as it’s been pointed out, he would have been on the podium if you subtracted those five minutes from his time. But what I find most impressive is the vast improvement from the torrid time he’s had on snow rallies before. I’d almost given up hope for him on snow, but I have no problem being proven wrong here.

Toni Gardemeister, or should I say the Suzuki SX4, ended up in seventh. Kinda good. Kinda not, considering he’s the last WRC car in the standings before you count the PWRC and the WRC drivers with severe problems. Ten minutes behind the leader isn’t where one would normally like to be (just ask Toni), but this is where the seasoned 32 year-old needs to show his patience and wisdom and plod through the developmental phase of the SX4.

Others who didn’t finish so well:
Henning Solberg was doing so well, until he crashed and banged up poor Cato Menkerud’s shoulder. Next time…
Seb Loeb still isn’t able to stop the unsettling trend of making mistakes. Or maybe it’s not so much a trend as it is normalcy. I came into rallying in the Mr. Perfect season of 2005, so I’ve never even witnessed Seb rolling his car.
Atko really needs to step up his game. With two of his fellow “young guns” already notching up victories, he’s got to do something spectacular to avoid being labeled as a “could’ve been.”

Also deserving of an honor: Malcolm Wilson. He’s the smartest team principal in the service park. He has gathered all of the most entertaining drivers of the WRC under the Ford wing–Mikko, Henning, Jari-Matti, and now Gigi. Lucky for him, they all happen to be great drivers capable of as much speed as they are character. His management is definitely praiseworthy. But really, maybe he just has a brain. Any WRC fan would’ve signed these drivers ages ago!

On a final note, I’ve been doing more to save energy and recycle. Because when global warming raises sea levels, kills polar bears, AND melts the Swedish Rally, then we’ve really got a problem.

*On Rally Radio, which again did a marvelous job covering every stage, unleashing James upon an unsuspecting Sweden. Much love!

February 18, 2008. Ford, Motorsport, Rally Reports, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.


Ah, the cruelty of time.

At the tender age of 25, I’m finding it impossible to stay up all night for the live rally coverage. I’ve resorted to recording it so I can listen to it during the day. Problem—my days are crazy as well, so just FYI, I’ll still be sharing my thoughts on each rally. It’s just now being subject to delays. I could get it out sooner by watching the TV broadcasts and reading articles, but it just isn’t enough to get a true feel of the rally.

I’ve got a long drive through LA traffic today, so maybe I can finish listening and post something by Friday.

February 13, 2008. Rally. Leave a comment.

Thoughts: 2008 Rallye Monte Carlo

Sorry, folks. I was an airplane during day one of the rally and couldn’t get over the 16-hour jet lag to listen to the other two days on Rally Radio. Still, I got to see the TV coverage and catch up on press articles. From the looks of things, it was a fresh start to a new season. There were plenty of changes (no-mousse Pirelli tyres, seeded running order, etc.), but the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Of course, Sebastien Loeb won. He’s won five times now–seven, if you count the rallies nearly won in 2002 (time penalty) and 2006 (black ice). They could just go ahead and name the rally after him now. Anyway, everything seemed smooth as usual for Loeb. Yes, this is good tidings for his fifth world title. But having two specialist rallies at the start of the year–Monte and Sweden–we really won’t get a clearer idea of how the season will progress until the gravel rallies hit.

Therefore, we still don’t know if second-place finisher Mikko Hirvonen has risen to the top level. Marcus Gronholm couldn’t have fared better than Mikko did here. And while Mikko may win the Swedish Rally, that doesn’t prove his speed overall. It’s kinda frustrating as a fan: the season has begun, but it really hasn’t begun.

Would-be second-place finisher Dani Sordo was again plagued by bad luck. Even his usually calm demeanor was undone. He’s put in a lot of work, traveling, doing two days of recce and competing on eleven stages in good faith–all that to waste. But for heaven’s sake, don’t leave poor Marc Marti behind! Everyone, take a moment and appreciate the thankless job of being a codriver. Despite putting in all the hard work keeping timecards, making pacenotes, and making the driver happy, he still gets left alone while the driver is whisked away to a cozy trailer by a helicopter.

Of all people, a beach-loving Aussie on the podium! Chris Atkinson’s making it a tradition to do battle on the Monaco harbour super special. Which is good–it was the only real nail-biter all weekend. I wonder if he does so well because he drives the stage on the way to buy groceries…

Francois Duval did himself a favor by finishing in fourth. In his only secured drive for the season, I hope he impressed Malcolm Wilson enough to get a callback. If he does, that’d be a sweet deal!

Fifth place for Petter Solberg is usually a disappointment. But in Monte Carlo, that’s great news! His best finish here before was sixth all the way back in 2002. Honestly, I think he’d count himself lucky if he finishes the Monte at all. Remember my psychic ability to predict Petter’s results? Well, I’ve got the feeling that he’s finally turned the corner and gotten over his horrendous luck. I hope I’m right, cuz I’d really like to be psychic!

With great pleasure do I write this sentence: Gigi Galli finished in sixth place in his ’07 Focus! All I have to say is that I’m happy. With Gigi and Toni Gardemeister in works cars, all is right with the world again.🙂

Also, good job to Jean-Marie Cuoq and PG Andersson, keeping Peugeot’s and Suzuki’s names in the game. The prize for most eventful rally goes to Jari-Matti Latvala, proving the pitfalls of no-mousse tyres. Good thing the boy has training in the PWRC in changing tyres on the fly! I hope the other drivers have practiced their tyre-changing skills, because they’re gonna need ’em!

PS: Note to all Monegasque policemen–hurry it up a bit when crossing the road in front of the world’s fastest rally driver.

January 31, 2008. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, WRC. 3 comments.

Looking Forward to 2008

Summary: 2008, good.  2009 and 2010, bad.

2008: Gigi Galli at Stobart! Toni Gardemeister at Suzuki! Jari-Matti Latvala at Ford! Markko Martin as a Subaru test driver! Heikki Kovalainen at McLaren…oh wait…

2009/2010: Rally Indonesia? Seriously? Doooooom…

That’s kinda it in a nutshell. Life’s incredibly busy, so I’ll most likely get back to the keyboard during Rallye Monte Carlo. Ciao!

January 8, 2008. Rally, WRC. 6 comments.

Rally Report: Wales Rally GB 2007

I still don’t believe it. How could that have been the end of the season already? How could that have been Marcus Gronholm’s last rally? Writing a report is really tough when you’re still in a state of denial.

I guess Sebastien and Marcus left me wanting more. We’d all expected an out-and-out showdown, with the two of them pushing each other to the limit like they’ve done so many times this year. However, stage one started with a stage win for…Mikko?! I love them both immensely, but I guess you’ve got to miss the spirit of rallying that came with larger-than-life heroes like Colin McRae who never drove less than flat out. Seb and Marcus went steadily. Marcus waited for Seb to slip up, and Seb waited for the rally to be over. And in the meantime, they let Jari-Matti Latvala steal the show.

Jari-Matti is so hot right now. He come out of nowhere, winning all nine proper stages on days two and three! Never mind that he was running second on the road. Even when he claimed he was slowing down to stay safe, he still came out fastest. Does this mean he’s stepped up to the top level? The Jari-Matti Theatre marquee should read: “Speed! Experience! Personality!” And then Malcolm Wilson will buy out all the tickets. Well, he’d be daft not to.
And while I’m wondering if Jari-Matti is stepping up to the top level, I’m a bit more secure in saying Mikko has. If he hasn’t, then next year will be less of a thrill and more of a monotone. Anyway, I’m sure Mikko wanted to prove that he could win a rally fair and square against Seb and Marcus on a really classic rally. This was his last chance, but neither Seb nor Marcus were driving at maximum attack. I don’t think it was an even comparison. That’s got to be annoying. Nonetheless, Mikko must be quite pleased to have four first place trophies to call his own.

But how amazing must it be to have four world championships to your name? Sebastien Loeb would know. Despite an unexciting drive that bored him to tears, Seb was genuinely elated to have cinched the title again. There is absolutely no doubt to how immense his talent is or whether the title was deserved. Seb was there scoring points when Marcus crashed out in Ireland. That’s it.

If we fans were to name the world rally champion, then it’d be handed to Marcus by a unanimous vote. He stuck it out for years in a gremlin-cursed Peugeot 307. Then in 2006, he finally got behind the wheel of a truly amazing car–catch is, it had some kinks to work out. Then 2007 was looking good until Rally Ireland. It was new and horrendously difficult. And it was tarmac. Wet tarmac. And that was the final nail in the coffin for Marcus’ title hopes. Such a shame. But we will always, always love him wish that he were still rallying.

The rest of my thoughts:

Petter actually made it through without a major catastrophe, finishing fourth. At least he doesn’t have to start his vacation with any anguish. He’ll be working obsessively with the team to improve the car, I’m sure.

Dani Sordo finished a fine fifth place amidst the worst Welsh weather any of the drivers had ever seen. And the best Dani Sordo moment? Hearing him speak French!

Matthew Wilson is getting more consistent, even when the weather throws a torrential rainstorm at him. Speed? Not so much. But I definitely do not mean any ill will towards him. He is perfectly welcome to prove us all wrong in a year by setting scratch times. Sixth place, coming off of a fourth in Japan, ends the year on a high note for the young Brit.

Chris Atkinson is not a happy chap. Being seventh place in the rally and in the championship isn’t horrible, but Atko seemed to take it very hard. He obviously thinks he has enough talent to challenge for victory, but his machinery fails him. He and Petter might be a bit masochistic to renew their contracts with Subaru, because who knows when the car’s going to improve.

Manfred Stohl finished in eighth. And although he says he’s still looking for a drive next year, it somehow seems like it’s the end of Manfred’s WRC career. I hope I’m wrong.

I was going to write about Xevi Pons, but I can’t remember what happened to him in this rally except that it didn’t go well. That’s how it’s been for him lately, I’m afraid.

Luis Perez Companc went off the road on day three. Maybe it’s a conspiracy. They didn’t want Matt Wilson to look so bad, so they went and found the perfect diversion–a guy who is even slower, even more prone to crashing, and with all the money in the world to pay for his drive. Sounds mean, but honestly, Toni Gardemeister deserves a drive more than Luis does.

Last note: props to Travis Pastrana. He is the two-time Rally America champion, but can still admit to being schooled on the world scene. Pwned, even. I really really really hope he makes it out to as many PWRC events as possible next year. Great guy.

So that’s it then, in a rather large nutshell. My rally notes contain many more juicy tidbits, but I don’t know if I want to be liable for posting them. But keep coming back throughout the break. I’ll be posting odds and ends as often as I can. Hasta luego.

The last we’ll see them together… Rally winner Mikko Hirvonen

Jari-Matti’s stage-winning streak The rolling car of Andreas Mikkelsen

December 5, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Sports, WRC. 3 comments.

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