Belated start to Rally New Zealand

It’s day 2 now, and it’s been a fun rally so far.

That is, until this very moment, because Chris Atkinson has stopped in the stage, and is having a very crazy “only in rally” moment. He stopped in the stage to change a puncture, put the car up on their jack, but the jack sank in the mud and the car plopped back down! Now they have to find a way to prop the car up enough to change the tyre. How weird is that?

But backtracking a bit, this is the second rally for 7-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi (but the first one lasted half a stage, so I count this as his debut). In the pre-event press conference, he said he was hoping for a podium. I like the guy and respect his racing skills highly, but podium? Huh. Big words for a guy on his first real outing. He’s the slowest out of the WRC drivers. Silly boy, thinking he could beat the veterans. But you’ve got to give him credit for keeping the car on the road and having fun. It’s great listening to him talk–so animated! So Italian! And every new stage he drives becomes his new favorite stage. He’s lovin’ it.

The rain, though, has made things tough. I think the gloomy skies make the drivers sad, cuz Manfred Stohl sounded pretty depressed. He can be such a sad sack sometimes. I think it’s his gentle nature (see “leetle cow” incident/tragedy). Henning Solberg sounded like a normal person, not the lovable, bouncing-of-the-walls madman that he usually is. That probably means he’s crying inside. After all, he thought he was going to die in that 180 kph crash in Australia three weeks ago.

There have been some real “GO CITROEN!” moments–Dani Sordo and Xevi Pons have stepped it up! Dani’s in third and Xevi is fifth (maybe up to fourth?) and even beat Mikko on a stage today. Atko won that stage, but pft.  Doesn’t matter now. *pout* It’s really good to see Dani performing on gravel. He’s had such a bad string of rallies since that scary crash in Finland (plus the seatbelt lapse in Japan, the roll in Cyprus, then that senseless crash in the final super special stage). He’s happy now. I like Happy Dani.

I also like Happy Xevi. He had a blah run at the start of the season. Then, he took a vacation during Japan, and ta-dah! He came back renewed and started setting all these great times and getting great finishes. Good for him! He should go on more vacations! I should go on a vacation…to Wales on December 1-3…

Anyway, Te Akau North (SS10) is the infamous stage where Carlos Sainz hit the sheep in the late 90’s. Matt Wilson was just a kid back then, and one of his big rally memories is seeing that Ford come back into service with bits of sheep on it. Ew.

And the stage just keeps getting more infamouser. Henning Solberg’s rolled the car (Petter says that’s normal for him. Heh!) and lost his windscreen (again). No snow this time, but there’s freezing rain in his face! I guess it cancels out the hot water spraying him in the face yesterday from that leaking water pipe. Rolls make most people sad, but Henning gets really peppy. And yup–he comes into time control laughing and smiling. But will he drive back to service and do the super special, sans windscreen and Cato’s window? You betcha. He wants to show people he can do it, extra wind and all. And boy, can he! He threw that car around those corners and that water splash, and, if it weren’t for those Foci, he would have set the fastest time! Rallying shouldn’t be such ridiculous good fun…

And finally, what I really want to see is when the intercom went on the fritz during SS6 and made Glenn Macneall sound like a girl.

Plus the onboards of cow that Takuma Kamada and the very sophisticated Denis Giraudet almost hit. Sorry, not cow–“big milky.”  Thanks for that, Denis! (“Look at the cow, Amberie!” “What…cow? Oh! A big milky! Why didn’t you say so?”)

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November 18, 2006. Auto Racing, Citroen, Ford, Motorsport, Only In Rally, Peugeot, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Sports, Subaru, The Adventures of Henning Solberg, WRC.

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