And New Zealand wraps up…

…the WRC Manufacturer’s title and the PWRC title.

Congrats to Ford! As a fan of Seb Loeb and the previously untouchable Citroen Xsara, the two-win debut of the Ford Focus this season had me worried. But instead of antagonizing me, it won me over. It is an amazing car. It’s not only the most attractive car out there, it drives like a dream. Kudos to Malcolm Wilson and the Ford team, and to Christian Loriaux and his design team at M-Sport. Well-deserved.

Congrats to Nassar Al-Attiyah. PWRC, Dakar, shooting–what does this guy not do? Plus, he’s a good guy.

Yes, Marcus Gronholm won the rally, Mikko Hirvonen drove home to 2nd place, and Ford won the title, but I’ve been super-impressed by how much Xevi Pons has grown since his low point in Deutschland amidst the grapevines. His second 4th place in a row, but he was this close to a podium position, if he had the right tyre choice in the fickle NZ weather. I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll go in Wales Rally GB and next season.

Nineteen-year-old Matt Wilson’s improving as well. Now that I’ve seen him drive whole stages and he’s setting decent times, I’m keen to see how he’ll do this coming year. He’s not just the boss’ spoiled son getting to drive in Daddy’s team–Matt can drive quite steadily and knows what it’s like to win a rally. I think there’s talent there.

What I really want to see is Chris Atkinson getting some results. It’s been a whole season, and he’s still putting the car off the road every rally. The speed is there, but he can’t keep it in check. But I’m still a fan. He’s extremely likeable. Actually, what I really want to see what his new haircut looks like, because his hair’s been a little funky lately.

I’m also starting to think that Manfred Stohl doesn’t know how to be anything other than subdued. Second podium in a row, but if you’d only heard his voice, you’d have thought he had finished 8th. Cheer up, man! Go ride your unicycle!

And last, I’m about to write love letters to the Eye in the Sky. Live helicopter coverage of every stage? Why doesn’t everyone do this? I hope the other rally organizers take note, because I don’t know how I can go back to Eye-less coverage now. The only thing missing was watching Sebastien Loeb on the Eye in the Sky. That would have been devastatingly awesome.

I’m off to watch Petter drive the Waipu Caves stage on the Ignition DVD. Woohoo!

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November 19, 2006. Auto Racing, Citroen, Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Sports, Subaru, WRC.

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