A Super-big Happy B-day to Super Seb!

February 26 marks the birth of Sebastien Loeb. So who’s ready for the love fest?

The man’s a genius. He went for so long without any mistakes, even Marcus Gronholm wondered if he was a man or a machine. Super Seb… The Master… Mr. Perfect…ain’t it the truth?

Look at the facts: an unmatched 29 victories (34% of all rallies he’s started); 49 podiums (58% of rallies he’s entered); world champion in 2004, 2005, and 2006; his first championship points finish was in 2nd place; a record 6 consecutive wins in 2005; a win at every Rallye Deutschland ever run; the first non-Scandinavian to win the Swedish Rally; and 12 out of 12 stage scratch times at the Tour de Corse in 2005. Best. Driver. Ever.

His driving style is impeccable. It’s not all sideways and showy, but it’s fast. It’s the seamless way he slings the car around bends like a gymnast on the pommel horse. It’s how quick he is on the throttle coming out of corners. It’s those unbelievably tight donuts he can do. It all adds up to a charisma and a command of the road that only Seb can possess.

Despite all the accolades, he’s still a humble, friendly guy who’s not afraid to compliment his rivals or admit a mistake (however rare they are).

Speaking of mistakes, look at them closely. Especially the spin in the 2005 Rallye Deutschland and the corner in 2007’s Rallye Monte Carlo. He corrects his error before the error’s even done being an error. He overshot that square right in Germany, but spun the car around so he could just hit the accelerator and continue. He avoided a front impact in Monte by hitting the hand brake and turning it into a sideways bump, facing the right direction. He’s got the reflexes of a cat (if cats drove rally cars).

Despite not finishing his education, his brain is a supercomputer. In a non-rally appearance in the 2006 24 Heures du Le Mans, the Pescarolo Judd pitted and his teammate hopped out of the car. When Seb got in, he managed to drive off one-handed, without stalling and without hitting anyone, all while inputing his driver code with his right hand. That’s what happens when he has one race track and no pacenotes to worry about. He probably could have made pancakes and ironed his laundry with his feet at the same time.

Gotta love his smile. He never gives an interview without a smile. It balances out frowny Marcus.

And where Marcus sometimes drives away from the stage end without a word, Seb is always good for a detailed, honest assessment of his performance.

He’s “glacially cool” and relaxed. Even when he was stuck at home with a broken arm, he took it in stride, even if he hated it.

The French accent doesn’t hurt. Or his boyish good looks. Or his muscular physique. Or the way his blue-grey eyes crinkle when he laughs…but I digress.

So, in case you were wondering what I’ll be doing in 2007, I’ll be rooting for a fourth consecutive world championship for my favorite driver. Who knows what other heights he can climb?

Smiley    With the Michelin Man!

Playing along with Neil Cole    Eek.

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February 26, 2007. Appreciation, Auto Racing, Citroen, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.

Finnish Name Generator

Oh, baby! Why leave all the fun to Mikko Hirvonen, Timo Rautiainen, Tommi Makinen? If you haven’t been blessed with a Finnish name from birth, today’s your lucky day. Go get one!

http://elonen.iki.fi/code/misc-notes/finnish-name-generator/index.html 

You gotta love the internet.

February 20, 2007. Rally, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.

Thoughts: Sweden and Norway

Who doesn’t love a snow rally?

But rather than give a recap, here are some random thoughts:

The C4 is quick enough, but not quicker than the Focus. So it has the same engine and suspension as the Xsara? So what has Citroen been doing the past four years? I hope it’ll get a new engine soon, because I don’t see how a car older than Sebastien Loeb’s career could possibly be competitive for much longer.

Snowbanks are evil blackholes and destroyers of hope.

Swedish rally fans find the funniest hats. You can’t buy those here in the US.

And you can’t beat their dedication either. Minus 23 degrees C, and they’re still out in the forest watching rally cars zoom by.

Toni Gardemeister is contending for the top five in an outdated Mitsu Lancer that wasn’t competitive even when it was new. The man deserves a drive, people!

I don’t like talk of Marcus Gronholm’s retirement. But you can see his motivation and enthusiasm waning with each passing rally. He looked like he couldn’t wait for Rally Norway to be over. Motivational issues aside, it must have been embarrassing to be outpaced all weekend by the #2 driver.

How impressive was Mikko Hirvonen? He held the lead from stage one and was faster than no less than three world champions. One of them was in the same machinery. Everything about him just screams “world champion!” The question is, “how soon?”

Seb had a…bad (?!) rally. I have literally never seen him finish lower than second. I don’t even know how to cope yet. But he’s been honest and upbeat–not anything like Marcus’ glazed look all weekend.

Petter and Chris couldn’t wait to get the heck out of the 2006 Impreza, I’m sure. I think Prodrive should take it out back and burn it. Keep your fingers crossed that the S14 isn’t the dreambuster that the S12 was.

Speaking of Solbergs, Henning is coming out of nowhere to regularly beat former world champion Petter. Leave it to the Solbergs to both entertain, and to have the most awesome colored cars ever. I just can’t wait to see if Henning can move up to the top level alongside Seb and Marcus.

Poor Becs Williams tore some ligaments in her hand. And she didn’t get the sympathy she deserved!

Dani Sordo’s inexperience really shows in the events where he’s a fish out of water. Or a Spaniard out of the sun. Or something. I hope he breaks out of his tarmac expert label, because he’ll need to in order to be world champion.

Jari-Matti Latvala is impressing me too. If he matures and quits making silly mistakes, he certainly has the speed to be a champion.

Alrighty then. There’s my two cents until Rally Mexico. I can’t wait to see how Travis Pastrana does!

February 19, 2007. Auto Racing, Citroen, Ford, Mistubishi, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Radio, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Sports, Subaru, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

Happy Birthday, Colin Clark!

My favorite Scotsman ever, Colin Clark of World Rally Radio, turned 41* on February 4th. How do we repay a man who makes the “world” in “World Rally” go ’round? Dish out praise, and lots of it:

Where would we be without Colin’s intrepid stage-end reporting? It’s informative, insightful, and hilarious (especially when he and Chris Atkinson are in a cheery mood). But seriously, he does a wonderful job at asking the right questions, not just “How was it?” every single time. Colin describes everything. We know how the car is, what mood the drivers are in, what mood the other reporters are in, and sometimes we even get reports on timing board markers. He talks his throat sore every rally while covering close to every stage in hot and cold weather.

And when it’s hot and sunny, he’s wearing his pink bandanna around his neck. It’s so fashion-victim bad, it’s good. Maybe I just get a kick out of Becs mocking Colin for it. But word is that he’s got a new yellow bandanna for 2007. It has big shoes to fill. You can’t get much worse than hot pink.

He has great hair. Not quite Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey great, but it’s up there. It’s curly, it’s blond, and it sits on top of Colin’s head; therefore, it’s great hair.

Colin’s got a great laugh. From the “ha-ha” laughs to the mischievious “hee-hee” laughs, it makes things fun.

The Scottish accent. The gravelly voice. The sheer loudness. No wonder he’s called The Incredible Talking Man.

So a happy belated birthday to Mr. Colin Clark. Rally Radio is free now, so there’s no excuse why you can’t tune in. You’ll catch the most in-depth reporting, all the amusing banter, and all the crazy stories from the team. Plus, the alarming trend of Colin singing…

Here’s a clip of WRR from the 2006 Cyprus Rally, which was a particularly silly time for all the presenters. Enjoy.

*Colin denies this. Becs and James insist it’s true. So we actually don’t know how old he is. Here’s a compromise: Colin is ageless and immortal.

February 17, 2007. Appreciation, Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Radio, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.

Happy Birthday to Marcus Gronholm!

How could we with words possibly capture Marcus Gronholm: the Big Finn, Bosse, He of Endless Funny Quotes? All I can do is list all the reasons why he is wonderful.

First and foremost, he is fast. He’s 39 years old and shows no signs of slowing down. He’s been unbeatable on gravel in the Focus, pushing Seb to his absolute limit and still beating the Frenchman.
Like I said, Marcus is really funny. What’s even more comical is that he’s usually frowning, and doesn’t even mean to be funny. Enjoy some sound clips.
He even scratches his head funny. Look for it, and you’ll see what I mean.
The Finnish accent. With all the rrrrolling rrrrs.
The way he always says, “but OK” and “yeeeah…” and “heh!”
And “Oy, oy, oy!”
And all the other sound effects and gestures and faces he makes.
I don’t know if it makes him wonderful, but the fact that he doesn’t blink is unique. Weird, even.
His grumpiness. It’s endearing, really. He’s like a Finnish Walter Matthau.
Marcus is a farmer. Absolutely nothing fast about farming, yet somehow he’s the fastest living man on gravel.
He likes Bond. James Bond.
He’s got quite the filthy mouth. This is what it sounds like when harm befalls the car: “Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Beeeeep.” Petter swears often, but Marcus swears long.
His column for RallyWorld Magazine is always entertaining. And for some occassional gems, (shh) go read the official FIA press conferences.
The way his Focus eats foliage. “Christmas trees,” Marcus calls ’em.

Geez…gotta save some for next year. Marcus is one of a kind. Irreplaceable. We love him, period. So a huge happy birthday to you” from me (and Timo).

Foliage-chomping Focus As if Marcus weren’t already tall enough…

This is my current wallpaper. Hehe. One of a billion funny faces

February 6, 2007. Appreciation, Auto Racing, Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, WRC. 1 comment.

Happy Birthday, Matt Wilson!

Matt Wilson is one lucky guy. First, he has talent behind the wheel. Second, his dad is the head honcho at M-Sport and can give his son the drive he needs to grow that talent. So for his first foray into his twenties, here’s a short list of why he’s cool:

One word: mega. Apparently, it means “brilliant” or “cool.” I don’t know if that’s a new-fangled British word or what, but I like it.

The hair. The crazy, spiky, unmovable hair.

The driving. He’s won rallies in the British and Irish rally scene. Matt is also the youngest driver to ever win a stage and score a  driver’s point (both in Rallye Argentina 2006). And watching him on the Eye in the Sky in Rally New Zealand, I gotta say he’s quite good. He doesn’t have the outright speed yet, but with time, he’ll have the experience and confidence needed to push the car to its limit. We’ll see how his five-year plan goes.

Matt’s Crazy ‘Do

February 5, 2007. Appreciation, Auto Racing, Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying. Leave a comment.