Happy Birthday, James!

It’s the big 2-0 for Rally Radio’s “petulant teenager.” Though I suppose he’s just plain petulant now. So why do we love James? Drum roll please:

He’s hilarious. Funny. Sometimes slightly insane. Which is the way we like it.
The sexy voice. Rowrrr…
He’s a redhead, which evokes memories of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”
I do not know his last name or what he looks like. It makes him mysterious.
The ‘tude.
His often bizarre musical stylings. But I think that’s largely because I question the musical taste of Brits and Europeans in general. (Sorry.)

So happeeee birthday to our favorite young Welshman–I hope he stays around, because he is not allowed to leave Rally Radio, ever.

March 30, 2007. Appreciation, Rally Radio. 1 comment.

Why I Love Rally, Reason #12

I love, love, love the growl of a rally car. Behold: the lumpy boxer engine of the Impreza, the aggressive Xsara, and the monstruous Audi Quattro.

March 26, 2007. Appreciation, Auto Racing, Citroen, Rally, Rallying, Subaru, Why I Love Rally, WRC. Leave a comment.

Rally Yearbook by Philippe Joubin

I bought Rally Yearbook 2006 by Philippe Joubin last week. The photography by DPPI is so good, it makes me drool slightly. And, I got it off of amazon.com for only $13.57! It’s so cheap, I’m seriously considering getting a second copy and cannibalizing the pictures. Totally worth it.

Not that I make any money from it, but go get one now. It’ll make you happy.

March 26, 2007. Reviews, WRC. Leave a comment.

No Stephane Sarrazin for Me

Stupid Murphy and his law.

So, I bought tickets to the American Le Mans Series race in Long Beach on April 14 for the main reason of seeing Stephane Sarrazin race the Aston Martin DBR9. Stephane, other than filling the third seat at Subaru, was named “Rookie of the Year” for 2006 at the ALMS. Actually, it was a very successful year for him. So imagine my dismay when, watching the 12 Hours of Sebring, there was no Stephane. A quick check on stephane-sarrazin.com told me why: he has signed with Peugeot for the Le Man Series (in Europe). Great news for him. Bad news for me.

He does get to test the Peugeot 207 S2000 car, at least.

Funny.

March 22, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Peugeot, Subaru, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

Video: Engineering the World Rally

Discovery Channel Europe has begun showing 6 episodes of “Engineering the World Rally,” which follows the 2006 season alongside the Subaru boys. I just hope I get to watch them someday! Last year was ridiculously bad for the whole team, so expect plenty of interesting things. Here’s a taster: preview clip one and two on MySpace. *salivate*

March 17, 2007. Rally, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, WRC. Leave a comment.

Thoughts: 2007 Rally Mexico

Aqui hay mis pensamientos/locuras acerca de Rally Mexico:

The drivers’ championship is shaping up to be a good fight. Seb’s still got 4 points to make up on Marcus. With both drivers consistently finishing either 1st or 2nd, they’ll have to duke it out for each victory, gaining or losing 2 points at a time. But the Finn seems to be losing his motivation lately–the “sacred fire” within. (As coined by Stephane Lambiel, the reigning world champion in men’s figure skating, who abruptly quit when he just didn’t feel like skating anymore. I shudder to think that’ll happen with Marcus. And yes, I love both rallying and figure skating.)

Travis Pastrana! It’s weird yet wonderful to hear an American accent on the world rally scene! What a welcome addition! Such enthusiasm! And yes–every sentence ends in an exclamation point! Cuz Travis is awesome!

Mikko Hirvonen is quite the ambitious one, isn’t he? He’s got a taste of what it’s like to be on top, and he ain’t resting until he’s winning all the time. Headstrong, yes. But his mischievous sense of humor and boyish antics make him oh-so-loveable.

I’m so relieved to see Seb win. Norway was his worst finish since 2002 (!) and I was afraid he had lost his groove. All drivers eventually do. But what was I thinking? It’s Super Seb, and he hasn’t finished his reign just yet.

Another big sigh of relief for the Subaru WRT. The Impreza S12B is fast! And it’s only an interim car until the 2008 Impreza S14 arrives. Chris Atkinson said he could drive normally now, instead of taking risks like a madman just to keep up with the field. What a novel idea!

The second finish in a row for Jari-Matti Latvala–is this a sign of growing consistency? It’s a good step for him.

Also impressive was Dani Sordo. He finished in fourth last year also. He’s a circuit-racing-bred tarmac specialist, but he’s coming to grips with the sandy stuff. I think he finishes so well in Mexico because the cars are slowed by the altitude and he can cope better with the gravel. When the speeds get really fast, like in Finland, he has a harder time keeping up.

All in all, it was a fun rally, especially with the crew at World Rally Radio. Good times.

Last of all, I’m all for a rally in North America. But when the spectators cause this many problems, I’m also in favor of this rally being left off the calendar (which it will be for 2008). I couldn’t even count how many times they threw rocks at the cars. Unacceptable.

Petter and Phil - Mexico 2007 A friendly punch to the face Seb - Splish Splash The improved Impreza

March 15, 2007. Auto Racing, Citroen, Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

The Adventures of Henning Solberg: Mexico Edition

Rolling the car back over

Henning’s first roll of the year! And it’s the highest quality video yet, cuz it all happened in front of an ISC camera crew. Of course we want Henning to finish well, but it’s just as fun when he rolls. He hit a rock and lost three minutes getting the car upright, but the car ran fine. He and Cato finished stage two, and drove stage three at competitive pace. His Focus and their lungs were filled with *cough* dust, but they made it back to service.

Cheeky Ford boys…

The Ford mechanics posted this hilarious reminder for Henning. Very cheeky. Hey–they should count themselves lucky. At least Henning kept the windscreen on!

March 15, 2007. Auto Racing, Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, Solberg, The Adventures of Henning Solberg, WRC. 1 comment.

Travis Pastrana Pre-thoughts

Obviously, Rally Mexico hasn’t even gotten under way, but I’m pretty excited to see what Travis Pastrana can do. He won the first rally on the Rally America calendar and was runner-up in the second. Travis is having a good season so far, so if he’s on his rhythm in Mexico, he could finish well.

A win is out of the question, though–we’ve got reigning champion (and Nicest Man in Rally) Nasser al-Attiyah, former WRC works driver Kristian Sohlberg (codriven by Risto Pietilainen, while Harri Rovanpera sells his jet skis), Fumio Nutahara, former PWRC champ Toshi Arai, Mirco Baldacci, Lescek Kuzaj (whatta great name), former WRC Red Bull Skoda driver Andreas Aigner, and British Rally champ Mark Higgins. Tough field. But who knows? Punctures could decide the whole thing.

But he’ll have to impress someone, because I’m sure lots of these guys would love a WRC seat just as much as Travis does. So if they are still doing the PWRC, Travis is going to have to stand out. Although he’s got star power, good sponsors, and street cred going for him. And he’s American. Americans are like the Yangtze river dolphin as far as world rally is concerned (e.g. rare if not extinct).
On a side note, Ken Block is entering Rally Mexico too (and Rally New Zealand later on). Good for him. He’ll have fun. But honestly, I think it’s Travis that’s got the talent.
To sum it up, Travis just needs to show where he compares against the seasoned pros on the world scene. I’m rooting for him, though. And the last time I wished him luck, he ended up stealing the show at the Race of Champions (direct cause and effect, I’m sure). So–good luck, Travis!

March 7, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, Subaru, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

Only in Rally #2

This car is in motion.

Seb in the 2006 Acropolis Rally

Loeb drove it for 80km, the mechanics repaired it good as new in 30 minutes, and Loeb went on to claim 2nd place.

And this is one of countless times a rally car has survived a less-than-four-tyres situation. They usually do it with a co-driver hanging out the window to balance out the car.

You tap a stock car or open wheeler the wrong way, and it’s all over. You can roll a rally car over, fill it with snow, rip off its back wheels and suspension, and it still runs! Hooray!!!

March 5, 2007. Auto Racing, Citroen, Motorsport, Only In Rally, Rally, Rallying, WRC. 1 comment.

The Tyre Situation

Argh. The FIA loves making rule changes that maybe improve the WRC a bit, but makes everyone mad.

If only the WRC were like Formula 1, where the teams can throw gazillions of dollars around, no problem. But we have serious issues with the cost being too high to make it feasible for the manufacturers.

Morrie Chandler is trying his best to cut costs. But cheaper is never popular or exciting. No one buys the icky, generic brand at the market for the taste–it’s cuz it’s cheaper.

So tyres are the target. First, limits on tread patterns and number of tyres. Then, no mousse. And now, a single tyre manufacturer and what looks like one type of asphalt tyre.

So Pirelli’s bid won over BF Goodrich despite their reputation as an inferior tyre, and I can see two reasons why. First, Pirelli must have been cheaper. And if everyone is running on them, then the disadvantage is spread evenly and everyone is slower. Sucky, but fair. Second, the Michelin group ran afoul of the FIA in the Indianapolis ordeal of Formula 1. They didn’t do anything wrong in the WRC, but messing up that badly in F1 sure didn’t help ’em.

Maybe there’s a third reason, like the World Motorsport Council is a committee, and committees are incapable of making a sensible decision. Me no likey this whole limits on tyres because it changes performance based on talent to performance based on equipment availability. It’s so anticlimactic when, in Norway for example, Petter and Henning had a battle going on between them for third place on the second day, but Petter lost it when he had only short studded tyres left on the third day. He had no chance of fighting. Then, imagine the havoc it’s going to cause when mousses are banned for rallies like Acropolis. I want the fastest driver to win, not the driver who happened to stay out of trouble.

So what happens to the WRC, Mr. Chandler, when costs are down, but the excitement’s gone, ratings decline, sponsors leave and the sport’s been trashed? I’m really starting to worry.

March 5, 2007. Appreciation, Auto Racing, F1, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, Solberg, Thoughts, WRC. 3 comments.