Some Lovin’ for “Climb Dance”

For those who don’t know, “Climb Dance” is a short film about Ari Vatanen’s run up the Pike’s Peak International Hillclimb that’s basically the best onboard ever. Yes, it’s Ari Vatanen’s genius driving that makes it awesome, but the direction by Jean Louis Mourey makes it beautiful. World-class driving + Group B-inspired car + perfect mise en scene = pure joy.

The best parts:
1) As previously mentioned, the best Scandinavian flick of all time.
2) The fact that he did it all without pacenotes.
3) The bug that splatters on the camera lens.
4) How Ari Vatanen uses one hand to block the sun and the other to drive.
5) The funny music. It can’t be hummed, but I try anyway.
6) He uses the whole road–and almost runs out of it!
7) The big scrape along the hill.
8) The mystery of how they got all those cameras to fit on the car.
9) The dust trails in the beginning, that you realize are being kicked up by the Peugeot. Peace…and then *bam*–car!
10) The car–the speed, the sound, the dated 80’s livery.
11) Ari Vatanen.
12) Did I mention Ari Vatanen?

If you haven’t seen it, clicky here. If you already have, go relive its brilliance.

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April 30, 2007. Appreciation, Auto Racing, Peugeot. Leave a comment.

Happy Birthday, Ari Vatanen!

Ari Vatanen has got to be one of the coolest beings on the planet. Here’s my logic:
He was the 1981 World Rally Champion, with 10 victories to his name in the golden age of Group B cars driven by the greats.
After a near-fatal accident in Rally Argentina in 1985, he came back to score podiums and…
to win the 1988 Pike’s Peak Hillclimb in the Peugeot 405 T16 in amazing style. “Climb Dance” actually deserves its own post.
Four (almost five)-time winner of the craziest rally in existence, the Paris-Dakar Rally.
He’s been a member of the European Parliament since 1999. He always looks so spiffy and handsome in politician mode.
And he still manages to make appearances for the sake of thrilling us rally fans. Whether it’s showing up in random places to hand out pastries, or Scandinavian flicking his way around super specials, he’s still every bit as beloved as he’s ever been.

Ari in the good ol’ days   Climb Dance - Driving One-handed

April 28, 2007. Appreciation, Auto Racing, Dakar Rally, Motorsport, Peugeot, Rally, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.

Marcus & Timo’s Pacenotes System!!!

Looky what I found! Happy day.

Here’s the full explanation of Timo Rautiainen’s pacenotes system at their official forum.

April 27, 2007. Rally, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.

Slow news day…

I find it funny how Formula 1 journalists can pull a headline out of thin air: “Can [name] [verb] [something]?” But the WRC doesn’t receive that much scrutiny, which affords it that relaxed attitude. It’s pretty useless to ask questions you can only answer with “Um, maybe?”

But man, are there lulls in between rallies. That could be a good thing, what for all the bad news lately. (Did I mention that Gigi Galli is stuck without a drive, again?)

Sleepy time for Petter

April 26, 2007. F1, Rally, Rallying, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

Why I Love Rally, Reason #14

Jumps and yumps!

Mikko-Finland06 Big yump   Atko’s big, nose-crushing jump

None of the F1 talk of downforce–the higher, the better!

April 25, 2007. Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, Why I Love Rally, WRC. 2 comments.

Glenn MacNeall vs. Stephane Prevot

I’ve been in denial since the announcement that Stephane Prevot will codrive Chris Atkinson for the rest of the season. I will always pine a little in my heart for Glenn.

However, Glenn thinks he’s made the right decision. He gave an interesting and candid interview to RallySport Magazine, saying they weren’t improving well enough as a team and the repercussions were too costly. Glenn is now the happiest he’s been in years. He’s at home with his girlfriend/driver Emma Gilmour, contesting events in the Australian Rally Championship.

Still, I’m not too crazy about Prevot, after hearing of some really nasty comments he made about Francois Duval when they split in 2005. And I find it really surprising they’d choose a codriver who has never done a rally in English before (only French). Other than the Subaru/Sarrazin connection, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on paper. But if he and Atko get along, I guess that’s all that matters. They have such different personalities though. And I wonder how he’ll take Atko’s driving style–Duval’s didn’t impress him any and we know how that ended. Time will tell. Or…Argentina will tell.

April 24, 2007. Rally, Rallying, Subaru, Thoughts, WRC. 2 comments.

Why I Love Rally, Reason #13

The drivers can chat over a big plate of pasta salad.

Lunchtime for Atko, Marcus, Glenn, Phil, Manfred, Ilka, Luis…

Or hang out before time controls.

Henning and Mikko chatting

April 23, 2007. Appreciation, Rally, Rallying, Why I Love Rally, WRC. 2 comments.

Eric Bana goes rallying?

Who knew?!

The cool thing is that he’s passionate about rallying. The bad thing is he crashed his baby, the 1974 Ford XB Coupe in the tarmac Targa Tasmania Rally. But that’s how it goes…misjudge a corner and there’s a grove of trees to stop your slide.

The story’s out on the AP and all over the internet. Rallying definitely needs all the media exposure it can get here in the US. If you don’t know what rally is, or how awesome it can be, feel free to poke around my site.

Odd…all of a sudden, I find I’ve become an Eric Bana fan.

April 23, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, News, Rally, Rallying. Leave a comment.

Only In Rally #3

When Gareth MacHale came into the end of the stage* with a few meters of barbed wire trailing behind the car…with the wooden posts still attached!

No pictures, unfortunately, but I’ve got a picture of him plowing through a pile of bricks.

A section of fencing, a ditch full of bricks–these rally cars take a pounding and keep on going!

Gareth McHale vs the bricks

*2007 Rally Mexico, SS9

April 19, 2007. Ford, Motorsport, Only In Rally, Rally, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.

Happy Birthday, Harri Rovanpera!

I love this guy. Just looking at his smiling face makes me happy. I just wish he were around so I could look at him! He may or may not be retired, but maybe if he knows he still has fans, he’ll quit selling his jet skis and come back to the WRC.

Why I’m a fan:

The sunny disposition. In a 2003 interview, Phil Pugh said his favorite rally driver was “Harri Rovanpera–always smiling, never b****ing.” That about sums it up.

He’s one of the seasoned pros. One victory (his very first outing in the Peugeot 206) and over 110 WRC starts. Minus the ill-suited pairing with the Skoda Fabia in 2006, he’s been a steady fixture.

He’s got one of my all-time favorite rally names. Although the announcer at the 2006 Race of Champions had trouble with it. “Harri Rovprrmt…”

I know the chances of him coming back are rather slim, but I do appreciate what he’s contributed to the WRC as a great driver and a gentleman. So if you’re in Finland, go show him your love and buy a jet ski from him.

Harri’s blonde goatee

April 17, 2007. Appreciation, Peugeot, Rally, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.

Happy Birthday, Jari-Matti Latvala!

 It’s so exciting to see new talent emerge. I say “new,” but this now-22-year-old Finn has been rallying on the world scene since he was 17. Keeping on with WitWR tradition, here’s a rundown of why I like Jari-Matti.

His name. I say this for everyone, but he truly has an exceptionally awesome name. Jari-Matti Latvala. It just rolls off the tongue.

Great driving. He can post outstanding stage times–top three times, and even a stage win in Norway.

His exuberant personality. He loves to talk, and I love to listen. I was quite thoroughly enchanted with his “21 Fabulous Facts about Jari-Matti Latvala” feature on Rally Radio for his 21st birthday. I learned he has scrambled eggs for breakfast, was an officer in the Finnish military, he’s a natural blonde, and he swims naked in Finland (TMI!).

He is so driven to succeed. It gets him in trouble, sure, but every driver must pass through that phase of their career before they “make it.”

He’s got nerd-chic, yellow-tinted driving glasses.

All in all, he’s a likeable guy who’s a character. I’m sure he’s aiming to win world championships one day, and he’s got a seat in the Stobart VK Ford Focus that will help get him there. In a few years, it’ll be him against Mikko, Atko, Dani, Travis and maybe Andreas Mikkelsen. Jari-Matti is the future. So good luck to him!

Jari-Matti in Monte Carlo 2007     Very cool glasses.

April 13, 2007. Appreciation, Ford, Rally, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.

Happy Birthday, Toni Gardemeister!

This birthday wish may be horribly late, but it’s here, isn’t it? Here we go then–why is Garde so great?

Because he’s a very talented driver. He had very solid results in 2005 in his factory drive with Ford. Without a works team in 2006, he still drove like hell and scored a podium and three other top 5 finishes. All in a four-year-old Xsara with a shoestring budget.

Because he’s Finnish. Complete with the accent and the ability to swear in very long beeps.

Because he’s got a great name. Anyone remember Meisterburger Burgermeister from the Rankin-Bass movie “Santa Clause is Coming to Town”? Yeah. Like that: Meistergarde Gardemeister.

Because it’s funny how he sticks his tongue out when he’s really concentrating.

Because even his privateer car has great livery on it. I like the Koti Idea spots.

Except for the early 2006 car, which looked like it had hit a family of alphabets and they were still clinging to his hood.

And because he hasn’t given up. He placed fourth in the championship in 2005, then was dropped by Ford in favor of Mikko Hirvonen. But he’s been trying extremely hard to gather sponsors and to do events. He hasn’t disappointed. He finishes consistently and displays truckloads of passion for the sport. He thoroughly deserves a stable drive, but this difficult period has also helped him. It has reinvigorated him to drive with more purpose and determination to prove his talent. I really do hope it pays off.

Toni’s lookin’ good.    Poor family of alphabets.    Toni going bumperless

April 12, 2007. Appreciation, Citroen, Ford, Rally, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.

Another bumper gone for Henning.

 Bye bye, bumper. We knew thee well.

But that’s only the second (that I know of) this season, not counting the huge roll in Mexico.

April 4, 2007. Ford, Rally, Rally Reports, Solberg, The Adventures of Henning Solberg, WRC. Leave a comment.

Bad, bad, bad, bad news. Glenn is leaving!

Glenn MacNeall has decided to leave the Subaru Team and no longer co-drive Chris Atkinson.

I’m just brokenhearted. Ridiculously so. He’s such a funny, professional guy who enjoys a close friendship with Chris. His statement reads:

“Competing in the World Rally Championship is far more than just a job, and while I really have enjoyed my time with the team I’ve simply come to the point now where I want to do other things. Having made up my mind to go, it wouldn’t be fair on Chris for me to carry on with anything less than 100 per cent commitment, and for this reason I felt it would be best to step down straight away. I’ll continue to follow the sport very closely and I wish Chris, Petter and the whole Subaru team the best of luck in the future.”

Maybe his life is heading in a different direction. Maybe he needs a life where he’s not abroad 40 weeks out of the year. Maybe he couldn’t take another high-speed crash into the rally scenery a la Stephane Prevot. I don’t blame Glenn for leaving, but where are they going to find a guy to take his place? George Clooney-coiffed Tony Sircombe, perhaps? Anyway, while the SWRT scrambles to get a replacement, I’ll be watching the old Shakedown spotlight on Glenn and crying on the inside.

April 3, 2007. News, Rally, Rallying, Subaru, WRC. 1 comment.

Thoughts: 2007 Rally de Portugal

Not a bad rally, eh? I haven’t been around long enough to remember the original, but it was enjoyable, and certainly interesting. Here are my thoughts on my first Rally de Portugal.

Honestly, this rally is better than Cyprus or Turkey. The drivers think so too. Petter said that some of the stages are the most difficult he’s seen in his entire career. It’s also got heritage, a massive home fan base, and a sense of excitement.

The big news is the post-event scrutineering. The rear side windows were found to be non-homologated parts (who checks the thickness of a rear side window anyway?) so all six Ford drivers were handed five minute penalties. That changes the rally results to:
1st – Sebastien Loeb
2nd – Petter Solberg
3rd – Dani Sordo
4th – Marcus Gronholm
5th – Mikko Hirvonen
6th – Daniel Carlsson
7th – Gigi Galli
8th – Jari-Matti Latvala
9th – Manfred Stohl
I’m really shocked. Rules are rules, but that seems like a huge waste of a weekend’s worth of driving. Kinda puts a damper on the whole event.
Well, that’s victory number 31 for Sebastien Loeb. Another good battle, won mostly on leg 2 because of Seb’s uncanny ability to choose the correct tyres and look after them. And, apparently, the ability to keep his windows at their homologated thickness.

Marcus has proven he is still very, very fast compared to Loeb. He would still leading the driver’s championship if the penalty weren’t given. The 2006 Focus is still competitive against the 2007 C4. So Marcus–please, please, please don’t retire!

Speaking of C4’s, Dani Sordo’s 5th/3rd place finish impressed me. His speed was only behind that of the “Big Three” and Mikko Hirvonen, all of whom have much more experience and expertise on gravel. He’s showing that he’s improving on the loose stuff, which is exactly what he needs to be world champion one day.

Everyone else seemed to be struggling, in the car and emotionally. Manfred Stohl finished in 10th/9th and couldn’t make any impact in his Xsara. Neither could Carlsson for most of the rally. And Gigi was just stymied as to how the top guys could be going so fast. He put in 1000% and still ended up 1 second per kilometer slower than the leaders. Gee, the Xsara was just magic in the hands of Seb and Dani.
The only other guy to have a decent run was Jari-Matti. He set a couple third-fastest stage times and would’ve finished 6th.

And finally, the award for the most depressed driver of the week goes to Henning Solberg. Normally, he’s got the most cheer and chuckles than anyone in town. But after stage one, I couldn’t even recognize his voice, it was so disappointed and devoid of energy. I guess he’s taking more time to find the feeling with the Focus than he’d like, but he shouldn’t be so sad! Send a warm fuzzy from your heart to his, in hopes he’ll be back to his normal Henning-y self by Argentina.

April 2, 2007. Auto Racing, Citroen, Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Subaru, The Adventures of Henning Solberg, Thoughts, WRC. 1 comment.