100th Post!

After trying for a while to come up with something special for my 100th post, I’ve finally got it. I’m dedicating this post to my baby brother Chadsen, who is leaving on Wednesday to serve a two-year mission to Sydney, Australia for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He’s the one who first introduced me to the WRC. He’s the one who first told me about an incredibly talented Frenchman and a Norwegian cursed with bad luck. He’s the one who answers all my silly mechanical questions. He’s the one to whom I ramble on about the rallies. He’s the one who drags me out to dry lake beds for rallycross events.* And now, for two whole years, I’ll be watching rallies all alone and redirecting my rambles to other unsuspecting friends. And there will be no one to understand all the countless rally in-jokes that we have. But he’s off to do a world of good, and I’m massively proud of him.

So if you’re in northern half of New South Wales and an Elder Kat knocks on your door, invite him in for a lemonade. But don’t give away any rally results, because we’re saving all that for a massive info dump when he gets home.

Us and Dani Sordo. Yowza.
My brother’s on the left. Because obviously, my brother isn’t Dani Sordo.

*He competes with our friend Robert as the Rayberg Rally Team. Why “Rayberg”? I still have no idea.


August 25, 2007. Appreciation, Thoughts. Leave a comment.

Thoughts: Rallye Deutschland Days 2 & 3

What a great weekend of rallying! I don’t want to ramble on too long, so here are the final results and some thoughts:

1 – Sebastien Loeb
2 – Francois Duval   +20.3
3 – Mikko Hirvonen   +1:19.1
4 – Marcus Gronholm   +1:36.5
5 – Jan Kopecky  +3:07.1
6 – Petter Solberg   +3:14.7
7 – Toni Gardemeister  +3:37.5
8 – Jari-Matti Latvala   +5:29.3

Francois Duval really surprised me this weekend. In his recent appearances, he’s retired quite quickly, usually due to his own error. Not only has he finished the rally, he’s won all of the stages on leg 3 and finished within 20 seconds of the undisputed master of German tarmac, Seb Loeb.

I was watching highlights of some classic rallies from the 90’s, when team orders decided the results of a few controversial rallies. So, when Marcus went off on the very last stage of the rally after being distracted by a cow, team orders were my first thought. Would Ford boss Malcolm Wilson order Mikko to incur a time penalty so that Marcus could gain an extra point in the drivers’ standings? All credit due to Malcolm, there were no such orders. Marcus’ error was entirely his own fault (you can’t blame the freedom-loving cow).  On principle, it would have been entirely unfair to Mikko to cede his own hard-fought position. In the press, it would have stirred controversy and left a blemish on the whole rally. I think that was a very gentlemanly thing for Malcolm to do (or not do). Anyway, Mikko gets very cheeky and headstrong, and I’m not sure he would have obeyed had he received them.

Classifieds: Young Czech needs drive for 2008 season. Would prefer competitive car. Can deliver results. Tarmac specialist. Learning quickly on gravel. Please contact Jan Kopecky.

I’d like to close with an *airhorn blast* in honor of Seb’s victory. Woo!

You could see Duval’s overalls from space!  Seb on an awkward hairpin

August 20, 2007. Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

Thoughts: Rallye Deutschland Day 1

Holy cow! Francois Duval is in the lead! The good people at the forums tipped him to win, but I honestly thought the idea was a bit optimistic, judging from his performances the past two seasons. The C4 is obviously newer, but the Xsara’s still got a bit of magic left in it. Now if Duval can keep it on the road…

Seb Loeb made a wrong tyre choice? Rare. But the rest of the weekend looks to be dry, so it makes the choice easier. If Seb is on the right tyres, I’m sure he can overtake Duval for the lead. It’ll be a great fight, so I hope no one complains about being bored when Seb wins.

The Citroen mechanics had better be poring over Seb’s car for any mechanical problems, because he’s been lucky to not have the problems that Dani Sordo’s been having. With Dani out, that makes the points gap in the championship that much harder to close.

Subaru. It never takes more than a day for it to all go wrong. This time, driver error is to blame. Chris Atkinson had an off on stage 2 and Petter Solberg broke his steering trying to get around a hairpin. How many times have we said already that despite the (fill in mishap here) their pace was promising…

Henning had to retire from the leg after losing his tyre. I have yet to see the in-car footage, but this looks like it’ll be another entry for “The Adventures of Henning Solberg.” Too bad, because he was sounding very cheerful and doing quite well in his first true tarmac event.

We’ve also got some privateers in very enviable spots on the leaderboard. Good luck to them all. Not too much luck, because I’m still rooting for Seb to win his 6th consecutive Rallye Deutschland.

Overall Standings:

1 – Francois Duval
2 – Sebastien Loeb   +1.3
3 – Marcus Gronholm   +17.4
4 – Mikko Hirvonen   +22.7
5 – Toni Gardemeister   +1:04.2
6 – Jan Kopecky   +1:26.6
7 – Xevi Pons   +1:37.2
8 – Jari-Matti Latvala   +1:40.7
9 – Petter Solberg   +1:50.7
10 – Manfred Stohl   +2:10.3

August 17, 2007. Auto Racing, Citroen, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, Thoughts, WRC. 1 comment.

Spreading the Joy

Last Saturday, I had a group of friends over at my house to watch “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” But before I put in the movie, I opportunistically slipped in the 2006 WRC season review DVD. The results? Most of them wanted to watch rallying more than the movie! One of my friends wants to start an all-female rally team (although I have to sit that one out, as I lack the talent to either drive or codrive) and another can’t stop thinking about driving a rally car. Success!

So to all the rally connoisseurs in the US who find themselves alone in their fandom, spread the joy! It’s actually really easy. You’d be surprised how many people will start to love rallying for all the same reasons you love it.

August 13, 2007. Rally, Rallying, Thoughts, Why I Love Rally, WRC. 2 comments.

Why I Love Rally, Reason #17

I love the neat-o Karcher car washes that high-pressure spray all the mud off of those beautiful WRC cars before they come into service.

I want one.

A quick shower

August 10, 2007. Rally, Rallying, Why I Love Rally, WRC. Leave a comment.

Miscellaneous Items

Some items that may be helpful:

If you’re wondering where to find torrents, leave me a comment with your e-mail address and I’ll see what I can do.

I know I can be a bit colloquial at times, so if you don’t understand what the heck I’m saying, ask me! I taught Spanish classes for a while, so I think I can handle explaining my own language.

If you find any broken links, let me know and I can un-break them.


August 9, 2007. Thoughts. 6 comments.

Rally Report: Finland 2007

For those of you who are just discovering rally, here’s something you should know right off: Finland is home to the greatest of ’em all. Nowhere in the world will you find more talented drivers or more dedicated rally fans. The stages are pure madness. If you thought the jump at the X Games was crazy, wait till you see the Finnish yumps. If you want to see for yourself, sit back and enjoy the world’s scariest rally stage, Ouninpohja:

OK then. For those of you who already know exactly what happened this weekend, here are my random thoughts:

Thank heaven Rally Radio is back! Yippee yahoo hooray!

Dangit. Marcus now has a 13 point lead over Seb, and even with four tarmac rallies left Seb will need Marcus to DNF if he has any chance at winning the title. It’s been eons since Seb has had this sort of pressure on him. If there’s anyone in the world who could catch Marcus, it’s Seb. But maybe that means no one in world can catch him now. Despite Marcus’ age and pending retirement from the WRC, he’s still at the top of his game and is 100% capable of holding onto the championship lead.

Mikko Hirvonen. He’s all grown up and ready to spread his wings–he’s now a true Flying Finn. He easily kept Seb at bay on all three days to finish 2nd. And (in Finland at least) is almost able to threaten Marcus. But he is really vocal about trying to win. That’s not the wisest thing to say, when your senior teammate is trying to open up the biggest gap possible in the points and chasing a 7th win in Finland that would put him in the record books.

Petter, Petter, Petter. Why does your car fail you? Julian Porter reports seeing Petter unable to even drive in a straight line. He came into the summer holiday with a podium finish in Greece, so he reasonably expected to be able to fight in Finland. When those hopes were dashed after the very first stage, he was in tears. Everyone who saw him was gutted. We all want him to do well. He really does not deserve this sort of heartache. I know the team works hard, but they need leadership and a talented engineer to direct their efforts into actual results.

Chris Atkinson, on the other hand, found a degree of performance out of his Impreza, because he finished very well in fourth. Maybe the codriver switch was just what he needed to refocus himself. Other than a couple stalls, he had a perfect weekend.

Jari-Matti Latvala was, for but a brief time, impressive. He pulled off the same surprise he did in Greece: snatching the lead after the first stage. Then, after the strangest problem (the rubber lining detached from his door) he had two offs, one of which damaged his roll cage. I’ve been somewhat critical of Henning Solberg’s recent lack of pace. But maybe he’s just being smart and doing what Jari-Matti needs to do: calm down, drive steadily, and gain the experience that will enable him in the future to 1) drive quicker and 2) finish rallies. It worked for Henning, who finished well in fifth.

Subaru’s new driver Xevi Pons gave us a pleasant surprise by finishing sixth. He could have easily put the car off the road in Finland in such an unfamiliar and unreliable car (and almost did). But it seems he’s truly conquered his hot temper and gained consistency, which he showed at the end of 2006.

One more mention: Urmo Aava’s finish in 7th is a big hint to everyone that he may be ready to graduate to the WRC’s top tier. We’ll see what happens in his next outing.

The end.

August 7, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, WRC. 2 comments.

X Games 13 Rally Super Special: Full Recap

It was supposed to be a few runs through a stadium super special. Then came the insanity.

And practice went so smoothly…

Course Layout

The first run for Ken Block and Andrew Comrie-Picard was incredible. It ended with Ken Block clipping a barrier, dragging a planter (complete with shrubbery) underneath the car, reversing to get rid of it, bumping into another concrete barrier, losing the front right tyre completely and damaging his suspension and turbo! But he still won over ACP, whose ailing engine caused him to land too short on the crossover jump, slamming the back wheels against the ramp and breaking his rear suspension. Absolute mayhem! Kudos to Block’s mechanics, who repaired his car in time for the next battle.

Ken Block - over the hedge

Colin McRae, celebrating his 39th birthday, took it easy on his match against Ramana Lagemann. Lagemann’s engine wouldn’t reach above 4000 rpm, so with no chance to win, he stopped the car.

Next, both the Rock Star Subaru teammates went head to head in a round that looked like someone held up a mirror against the entire track. But it was Tanner Foust’s smooth drifter-style moves that put him ahead of Rally America points leader Andrew Pinker. That is, until Pinker hit a barrier in the asphalt section, came into the stadium jump too sideways and hit the front left into the wall. That second impact threw his trunk door open, which made quite the spectacle as he went on to hit the last few hydrobarriers at the finish. But he did finish!

Pinker - trunk open and into the barriers

In fact, the only routine run was Travis Pastrana against Paul Choiniere. (Travis won.)

The real shocker came when, after a pretty tidy run that put him well in the lead, Colin McRae–rally legend and my favorite to win–ran wide into the hydrobarriers, which tucked under the car to form a ramp. And again, over he went, rolling the car. Except this time, he landed with a corner of the now twice-battered Subaru atop the barrier, with no way of coming down. Colin was so good during practice. With 146 WRC starts, this man has more experience than all of the other drivers put together. But he made the rather silly mistake of accelerating just a bit more, in order to gain speed where he didn’t need any. Sigh. That just means he has to come back to Los Angeles next year to claim the gold medal! Californian rally fans 1, Colin McRae 0.

This is how Colin got stuck

The penultimate match up, and the mayhem still continued unabated. The gap that Travis Pastrana opened up against Tanner Foust was small, but would have guaranteed him victory. But that slow 2 right caught Travis out. He came in too fast, crashed through the barriers into the other course, hitting Foust’s car! He was faster, but had to be disqualified for crossing the finish line in the other lane. Rallying may be nuts, but rules are rules. Travis didn’t mind–he had an absolute blast!

Travis’ illegal lane change

So the final consisted of Tanner Foust and Ken Block, who might still have been in a state of disbelief at advancing the round against Colin. Tanner Foust, though, was a bit worried about the handbrake that had snapped off in his hand. But whatever advantage Ken Block gained midstage, Foust had somehow recouped the time by the finish. The two cars were neck in neck, but both of them came into the finish, again, too fast. As luck would have it, Block’s car served as a snow bank for Tanner to bounce off of. And there you have it. Tanner Foust, stunt driver and drifter extraordinaire, is also now the gold medalist at the X Games Rally Car event. Whew!

Block bounces Foust to the win

By the end, my jaw was tired from dropping so often and my head was buzzing from the excitement. I don’t even think we see this much carnage on the Acropolis! But, all this chaos just goes to show the American public what rallying is all about. Yes, they keep going even on three wheels. Yes, they drive even when their brakes are out. Yes, they roll the car and keep on driving. And yes, when you think you’re in trouble, you hit the accelerator. Anything can happen in rallying, and whatever happens, it’s always spectacular!

August 7, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, News, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Subaru. Leave a comment.

Happy Birthday, Colin McRae!

Every once in a while, someone comes along with the talent, charisma, and that little extra something that not only makes them a champion, but a star. All silliness aside, here is my humble tribute to a man I admire and respect: Colin McRae.

He can be both genial and fiery, without being uncivilized. It’s that dynamic that sets him apart from the field.

His driving style is aggressive, sometimes over the limit, but always thrilling. He has mastered the his craft so well, it’s an art. He can be tidy and lightning quick. He can throw the car sideways to entertain. He can downshift gears in an upside-down car mid-roll. It’s a thing of beauty.

Speaking of his 2006 (and 2007) X Games roll, he has raised the profile of rallying in the US to a level that no PR event could ever reach. Who knew that a Scotsman and a lanky daredevil from Maryland would be the greatest proponents of American rallying?

He’s incredibly ambitious. As a WRC driver, he scored 25 victories and became the youngest ever world champion. But after an unexpected ouster from the WRC, he didn’t beg for anyone’s scraps. In this past year alone, he’s debuted his own R4 race car, entered the Paris-Dakar Rally, spiced up the X Games, drove for Citroen in the Rally of Turkey, released another landmark video game, and will cap it off with the Race of Champions. And he’ll still take the time to chat with a very star-struck rally fan (moi).

And let’s face it–the Scottish accent doesn’t hurt.

So while this little fan tribute can’t rival the world championship title or even the MBE he’s received from the Queen of England, it’s sincere. Seeing Colin McRae in person left me awestruck and even more enamored of one of rallying’s true legends.

Colin and Nicky Grist    2005 RAC Rally From McKlein - greatest rally photographers ever

August 7, 2007. Appreciation, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, WRC. 2 comments.

Meeting Colin McRae

I’m still giddy. After waiting over two hours yesterday by the service park hoping to meet Colin McRae, we finally spotted him today. We watched him get interviewed by a TV crew, do a photo shoot for SubieSport Magazine, and do driver-y things. Then, when he stepped out of the service tent, we took the opportunity to ask him for autographs. Sadly, we seemed to be the only people who knew that Colin McRae wasn’t just the guy that rolled the car last year. So after Colin picked his seeding order out of a hat and spoke with Tanner Foust about Dirt, we grabbed him again for a photo and a moment’s chat. Sigh…I am a happy girl.

Also, in contrast with the difficulties of spectating the practice session at the Home Depot Center, the mechanics on the rally teams were great to talk to. There was little to do besides hang around the little service park, so we spent a lot of time gazing lovingly upon the cars and talking to the crews.

We also tried to meet the legendary John Buffum. He’s codriving (!) for NASCAR’s Boris Said (!!), but Boris wasn’t there, so John Buffum drove. Like he should. However, every time we wanted to flag him down, he’d turn around and disappear. One second he was there, the next he was gone and nowhere to be seen. It was like his superhero power.

From what we were able to see of the practice session, all hats off to Colin McRae. He was, hands down, the tidiest and quickest driver. The other drivers did offer a lot of sideways entertainment, but you could see Colin’s talent and experience in his driving. It was a thing of beauty. Definitely worth the sunburn on my nose.

Closing note: Travis Pastrana needs to keep hydrated. He was sweating buckets and didn’t have time to stop for enough fluids.

Remember to watch the X Games on ABC and ESPN2 HD, Sunday afternoon!

Me with Colin McRae    A very tired Travis Pastrana

August 4, 2007. Auto Racing, Rally, Rallying. 2 comments.

Happy Birthday, Mikko Hirvonen!

A humongous happy birthday to Mikko Hirvonen, the cheekiest Finn this side of the…um…not Pecos…not Mississippi…this side of Jyvaskyla?

The many virtues of Mikko:

He’s overcome his deficiencies as a young, inexperienced driver to become one of the quickest drivers in the championship. He’s gone from that disastrous year with Subaru, to notching up the rally victories on his belt.

Mikko isn’t one of those drivers who wasted his potential. He hasn’t given up amidst adversity. He is no longer throwing his car off the road in vain attempts to match other drivers. Instead, he has found a balance between good sense and good speed. As a result, he finishes rallies, easily scores podiums, and gains vital experience. It’s a pleasure to see him sweeten with time, like fine wine. Or good cheese.

His mischievous sense of humor (that’s where the cheese comes in). Whether he’s mugging to the camera, driving Malcolm Wilson nuts, or guest-jockeying on World Rally Radio, he’s entertaining.

He’s a true Flying Finn. While the other drivers go easier on the jumps to avoid damage to the car, Mikko declares, “it’s the best feeling in the rally, when you are flying with the car and when you go sideways over the jumps…but normally, they are flat. That’s the only way.” Sideways!

His beauty. Miss Engine 1996, baby!

He’s a complete petrolhead. He has a certain affinity for restoring rusty Skodas. And, he even proposed to his fiancee at a gas station!

And of course, I love his name. It’s a vital component of MikPetter LatvaLoebHolm, the silly-sounding alias of the silly Robert Clark, of the Rayberg Rally Team.

So in conclusion, Mikko is easy to love. He’s going to have a ton of fans when he becomes world champion one day. Not if, but WHEN.

First win in OZ ‘06  Look at that face!

August 1, 2007. Appreciation, Rally, Rallying, WRC. 1 comment.