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.

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

2 Comments

  1. Neil replied:

    Seb has had it so easy in the past. I think it’s good for him to be under some pressure for once, and it’s good for us watching him try to cope with that pressure. I think we are in for a cracking last few rounds. My main question is how relieved will Marcus be that he had a go at an Irish event earlier this year. That piece of strategy by Ford could prove to be the factor that decides the championship…

  2. amberie replied:

    Agreed–Seb has a chance now to show his true colors. And I think the pressure could be even tougher next year. With a new baby on the way, I wonder how he’s going to handle rallying when the baby’s crying through the night.

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