Rally Report: New Zealand 2007

It’s taken me a while to calm down from the most exciting and stressful rally I think I’ve ever seen. What can I say about Seb and Marcus’ battle? The closest ever finish in WRC history: 0.3 seconds. It was good, hair-pulling fun watching them swap leads and pushing each other so, so hard. Why would Marcus want to retire after a thrill like this? He and Seb are at the very top of their game, so evenly matched for speed on gravel, even with their different driving styles. Seb didn’t end up winning, but with a mere 0.3 seconds separating them, who could even say which was the better driver? After three days and 350-odd km, that’s just ridiculous! Congrats to Marcus. This victory must be ecstasy for him, to win a fight with such a worthy rival.

Mikko’s stuck in third again, and I think he’s frustrated that he was outshadowed by the monumental battle at the top. His steady and quick drive is due some respect.

Chris Atkinson finished in a fine fourth place. Jari-Matti Latvala has been looking like the hottest young talent in the championship lately, so I think it must be a sort of vindication for Atko to best him in an out-and-out battle. Luckily, the car didn’t choke and he didn’t crash, so he now has a result to show for his speed. But you can tell Jari-Matti is analyzing every detail of his rally, so he can learn every possible lesson to take with him in his career.

Dani Sordo finished in sixth, keeping ahead of Petter Solberg, whose Impreza held up steadily enough to finish the rally. Nothing spectacular from Dani, but Petter, I think, got enough to sustain him a while more. His recent column in Autosport shows just how emotionally difficult these past two years have been. He has the very intense desire, but no luck. Anyone else with Petter’s problems would have quit the sport or jumped off a bridge already. But Petter’s hanging in there, with faith in his own talent. The tough part is keeping his faith in the team, especially now that the 2008 Impreza’s first event has been pushed to Finland rather than the expected Monte Carlo debut. That’s a half season longer spent in an absolute dog of a car. I wish him all the best…

Also, I hope all the members of the world rallying community get over the nasty flu going around. Cato Menkerud, Henning’s codriver, had it the worst. With the scratchiest voice you’ve ever heard, he had to call out three day’s worth of pacenotes through the pain. Even Rally Radio’s Becs Williams got it. Kudos to them for being real troopers.

On a final note, Henning damaged another bumper. And I saw a herd of cows (I think they were) checking out the stage from behind a fence. They didn’t cause any crashes this time.

One of the sweetest victories of Marcus’ life  Yep! You only needed 0.4s more!

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September 2, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, The Adventures of Henning Solberg, WRC.

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