Happy Birthday, Travis Pastrana!

Travis Pastrana, America’s greatest hope in rallying, turned 24 on October 8. (I could say sorry for the thousandth for missing their actual birthday, but that’s the way it’ll always be. You’ll have to get used to it, I’m afraid.) Anyway, why–even though it’s obvious–is Travis so freakin’ wonderful?

His enthusiasm! His energy!!! The adrenaline!!!!!! Woooo!!!!!!!!!

The gag photos where he pretends to be punched by his friends. If you look around, there’s a lot of them.

The double back-flip.

The impressive one-man show at the 2006 Race of Champions, where he made the team nations cup finals all by his lonesome.

This item from Travis’ Wikipedia entry, under “other activities”: “On Sept. 26, 2007, Pastrana jumped out of an airplane over Arecibo, Puerto Rico, without a parachute. In a carefully choreographed stunt, he met up in midair with another jumper, then lashed himself into a harness in time to make a safe tandem landing.”
WHAT?!

If all this weren’t crazy enough, he proves he’s even crazier than our already very brave WRC drivers by doing this:

And then reacting with a “Woooooo!”

And somehow, despite the apparent madness, Travis is still a friendly, humble, approachable guy who loves him mom. His is a personality we need in the WRC. For anyone who is wary of Americans, don’t be afraid of this one. He’s a keeper.

Me with Travis Pastrana and Ken Block–Yay!  A friendly punch to the face

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October 31, 2007. Appreciation, Rally, Rallying, Subaru, WRC. 2 comments.

Rally Report: Rally Japan 2007

I’m excited that I’m excited. After two less-than-thrilling rallies, I’m happy to be sitting here typing away about the weekend’s action. Here are my thoughts, random as they may be:

Oh, Marcus. We all knew a four-point lead in the championship meant the season was going to be dramatic. But I don’t think anyone expected drama like this. Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb, both undisputed masters, both crash out on the same rally! (Understandable, especially with fog and icy mud on the stages. Seriously!) The points gap remains at four points then, with two rallies left. If Seb wins both of them, and Marcus finishes 2nd on both, then Seb will win the title (though they’d be tied, Seb had more victories). But they’re also two of the trickiest rallies in the calendar, so there really is no way of knowing who will be champion. The sentimental favorite to win is Marcus, but either way the WRC wins with an amazing battle up to the season’s end.

Loeb had an unbelievable rally. It started well enough with Daniel Elena’s birthday. No one expected Seb to be lagging behind the leader with understeer, even before the most shocking part of the rally: Daniel Elena made a mistake. A wrongly read pacenote–yes, you’re not reading this wrong–was the cause of Seb’s retirement from day two. If Seb were rallying’s Mr. Perfect, then Dany would be God that granted Seb his perfection. Aside from the bonnet pin incident in Sweden 2006, the man has a spotless record of professionalism. Ah, no need to worry. Out of the millions of pacenotes he’s read in his lifetime, I guess it’s no stretch to believe one of them could be read incorrectly. Still stranger, though, was seeing Seb retire with mechanical failure on day three.

Mikko has proven he can win oddball rallies, but even with all his progress I doubt that he can win against Seb and Marcus on run-of-the-mill gravel. But if he really has stepped up into the upper echelons of driving talent, more power to him! In fact, it would be nice if he did, so Seb could have some competition next year and prevent a season-long –gently put– period of tranquility.

Dani Sordo was blessed with a bit of luck, finally. He finished the rally in 2nd, without technical troubles or big moments. While he hasn’t developed fully as a gravel ace yet, his six stage wins are definitely encouraging. And he’s such a nice lad!

Henning Solberg’s Rally Japan was just what the doctor ordered. After two humbling tarmac rallies, he’s rewarded for his patience with a lovely podium finish on his preferred surface. He’s even sounding like his old, chipper self!

OK, just facing facts, you know it’s been a high-attrition rally when Matt Wilson and Luis Perez Companc finish 4th and 5th, respectively. Matt did do a great job fighting his way up to 4th place, to his credit. And you know what? Staying on the road was something even the resident world champs couldn’t do. They weren’t going nearly as fast as the big boys, but hey.

One youngster, who really isn’t young when you consider his 50 WRC starts, is Jari-Matti Latvala. Homeboy can drive! He led the whole shebang from the first two stages and was still in third until he crashed out on unlucky stage 13. I’m abuzz about his potential, but he needs to learn how to concentrate. Jari-Matti’s a bit hyperactive. But he’ll have to learn how to drive amidst the mayhem, because falling window linings and crashed competitors are always going to be around on a rally.

Speaking of crashing, Chris Atkinson did his car in. They say the roll cage was broken in seven places. Atko and Stephane Prevot, however, were not broken.

Still a favorite is Petter Solberg, who kept driving and winning stages in order to entertain the faithful Norwegian flag-waving fans. I watched the breathtaking onboards of Ouninpohja, and reminded myself why I adore him. Though he’s far away from the win (to no fault of his own), we can’t let him get too far away from our hearts. Corniness not intended.

Also, a big thanks to World Rally Radio, who informs and entertains like no other. Where else can I hear Denis Giraudet tell a story about a bear running across a stage?

Fog Mud Trees
Fog, mud, and trees–oh my!

October 28, 2007. Motorsport, Rally, Rally Radio, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, WRC. 1 comment.

Thoughts: Rally Catalunya and the Tour de Corse

I’m really sorry for not posting in a while! You can direct all complaints to Sam. His cell phone number is…just kidding.

But honestly, it was difficult to write a report about a rally like Catalunya. To no one’s fault, it was rather uneventful. Besides the shuffles on leg one, there were no position changes or major incidents the rest of the weekend. The only item of note was the four points Sebastien Loeb gained on Marcus Gronholm, thanks to Dani Sordo’s second place finish.

The way I see it, we should analyze the Spanish and French rounds together to develop a larger picture of what’s happening. Actual rally: not so exciting. Championship implications: very exciting.
Petter Solberg is no longer having miserable rallies, only mediocre ones. I guess that’s progress. Chris Atkinson failed to deliver on his very promising fourth place finish from Rallye Deutschland, so the reports of his tarmac mastery have been a bit exaggerated. Xevi Pons is becoming the bad-luck magnet of the Subaru World Rally Team (much to Petter’s relief, I’d guess).

Henning Solberg continued his “the only way out is through” approach to learning to drive on tarmac. Jari-Matti Latvala is making a strong case to be Mikko Hirvonen’s teammate next year (fingers crossed!).

But he could be in a state of limbo if Marcus decides to guest-star in selected rallies next year (ie: anything but tarmac). Classic Marcus quote: “I hate tarmac rallies.”

Mikko, though he retired, actually reminded me of how consistent he is (his last retirement due to driver error was clear back in December last year in Wales Rally GB).

Though he looked poised to be a star this time last year, Dani Sordo never regained the momentum he lost mid-2006 around the time of Finland and Cyprus. But that was only natural because of his many mechanical failures and his decision to go steady and finish, rather than go fast and crash.

Sebastien Loeb must be quite optimistic for the championship. With only 4 points between him and Marcus, with another upcoming tarmac rally, it’s a virtual tie. Though Seb is my favorite driver, I’ve got to say Marcus is everyone’s sentimental favorite. The fact that Marcus hasn’t won a world title since 2002 is deceptive. He’s still jaw-droppingly quick, and still every bit the champion at the ripe old age of 39.

Last note: mostly due to WRC non-finishes, the Peugeot 207 S2000 driven by Dani Sola finished in tenth overall. I really hate the idea of replacing world rally cars with the S2000. Can you imagine the entire championship field as slow as the Peugeot here? It finished ten minutes back from the leader!

October 15, 2007. Funny Quotes, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Thoughts, WRC. 1 comment.

Happy Birthday to Me!

How self-centered would it be if I dedicated a post to how much I love myself? Ha!

Instead, I’m getting a wonderful birthday present in the form of Rally Catalunya–happy day!

I did update my mini-biography page, if you want to know how old I am.

October 5, 2007. Appreciation. 3 comments.

Why I Love Rally, Reason #18

Beauty is a car sliding sideways around a corner.

I maintain that our rally drivers could out-drift drifting champions. It’s simply one of the many driving techniques that they must master. They have so much car control and sideways experience. It’s business as usual.

Behold:

The other guys are good…

But that’s just Monte Carlo, really.

October 4, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, Sports, Why I Love Rally, WRC. 1 comment.

Thumb Twiddling

It’s been hard to get posts up lately because I’m still brokenhearted about Colin McRae and news is slow in between rallies. (I’ve been following the drama in F1, where there’s always a juicy Hamilton-Alonso story.) I do, however, have bullet points:

  • My official opinion about Suzuki’s choice of Sebastian Lindholm and Nicolas Bernardi: “Oh.” It’s all a bit anti-climactic.
  • There are reports of a 24-hour channel devoted to the WRC in development. Wow. Maybe I should pack up and move to England.
  • Seb Loeb won the Cork International Rally, taking only 100 miles to rack up a 5 minute lead over the next Irishman. Dani Sordo finished in 2nd and Mikko Hirvonen in 5th (he had a puncture).
  • Marcus Gronholm isn’t resting comfortably on his 10-point lead. He’s taking tarmac lessons to polish up his form for the three remaining tarmac events.

But with Rally Catalunya only a day away, the thumb twiddling will definitely stop. I am more than ready for some action!

October 3, 2007. Rally, WRC. Leave a comment.