Why I Love Rally, Reason #19

The rally fans.

Behind the great shots of the cars in action, you’ll also find a slew of rally fans who have driven their cars down rocky roads and climbed up hills to see their rally heroes for just that split second. We sit there for hours on a rock getting dust, mud or water sprayed on us. We are there to push the cars back out when the drivers go off the road. We sound our air horns, wait in the service park for autographs, and wave ridiculously large flags. And we do it with gusto. We are amazing!

How did the fans even get up there?

Sebastien with rally fans

November 28, 2007. Rally, Why I Love Rally. Leave a comment.

The Dog Box: Almost to the End…

In anticipation of the final round of the WRC where our world champion will be crowned, Bruce McKinnon of The Dog Box rate how all the drivers have done this season. And who’s that goofy-sounding guest star? Why, it’s me!

So go check out the podcast already.

The Dog Box: WRC Season Round-up

This is also the penultimate edition, as Bruce is retiring from doing the WRC podcasts. He does such a wonderful job, it’ll be a shame to see it come to an end. But he’ll be going out on top, much like the great Marcus Gronholm.

November 27, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, WRC. Leave a comment.

Happy Birthday, Nicky Grist!

This is the birthday I’ve been waiting for since the inception of this site. Nicky Grist, as host of the WRC reviews on the Speed Channel when I first discovered rallying, was the first personality that I fell in love with. That’s why so many of the following reasons for loving Nicky Grist are based on his TV antics.

In the review shows, he would deliver these ridiculous jokes with a deadpan expression. How did he keep a straight face while wearing a giant Mexican sombrero? So funny…

But he does smile! I had to wait until Turkey 2006 to find proof.

He’s a true professional, having sat beside many drivers including Malcolm Wilson, Juha Kankkunen, and the incomparable Colin McRae.

And he still seems to be OK after all the accidents. He must’ve lost count of them by now…

However, he still managed to rack up 21 rally wins beside two different drivers.

Although he and Colin parted company after in-car friction, I think he enjoyed the ride. I just love hearing him crack up after the sky-high pass over the Bunnings jumps in Rally Australia 1996.

He shares his vast store of rally knowledge. He offered a codriving class at Rally New York last year. Too bad I’m in California.

I did get to see him once. At the 2006 X Games codriving for Colin McRae. We shouted his name from afar, but didn’t get his attention. And on our way out, we just happened to be walking out to the parking lot at the same time as he was. It totally looked like we were stalking him. My brother and I didn’t want to disturb him on his cell phone, so we just got in our own car and watched him drive away in a rental minivan. In hindsight, I guess I should’ve chased him down for an autograph. Sigh…regrets…

Anyway, it’s hard to explain, but Nicky Grist is the biggest source of rally in-jokes between my brother and me. He’s the OG, as far as we’re concerned. If you’re in a window-shopping mood, why don’t you head on over this his website? It sells all the nifty rally equipment that he likes.

Colin and Nicky Grist, Turkey ‘06    Nicky wants you to go to nickygrist.com

November 24, 2007. Appreciation, Rally, Rallying, WRC. 1 comment.

Thoughts: 2007 Rally Ireland

Ah, Thanksgiving…I’m tired and pumped full of tryptophan, but I finally have a moment to wax philosophical about Rally Ireland.

There has been so much anticipation coming into Rally Ireland. The top two teams sent their drivers out to Irish Tarmac Championship events to prep for the big show, while awestruck local fans were out to rally support for their sport (see the pun there?). We’ve had new events that were buzz-worthy, but the level of enthusiasm from the hearts of Irish rally fans made this event extra special for me. But I knew, I knew that it would be mayhem. The roads were narrow, bumpy, wet, and muddy–and there was no way that even the top drivers would come out unscathed.

First, Marcus Gronholm. His long-time lead in the points would have become a championship title if he had finished here in second, and had won Wales GB (which he could have easily done). But a bad crash ended his advantage, and become even more disconcerting when Marcus fainted and began to lose his memory of it. It fills me with genuine worry when one of our superheroes is in any way hurt. Best of wishes to Marcus.

Victory, then, went to Sebastien Loeb. It was never too assured, though. Sardinia and Japan have shown us that the number one car is not as infallible as before. Broken rear suspension on Friday’s first loop opened the door for others, with Dani Sordo taking the lead for a short time. But having two Irish events under him already, Seb managed to stay steady on the road and ahead of everyone else. And if he has a reasonable finish in GB, then the title is again his.

Dani Sordo, the second-place finisher, did well to prove his star hasn’t faded after the string of disappointing finishes this year. The “wonderboy” status may have worn off, but he cannot be discounted yet. The kid’s now got 11 podiums to his credit.

Jari-Matti Latvala! This kid gets me excited thinking of his future. At the tender age of 22, he’s already had five years of world rallying behind him and he’s poised to truly become a podium contender. While Matthew Wilson is still on a “five year plan” to develop his skills, Jari-Matti is about to graduate. His first-ever podium is well-deserved, even amidst the attrition in this rally.

Mikko Hirvonen is an ambitious man. When he’s not on the podium, he sounds rather glum. But his efforts have secured Ford’s second consecutive manufacturer’s championship, though I’d give more credit to Malcolm Wilson’s managerial superpowers. Ford really hasn’t erred this year, even when the normally perfectly-polished Citroen team has seen a string of mechanical failures.

Speaking of beleaguered manufacturers, Petter brought in his Subaru Impreza in to fifth place. It’s got to be depressing for them, when even a catastrophe-free weekend only netted a fifth-best in a field already pared down by crashes. The changes being made by David Richard’s iron fist has got to address this. For Petter’s sake.

Side note: Henning Solberg’s unexpected meeting with a tree at the end of day one meant he finished well out of the points. But the poor guy was without his trusty codriver Cato Menkerud, who was at home with his family and newborn baby. However, he emailed Rally Radio to say hi and to request a song to show his affection for Henning: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John. Oh, my.

Wales GB is but a week away, so we will see a new champion in a few days. It is by no means already decided. Seb has never won GB, and wasn’t competing there in 2006, so it could all go awry for him. So one more rally to go before the season’s over and we can all take a bit of a break. Good! If I had to do both all-night rallies and Christmas, I would collapse.

Jari-Matti covered in mud Dani Sordo - Ireland 2007
Seb Loeb - Ireland 2007 Malcolm Wilson doused in champagne

November 23, 2007. Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, WRC. Leave a comment.

Happy 1st Birthday, Blog!

PS: I missed the blog’s birthday. “What in the World Rally?” is one year old!

They grow up so fast…*sniff*…

How will I celebrate? With lolcats–yay!

lolcats and funny pictures
moar funny pictures

November 13, 2007. Appreciation. Leave a comment.

Happy Birthday, Daniel Elena!

If ever there were a perfect codriver, Daniel Elena is it. So in honor of his birthday (almost three weeks ago), here’s the traditional rundown of reasons why Dany is so great.

Literally, he is the greatest. Thirty-five victories makes him the winningest codriver in WRC history.

He makes so few mistakes that when he does make an error, it’s a shock. I can count them out for you right now: the unlatched bonnet pins in Sweden 2006 and the misspoken pacenote in this year’s Rally Japan. That’s it, as far as I know.

The delivery of his pacenotes. It’s precise. It’s musical. It’s rhythmical. It’s a bit funny-sounding. It’s almost like rap!

But his voice sounds completely different when he’s talking normally. Much more masculine.

When he’s out of the car, he is so friendly and always laughing. He doesn’t even anger when they flip the flag of Monaco upside-down and get the flag of Poland!

He actually is from Monaco, not a rich guy who moved there for the tax haven.

His chin has a dimple in it.

What’s not great: the bleached tips on his hair. I don’t think it looks good on anybody (sorry).

Back to what is great: his professionalism and dedication. Codrivers have a lot of work behind the scenes, and don’t get a lot of the credit. Sebastien gets the glory for his immense talent, but Dany is there to back him up. So happy birthday to a man who deserves all the honor a triple world champion should receive.

Daniel Elena  World champ, yes! Fashionista, maybe not.

November 13, 2007. Appreciation, Rally, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.