Rally Report: Wales Rally GB 2007

I still don’t believe it. How could that have been the end of the season already? How could that have been Marcus Gronholm’s last rally? Writing a report is really tough when you’re still in a state of denial.

I guess Sebastien and Marcus left me wanting more. We’d all expected an out-and-out showdown, with the two of them pushing each other to the limit like they’ve done so many times this year. However, stage one started with a stage win for…Mikko?! I love them both immensely, but I guess you’ve got to miss the spirit of rallying that came with larger-than-life heroes like Colin McRae who never drove less than flat out. Seb and Marcus went steadily. Marcus waited for Seb to slip up, and Seb waited for the rally to be over. And in the meantime, they let Jari-Matti Latvala steal the show.

Jari-Matti is so hot right now. He come out of nowhere, winning all nine proper stages on days two and three! Never mind that he was running second on the road. Even when he claimed he was slowing down to stay safe, he still came out fastest. Does this mean he’s stepped up to the top level? The Jari-Matti Theatre marquee should read: “Speed! Experience! Personality!” And then Malcolm Wilson will buy out all the tickets. Well, he’d be daft not to.
And while I’m wondering if Jari-Matti is stepping up to the top level, I’m a bit more secure in saying Mikko has. If he hasn’t, then next year will be less of a thrill and more of a monotone. Anyway, I’m sure Mikko wanted to prove that he could win a rally fair and square against Seb and Marcus on a really classic rally. This was his last chance, but neither Seb nor Marcus were driving at maximum attack. I don’t think it was an even comparison. That’s got to be annoying. Nonetheless, Mikko must be quite pleased to have four first place trophies to call his own.

But how amazing must it be to have four world championships to your name? Sebastien Loeb would know. Despite an unexciting drive that bored him to tears, Seb was genuinely elated to have cinched the title again. There is absolutely no doubt to how immense his talent is or whether the title was deserved. Seb was there scoring points when Marcus crashed out in Ireland. That’s it.

If we fans were to name the world rally champion, then it’d be handed to Marcus by a unanimous vote. He stuck it out for years in a gremlin-cursed Peugeot 307. Then in 2006, he finally got behind the wheel of a truly amazing car–catch is, it had some kinks to work out. Then 2007 was looking good until Rally Ireland. It was new and horrendously difficult. And it was tarmac. Wet tarmac. And that was the final nail in the coffin for Marcus’ title hopes. Such a shame. But we will always, always love him wish that he were still rallying.

The rest of my thoughts:

Petter actually made it through without a major catastrophe, finishing fourth. At least he doesn’t have to start his vacation with any anguish. He’ll be working obsessively with the team to improve the car, I’m sure.

Dani Sordo finished a fine fifth place amidst the worst Welsh weather any of the drivers had ever seen. And the best Dani Sordo moment? Hearing him speak French!

Matthew Wilson is getting more consistent, even when the weather throws a torrential rainstorm at him. Speed? Not so much. But I definitely do not mean any ill will towards him. He is perfectly welcome to prove us all wrong in a year by setting scratch times. Sixth place, coming off of a fourth in Japan, ends the year on a high note for the young Brit.

Chris Atkinson is not a happy chap. Being seventh place in the rally and in the championship isn’t horrible, but Atko seemed to take it very hard. He obviously thinks he has enough talent to challenge for victory, but his machinery fails him. He and Petter might be a bit masochistic to renew their contracts with Subaru, because who knows when the car’s going to improve.

Manfred Stohl finished in eighth. And although he says he’s still looking for a drive next year, it somehow seems like it’s the end of Manfred’s WRC career. I hope I’m wrong.

I was going to write about Xevi Pons, but I can’t remember what happened to him in this rally except that it didn’t go well. That’s how it’s been for him lately, I’m afraid.

Luis Perez Companc went off the road on day three. Maybe it’s a conspiracy. They didn’t want Matt Wilson to look so bad, so they went and found the perfect diversion–a guy who is even slower, even more prone to crashing, and with all the money in the world to pay for his drive. Sounds mean, but honestly, Toni Gardemeister deserves a drive more than Luis does.

Last note: props to Travis Pastrana. He is the two-time Rally America champion, but can still admit to being schooled on the world scene. Pwned, even. I really really really hope he makes it out to as many PWRC events as possible next year. Great guy.

So that’s it then, in a rather large nutshell. My rally notes contain many more juicy tidbits, but I don’t know if I want to be liable for posting them. But keep coming back throughout the break. I’ll be posting odds and ends as often as I can. Hasta luego.

The last we’ll see them together… Rally winner Mikko Hirvonen

Jari-Matti’s stage-winning streak The rolling car of Andreas Mikkelsen

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December 5, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Sports, WRC. 3 comments.

Happy Birthday, Chris Rawes!

Thank goodness we have people like Chris Rawes running Rally Radio–it’s a rally fan’s best friend. There’s tons of information, analysis, serious stuff–and slightly deranged humor to break up the intensity of it all. So if Becs is the Duchess of rally, Colin the Town Cryer, and James the Court Jester, then I’d nominate Chris as the Prime Minister. And why does he deserve control over this metaphorical parliament?

He keeps everything together. If there’s a problem, then Chris is there to press the buttons and get things back on track.

You’ve got to love the suave, refined, and yet nutty vocal stylings of Mr. Rawes. I still love the way he says “the Limassol Sponge Museum.”

He’s Henning Solberg’s biggest fan! And why? Because Henning once raced a bobsled on Top Gear. That’s a good enough reason for me!

Kudos for being a responsible adult, oftentimes taking the morning shift when James sleeps in.

So this completes my birthday tributes to all the members of the Rally Radio team. I really have no idea how old Chris is (you can never trust what’s announced on air…), but a big happy birthday to him all the same.

PS: I have no pictures to post. I say WRR takes a group picture, perhaps a Christmas gift to the world!

December 1, 2007. Appreciation, Rally Radio. Leave a comment.