Thoughts: 2008 Rallye Monte Carlo

Sorry, folks. I was an airplane during day one of the rally and couldn’t get over the 16-hour jet lag to listen to the other two days on Rally Radio. Still, I got to see the TV coverage and catch up on press articles. From the looks of things, it was a fresh start to a new season. There were plenty of changes (no-mousse Pirelli tyres, seeded running order, etc.), but the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Of course, Sebastien Loeb won. He’s won five times now–seven, if you count the rallies nearly won in 2002 (time penalty) and 2006 (black ice). They could just go ahead and name the rally after him now. Anyway, everything seemed smooth as usual for Loeb. Yes, this is good tidings for his fifth world title. But having two specialist rallies at the start of the year–Monte and Sweden–we really won’t get a clearer idea of how the season will progress until the gravel rallies hit.

Therefore, we still don’t know if second-place finisher Mikko Hirvonen has risen to the top level. Marcus Gronholm couldn’t have fared better than Mikko did here. And while Mikko may win the Swedish Rally, that doesn’t prove his speed overall. It’s kinda frustrating as a fan: the season has begun, but it really hasn’t begun.

Would-be second-place finisher Dani Sordo was again plagued by bad luck. Even his usually calm demeanor was undone. He’s put in a lot of work, traveling, doing two days of recce and competing on eleven stages in good faith–all that to waste. But for heaven’s sake, don’t leave poor Marc Marti behind! Everyone, take a moment and appreciate the thankless job of being a codriver. Despite putting in all the hard work keeping timecards, making pacenotes, and making the driver happy, he still gets left alone while the driver is whisked away to a cozy trailer by a helicopter.

Of all people, a beach-loving Aussie on the podium! Chris Atkinson’s making it a tradition to do battle on the Monaco harbour super special. Which is good–it was the only real nail-biter all weekend. I wonder if he does so well because he drives the stage on the way to buy groceries…

Francois Duval did himself a favor by finishing in fourth. In his only secured drive for the season, I hope he impressed Malcolm Wilson enough to get a callback. If he does, that’d be a sweet deal!

Fifth place for Petter Solberg is usually a disappointment. But in Monte Carlo, that’s great news! His best finish here before was sixth all the way back in 2002. Honestly, I think he’d count himself lucky if he finishes the Monte at all. Remember my psychic ability to predict Petter’s results? Well, I’ve got the feeling that he’s finally turned the corner and gotten over his horrendous luck. I hope I’m right, cuz I’d really like to be psychic!

With great pleasure do I write this sentence: Gigi Galli finished in sixth place in his ’07 Focus! All I have to say is that I’m happy. With Gigi and Toni Gardemeister in works cars, all is right with the world again. 🙂

Also, good job to Jean-Marie Cuoq and PG Andersson, keeping Peugeot’s and Suzuki’s names in the game. The prize for most eventful rally goes to Jari-Matti Latvala, proving the pitfalls of no-mousse tyres. Good thing the boy has training in the PWRC in changing tyres on the fly! I hope the other drivers have practiced their tyre-changing skills, because they’re gonna need ’em!

PS: Note to all Monegasque policemen–hurry it up a bit when crossing the road in front of the world’s fastest rally driver.

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January 31, 2008. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, WRC. 3 comments.

Looking Forward to 2008

Summary: 2008, good.  2009 and 2010, bad.

2008: Gigi Galli at Stobart! Toni Gardemeister at Suzuki! Jari-Matti Latvala at Ford! Markko Martin as a Subaru test driver! Heikki Kovalainen at McLaren…oh wait…

2009/2010: Rally Indonesia? Seriously? Doooooom…

That’s kinda it in a nutshell. Life’s incredibly busy, so I’ll most likely get back to the keyboard during Rallye Monte Carlo. Ciao!

January 8, 2008. Rally, WRC. 6 comments.