Snow found!

The snow we needed for Sweden somehow ended up in Athens.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t stay around for the Acropolis Rally. What a mess the planet’s in…

February 19, 2008. Rally. Leave a comment.

Rally Report: Swedish Rally 2008

Now, things are interesting, aren’t they? For anyone (including me) who thought that the year was just going to be Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen winning every rally, I am pleased to say that Jari-Matti Latvala has just stolen the show.

A lot of Jari-Matti fans have been vindicated surprisingly early. We loved him, sure. Admired his speed. Enjoyed his enthusiasm. But we didn’t think we’d cheer him on to a victory in the second rally of 2008! It’s like Christmas in January: who cares if it’s early, I’m taking the presents! Anyway, he’s already been praised the world over for his drive, his maturity and his ability to handle the pressure at the record age of 22.* So instead, I’m just going to end his paragraph with a “wooooooooo!”

Mikko was the man people expected to win. But when, in all three days, he could only muster enough speed to win one stage out of twenty, we’ve all got to wonder why that was. Jari-Matti had an advantage in the first day’s running order, but I don’t think anyone can fully explain why Mikko couldn’t keep up in the same car. But at least he stayed on the road, which is more than you could say for Seb.

Gigi Galli on the podium! Another “wooooooooo!” So well deserved. Gigi’s been through a lot, struggling to dig up sponsors when they should have come begging to him. Happy day.

Petter Solberg’s fourth-place finish is a good sign. Even in a lame-duck car that’s proven to be so crappy, he finished with a solid five points in the championship. Maybe it’s luck, but maybe David Richards was able to whip the Subaru WRT into shape enough to squeeze some decent reliability in the ol’ S12B. Like him or not, DR is a rare character along the lines of Bernie Ecclestone who can produce results from simple tenacity and force.

Marcus Gronholm-tutored Andreas Mikkelsen has proven to be a good investment of time by the former world champ. Perhaps it was a fifth place benefited from many retirements and problems for his competitors, but hey. Andreas set some great times. The important thing is that he has potential and he’s young. Plenty of time to learn.

Dani Sordo finished in a fine sixth place, despite the five-minute time penalty incurred as a result of an engine change after Monte. And, as it’s been pointed out, he would have been on the podium if you subtracted those five minutes from his time. But what I find most impressive is the vast improvement from the torrid time he’s had on snow rallies before. I’d almost given up hope for him on snow, but I have no problem being proven wrong here.

Toni Gardemeister, or should I say the Suzuki SX4, ended up in seventh. Kinda good. Kinda not, considering he’s the last WRC car in the standings before you count the PWRC and the WRC drivers with severe problems. Ten minutes behind the leader isn’t where one would normally like to be (just ask Toni), but this is where the seasoned 32 year-old needs to show his patience and wisdom and plod through the developmental phase of the SX4.

Others who didn’t finish so well:
Henning Solberg was doing so well, until he crashed and banged up poor Cato Menkerud’s shoulder. Next time…
Seb Loeb still isn’t able to stop the unsettling trend of making mistakes. Or maybe it’s not so much a trend as it is normalcy. I came into rallying in the Mr. Perfect season of 2005, so I’ve never even witnessed Seb rolling his car.
Atko really needs to step up his game. With two of his fellow “young guns” already notching up victories, he’s got to do something spectacular to avoid being labeled as a “could’ve been.”

Also deserving of an honor: Malcolm Wilson. He’s the smartest team principal in the service park. He has gathered all of the most entertaining drivers of the WRC under the Ford wing–Mikko, Henning, Jari-Matti, and now Gigi. Lucky for him, they all happen to be great drivers capable of as much speed as they are character. His management is definitely praiseworthy. But really, maybe he just has a brain. Any WRC fan would’ve signed these drivers ages ago!

On a final note, I’ve been doing more to save energy and recycle. Because when global warming raises sea levels, kills polar bears, AND melts the Swedish Rally, then we’ve really got a problem.

*On Rally Radio, which again did a marvelous job covering every stage, unleashing James upon an unsuspecting Sweden. Much love!

February 18, 2008. Ford, Motorsport, Rally Reports, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.

FYI…

Ah, the cruelty of time.

At the tender age of 25, I’m finding it impossible to stay up all night for the live rally coverage. I’ve resorted to recording it so I can listen to it during the day. Problem—my days are crazy as well, so just FYI, I’ll still be sharing my thoughts on each rally. It’s just now being subject to delays. I could get it out sooner by watching the TV broadcasts and reading articles, but it just isn’t enough to get a true feel of the rally.

I’ve got a long drive through LA traffic today, so maybe I can finish listening and post something by Friday.

February 13, 2008. Rally. Leave a comment.