Thoughts: MexicoArgentinaJordan

I’m in a rush! Rally d’Italia Sardegna starts in an hour and a half, and dangit, I’m posting something before it starts!

I wasn’t really motivated to post anything after Mexico and Argentina, because there was so little to chew on. What can I analyze when Sebastien Loeb easily wins another rally over three other drivers? There were some interesting bits though. There have been plenty of swappage in the leaderboards this year and in the championship standings. But I chalk it up to the high attrition rates and scant entry lists of the rock-strewn, long-haul rallies.

My quick rundown of the drivers looks like this:
Seb Loeb: Lady Luck is done with the honeymoon phase and is treating him like any other driver. He wins AND loses. But he’s mostly winning.
Mikko Hirvonen: He’s getting out of a funk–the kind of funk you get into when someone steals your thunder. That someone being…
Jari-Matti Latvala: He’s young, he’s exciting, he’s sometimes faster than Loeb. But he’s a good boy and listens to his Ford bosses, cuz he’s in this for a career and not a quick thrill. Can we say “rallying’s Lewis Hamilton?”
Chris Atkinson: His brain is wired to be a champion. He may have scored three podiums in a row, but he’s not exactly happy. He’s only happy if he’s winning. Atko also reminds me of Lewis Hamilton in that sense: genial personality, but kind of a drag when he’s not atop the podium.
Dani Sordo: He’d be more exciting if he weren’t so boring. Match that driving ability with a more fun personality, and he’d break through to the level of Latvala.
Gigi Galli: Sardinia, please give him the lucky break that he deserves. Have mercy on your own kin!
Petter Solberg: Running out of excuses why he’s not faster than Atko. At least he’s complaining less and seeing the silver lining on a very black cloud that looks like his car. But I’d love it if the new Impreza were good and he won a rally this year.
Henning Solberg: Where’s the exuberant Henning that we all fell in love with two years ago? I hope he’s not fading away. Maybe he can regain that infectious energy and speed in time to compete against Petter in his new Impreza. That’d make for great stories in the Norwegian press.
Matthew Wilson: He’s still here. Driving. Finishing well when everyone else retires. Same ol’, same ol’.
Special mention: Sebastien Ogier. The J-WRC is usually a group of young pretenders to the throne, hoping to step up to greater things. Ogier doesn’t hope. He will.

Lastly, it was fascinating to see tactics play out on day two of Rally Jordan (which was a great rally, by the way, newcomer or not). Poor Dani Sordo was left to sweep the road when the Ford boys dropped time on the last kilometer of the last stage. Mikko reached a new level of cheeky when he declared, “my foot slipped off the throttle.” I laughed so hard!

PS: Rally Radio is as great as ever, but where are the live split times? Whoever took them away, you stole the wind in my rally sail. It was so much more fun with split times to digest.

Yes! I made it. Sardinia doesn’t start for another hour. Whew!

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May 15, 2008. Ford, Funny Quotes, Rally, Rally Radio, Rally Reports, Rallying, The Adventures of Henning Solberg, Thoughts, WRC. 3 comments.

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.

Funny Quotes Vol. 1

This is from the pre-event press conference in New Zealand:

Q: What happened to your co-driver Cato this morning, he wasn’t with you at shakedown? Are you confident he will be okay for tomorrow?
Henning Solberg: It was the flu; he was very sick last night, we had to get the doctor in this morning and the doctor said that he has to stay in bed today. They say he will be okay for tomorrow. I am confident that he will be okay.

I just think it’s funny that Henning, in the usual rally driver must-finish attitude, announces that Cato’s virus will definitely be gone by Friday. Probably because Henning would have personally buckled Cato into the seat, whether he was okay or not!

Q: Marcus, you are another one not feeling particularly well. How bad are you feeling from the flu?
Marcus Gronholm: I am not in bed, at least not with Cato!

Hehe. Classic Marcus.

September 7, 2007. Funny Quotes, Rally, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.