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.

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

Rally Report: Rally Japan 2007

I’m excited that I’m excited. After two less-than-thrilling rallies, I’m happy to be sitting here typing away about the weekend’s action. Here are my thoughts, random as they may be:

Oh, Marcus. We all knew a four-point lead in the championship meant the season was going to be dramatic. But I don’t think anyone expected drama like this. Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb, both undisputed masters, both crash out on the same rally! (Understandable, especially with fog and icy mud on the stages. Seriously!) The points gap remains at four points then, with two rallies left. If Seb wins both of them, and Marcus finishes 2nd on both, then Seb will win the title (though they’d be tied, Seb had more victories). But they’re also two of the trickiest rallies in the calendar, so there really is no way of knowing who will be champion. The sentimental favorite to win is Marcus, but either way the WRC wins with an amazing battle up to the season’s end.

Loeb had an unbelievable rally. It started well enough with Daniel Elena’s birthday. No one expected Seb to be lagging behind the leader with understeer, even before the most shocking part of the rally: Daniel Elena made a mistake. A wrongly read pacenote–yes, you’re not reading this wrong–was the cause of Seb’s retirement from day two. If Seb were rallying’s Mr. Perfect, then Dany would be God that granted Seb his perfection. Aside from the bonnet pin incident in Sweden 2006, the man has a spotless record of professionalism. Ah, no need to worry. Out of the millions of pacenotes he’s read in his lifetime, I guess it’s no stretch to believe one of them could be read incorrectly. Still stranger, though, was seeing Seb retire with mechanical failure on day three.

Mikko has proven he can win oddball rallies, but even with all his progress I doubt that he can win against Seb and Marcus on run-of-the-mill gravel. But if he really has stepped up into the upper echelons of driving talent, more power to him! In fact, it would be nice if he did, so Seb could have some competition next year and prevent a season-long –gently put– period of tranquility.

Dani Sordo was blessed with a bit of luck, finally. He finished the rally in 2nd, without technical troubles or big moments. While he hasn’t developed fully as a gravel ace yet, his six stage wins are definitely encouraging. And he’s such a nice lad!

Henning Solberg’s Rally Japan was just what the doctor ordered. After two humbling tarmac rallies, he’s rewarded for his patience with a lovely podium finish on his preferred surface. He’s even sounding like his old, chipper self!

OK, just facing facts, you know it’s been a high-attrition rally when Matt Wilson and Luis Perez Companc finish 4th and 5th, respectively. Matt did do a great job fighting his way up to 4th place, to his credit. And you know what? Staying on the road was something even the resident world champs couldn’t do. They weren’t going nearly as fast as the big boys, but hey.

One youngster, who really isn’t young when you consider his 50 WRC starts, is Jari-Matti Latvala. Homeboy can drive! He led the whole shebang from the first two stages and was still in third until he crashed out on unlucky stage 13. I’m abuzz about his potential, but he needs to learn how to concentrate. Jari-Matti’s a bit hyperactive. But he’ll have to learn how to drive amidst the mayhem, because falling window linings and crashed competitors are always going to be around on a rally.

Speaking of crashing, Chris Atkinson did his car in. They say the roll cage was broken in seven places. Atko and Stephane Prevot, however, were not broken.

Still a favorite is Petter Solberg, who kept driving and winning stages in order to entertain the faithful Norwegian flag-waving fans. I watched the breathtaking onboards of Ouninpohja, and reminded myself why I adore him. Though he’s far away from the win (to no fault of his own), we can’t let him get too far away from our hearts. Corniness not intended.

Also, a big thanks to World Rally Radio, who informs and entertains like no other. Where else can I hear Denis Giraudet tell a story about a bear running across a stage?

Fog Mud Trees
Fog, mud, and trees–oh my!

October 28, 2007. Motorsport, Rally, Rally Radio, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, WRC. 1 comment.

Rally Report: New Zealand 2007

It’s taken me a while to calm down from the most exciting and stressful rally I think I’ve ever seen. What can I say about Seb and Marcus’ battle? The closest ever finish in WRC history: 0.3 seconds. It was good, hair-pulling fun watching them swap leads and pushing each other so, so hard. Why would Marcus want to retire after a thrill like this? He and Seb are at the very top of their game, so evenly matched for speed on gravel, even with their different driving styles. Seb didn’t end up winning, but with a mere 0.3 seconds separating them, who could even say which was the better driver? After three days and 350-odd km, that’s just ridiculous! Congrats to Marcus. This victory must be ecstasy for him, to win a fight with such a worthy rival.

Mikko’s stuck in third again, and I think he’s frustrated that he was outshadowed by the monumental battle at the top. His steady and quick drive is due some respect.

Chris Atkinson finished in a fine fourth place. Jari-Matti Latvala has been looking like the hottest young talent in the championship lately, so I think it must be a sort of vindication for Atko to best him in an out-and-out battle. Luckily, the car didn’t choke and he didn’t crash, so he now has a result to show for his speed. But you can tell Jari-Matti is analyzing every detail of his rally, so he can learn every possible lesson to take with him in his career.

Dani Sordo finished in sixth, keeping ahead of Petter Solberg, whose Impreza held up steadily enough to finish the rally. Nothing spectacular from Dani, but Petter, I think, got enough to sustain him a while more. His recent column in Autosport shows just how emotionally difficult these past two years have been. He has the very intense desire, but no luck. Anyone else with Petter’s problems would have quit the sport or jumped off a bridge already. But Petter’s hanging in there, with faith in his own talent. The tough part is keeping his faith in the team, especially now that the 2008 Impreza’s first event has been pushed to Finland rather than the expected Monte Carlo debut. That’s a half season longer spent in an absolute dog of a car. I wish him all the best…

Also, I hope all the members of the world rallying community get over the nasty flu going around. Cato Menkerud, Henning’s codriver, had it the worst. With the scratchiest voice you’ve ever heard, he had to call out three day’s worth of pacenotes through the pain. Even Rally Radio’s Becs Williams got it. Kudos to them for being real troopers.

On a final note, Henning damaged another bumper. And I saw a herd of cows (I think they were) checking out the stage from behind a fence. They didn’t cause any crashes this time.

One of the sweetest victories of Marcus’ life  Yep! You only needed 0.4s more!

September 2, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, The Adventures of Henning Solberg, WRC. Leave a comment.

Thoughts: Rallye Deutschland Day 1

Holy cow! Francois Duval is in the lead! The good people at the forums tipped him to win, but I honestly thought the idea was a bit optimistic, judging from his performances the past two seasons. The C4 is obviously newer, but the Xsara’s still got a bit of magic left in it. Now if Duval can keep it on the road…

Seb Loeb made a wrong tyre choice? Rare. But the rest of the weekend looks to be dry, so it makes the choice easier. If Seb is on the right tyres, I’m sure he can overtake Duval for the lead. It’ll be a great fight, so I hope no one complains about being bored when Seb wins.

The Citroen mechanics had better be poring over Seb’s car for any mechanical problems, because he’s been lucky to not have the problems that Dani Sordo’s been having. With Dani out, that makes the points gap in the championship that much harder to close.

Subaru. It never takes more than a day for it to all go wrong. This time, driver error is to blame. Chris Atkinson had an off on stage 2 and Petter Solberg broke his steering trying to get around a hairpin. How many times have we said already that despite the (fill in mishap here) their pace was promising…

Henning had to retire from the leg after losing his tyre. I have yet to see the in-car footage, but this looks like it’ll be another entry for “The Adventures of Henning Solberg.” Too bad, because he was sounding very cheerful and doing quite well in his first true tarmac event.

We’ve also got some privateers in very enviable spots on the leaderboard. Good luck to them all. Not too much luck, because I’m still rooting for Seb to win his 6th consecutive Rallye Deutschland.

Overall Standings:

1 – Francois Duval
2 – Sebastien Loeb   +1.3
3 – Marcus Gronholm   +17.4
4 – Mikko Hirvonen   +22.7
5 – Toni Gardemeister   +1:04.2
6 – Jan Kopecky   +1:26.6
7 – Xevi Pons   +1:37.2
8 – Jari-Matti Latvala   +1:40.7
9 – Petter Solberg   +1:50.7
10 – Manfred Stohl   +2:10.3

August 17, 2007. Auto Racing, Citroen, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, Thoughts, WRC. 1 comment.

Rally Report: Finland 2007

For those of you who are just discovering rally, here’s something you should know right off: Finland is home to the greatest of ’em all. Nowhere in the world will you find more talented drivers or more dedicated rally fans. The stages are pure madness. If you thought the jump at the X Games was crazy, wait till you see the Finnish yumps. If you want to see for yourself, sit back and enjoy the world’s scariest rally stage, Ouninpohja:

OK then. For those of you who already know exactly what happened this weekend, here are my random thoughts:

Thank heaven Rally Radio is back! Yippee yahoo hooray!

Dangit. Marcus now has a 13 point lead over Seb, and even with four tarmac rallies left Seb will need Marcus to DNF if he has any chance at winning the title. It’s been eons since Seb has had this sort of pressure on him. If there’s anyone in the world who could catch Marcus, it’s Seb. But maybe that means no one in world can catch him now. Despite Marcus’ age and pending retirement from the WRC, he’s still at the top of his game and is 100% capable of holding onto the championship lead.

Mikko Hirvonen. He’s all grown up and ready to spread his wings–he’s now a true Flying Finn. He easily kept Seb at bay on all three days to finish 2nd. And (in Finland at least) is almost able to threaten Marcus. But he is really vocal about trying to win. That’s not the wisest thing to say, when your senior teammate is trying to open up the biggest gap possible in the points and chasing a 7th win in Finland that would put him in the record books.

Petter, Petter, Petter. Why does your car fail you? Julian Porter reports seeing Petter unable to even drive in a straight line. He came into the summer holiday with a podium finish in Greece, so he reasonably expected to be able to fight in Finland. When those hopes were dashed after the very first stage, he was in tears. Everyone who saw him was gutted. We all want him to do well. He really does not deserve this sort of heartache. I know the team works hard, but they need leadership and a talented engineer to direct their efforts into actual results.

Chris Atkinson, on the other hand, found a degree of performance out of his Impreza, because he finished very well in fourth. Maybe the codriver switch was just what he needed to refocus himself. Other than a couple stalls, he had a perfect weekend.

Jari-Matti Latvala was, for but a brief time, impressive. He pulled off the same surprise he did in Greece: snatching the lead after the first stage. Then, after the strangest problem (the rubber lining detached from his door) he had two offs, one of which damaged his roll cage. I’ve been somewhat critical of Henning Solberg’s recent lack of pace. But maybe he’s just being smart and doing what Jari-Matti needs to do: calm down, drive steadily, and gain the experience that will enable him in the future to 1) drive quicker and 2) finish rallies. It worked for Henning, who finished well in fifth.

Subaru’s new driver Xevi Pons gave us a pleasant surprise by finishing sixth. He could have easily put the car off the road in Finland in such an unfamiliar and unreliable car (and almost did). But it seems he’s truly conquered his hot temper and gained consistency, which he showed at the end of 2006.

One more mention: Urmo Aava’s finish in 7th is a big hint to everyone that he may be ready to graduate to the WRC’s top tier. We’ll see what happens in his next outing.

The end.

August 7, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, WRC. 2 comments.

Rally Animals: Kangaroos

Kangaroos are evil. I base this opinion on the 2005 Rally Australia alone. Never mind that there were no problems in 2006. They did enough damage in 2005 to earn them a spot on the blacklist forever.First, one kangaroo “the size of a horse” ran into Harri Rovanpera’s Mitsu. It didn’t cause terminal damage, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. This is especially inexcusable, as Harri is one of the nicest guys in the WRC.

Evidence of evil, exhibit A

Then, a second kangaroo leaps out directly in front of rally leader Petter Solberg’s car, meaning he’s leader no more. Outrageous. The rock in Japan robbed Petter of a win also, but it was an inanimate object with no evil intent. This kangaroo heaped another serving of heartbreak on Petter’s plate of sadness, with all intent and deliberation.

Petter - Damage to the radiator

PS: The Subaru team bought inexpensive Roo Shoo’s for their cars in 2006. Problem solved. Evil defeated.

June 27, 2007. Animals, Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, Solberg, WRC. Leave a comment.

Various Seb Loeb News

Congratulations to Sebastien Loeb and his wife Severine, who announced the eminent arrival of a baby who will probably start rallying in his stroller.

Flash forward to 2030: he and Oliver Solberg will be battling it out in front. They’ll be codriven by the Elena and Mills children. Plus the Stohl baby, who will drive a privateer car.

Additionally, Seb will enter the tarmac Donegal Rally in Ireland next weekend (June 15-17). As experienced as they are, the guys of the Irish Tarmac Championship are going up against the world’s best driver on asphalt, whose nickname contains the word “super.” It’s like Bruce Lee versus a troupe of ballerinas. No contest!

June 9, 2007. News, Rally, Rallying, Solberg, WRC. Leave a comment.

Thoughts: 2007 Acropolis Rally and Procrastination

It’s Thursday now, for most of the world, and I am now posting my thoughts on a rally that ended Sunday. I could ramble on about procrastination and my excuses, but this is a blog about rally, not a blog about feelings. But we do have a two month (*involuntary shudder*) break, so there’s plenty of time to stew over the Acropolis Rally and the first half of the season.

First off, day one was crazy awesome! The competition all weekend was amazing. Petter taking a position from Seb? Atko took Gronholm’s lead?! That says it all.

That’s the first podium with all three of the Big Three since Argentina 2005. I hope Marcus is happy. Happy enough to stay around for 2008. I think a points deficit during the summer break would have tipped the scales toward retirement. Now, he’s got a nine point lead. That’s even more than he’d been planning for. He needs a big buffer zone to hold off Loeb in the four upcoming tarmac events.

Seb wasn’t fastest. I have to take a moment to let that compute. He wasn’t a match for Marcus all weekend. He’s got a lot to do if he wants to catch up and win his fourth consecutive world title. I hope all the ad campaigns and photo shoots aren’t affecting his concentration.

This will sound odd, but my gut is pretty much 100% correct in predicting Petter Solberg’s rally. In last year’s Rally Australia, I literally knew from day one that Petter would have a great result. From Monte to Sardinia, I could feel that Petter would have bad luck or make mistakes. On Friday, I made a prediction to myself: Petter would have problems, but they’d be non-terminal and he’d have a decent finish near the top. I’m psychic! But only in Petter-related matters.

That’s also only the 2nd rally this year that Mikko hasn’t finished in the top three (counting Rear Windowgate). Mikko recovered well from Saturday’s scary off. He looked a bit rattled after it, but has driven the rest of the rally without any problems or wariness. I think they call that maturity. 🙂

I think Jari-Matti is the Wonderboy of the season, like Dani was last year. He’s new, fresh-faced, quick and exciting. His poor results nearly matches Matthew Wilson’s, but he’s got talent that nearly matches the top drivers. At least when he crashes out, he does it while going very fast.

Subaru finishes with two cars in the top six. That’s a big step for them. Henning kind of wasted his momentum; he’d done well in Sardinia and does score a 5th place here, but his drive has been rather uninspiring and forgettable. Dani, if he’d had a working gearbox, would’ve done great. He’s been setting good, if not excellent, times. Jan Kopecky in his little Skoda finishes in a fine 7th place. That’s ahead of the Citroen Xsara of Manfred Stohl. Not bad. Poor Manfred though. He must have expected a much faster car when he signed with Kronos.

So the first half of the season ends and the two month break begins, with many questions raised and left unanswered. Is this the beginning of Seb’s decline? Has this win inspired Marcus enough to keep him driving for another year? Is the Impreza really going to be quick and reliable from here on out? Is Jari-Matti going to keep wowing the judges? Will Henning or Atko ever string two good rallies together? Has Dani found his groove and gotten to grips with gravel? How will anyone survive this rally without mousse inserts next year? Will Petter keep his goatee? Does anyone in the world know the answers? Nope! Bring on the angst.

Phil’s super happy too! Henning’s Focus plays in the dirt

June 6, 2007. Citroen, Ford, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

Another bumper gone for Henning.

 Bye bye, bumper. We knew thee well.

But that’s only the second (that I know of) this season, not counting the huge roll in Mexico.

April 4, 2007. Ford, Rally, Rally Reports, Solberg, The Adventures of Henning Solberg, WRC. Leave a comment.

Video: Engineering the World Rally

Discovery Channel Europe has begun showing 6 episodes of “Engineering the World Rally,” which follows the 2006 season alongside the Subaru boys. I just hope I get to watch them someday! Last year was ridiculously bad for the whole team, so expect plenty of interesting things. Here’s a taster: preview clip one and two on MySpace. *salivate*

March 17, 2007. Rally, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, WRC. Leave a comment.

Thoughts: 2007 Rally Mexico

Aqui hay mis pensamientos/locuras acerca de Rally Mexico:

The drivers’ championship is shaping up to be a good fight. Seb’s still got 4 points to make up on Marcus. With both drivers consistently finishing either 1st or 2nd, they’ll have to duke it out for each victory, gaining or losing 2 points at a time. But the Finn seems to be losing his motivation lately–the “sacred fire” within. (As coined by Stephane Lambiel, the reigning world champion in men’s figure skating, who abruptly quit when he just didn’t feel like skating anymore. I shudder to think that’ll happen with Marcus. And yes, I love both rallying and figure skating.)

Travis Pastrana! It’s weird yet wonderful to hear an American accent on the world rally scene! What a welcome addition! Such enthusiasm! And yes–every sentence ends in an exclamation point! Cuz Travis is awesome!

Mikko Hirvonen is quite the ambitious one, isn’t he? He’s got a taste of what it’s like to be on top, and he ain’t resting until he’s winning all the time. Headstrong, yes. But his mischievous sense of humor and boyish antics make him oh-so-loveable.

I’m so relieved to see Seb win. Norway was his worst finish since 2002 (!) and I was afraid he had lost his groove. All drivers eventually do. But what was I thinking? It’s Super Seb, and he hasn’t finished his reign just yet.

Another big sigh of relief for the Subaru WRT. The Impreza S12B is fast! And it’s only an interim car until the 2008 Impreza S14 arrives. Chris Atkinson said he could drive normally now, instead of taking risks like a madman just to keep up with the field. What a novel idea!

The second finish in a row for Jari-Matti Latvala–is this a sign of growing consistency? It’s a good step for him.

Also impressive was Dani Sordo. He finished in fourth last year also. He’s a circuit-racing-bred tarmac specialist, but he’s coming to grips with the sandy stuff. I think he finishes so well in Mexico because the cars are slowed by the altitude and he can cope better with the gravel. When the speeds get really fast, like in Finland, he has a harder time keeping up.

All in all, it was a fun rally, especially with the crew at World Rally Radio. Good times.

Last of all, I’m all for a rally in North America. But when the spectators cause this many problems, I’m also in favor of this rally being left off the calendar (which it will be for 2008). I couldn’t even count how many times they threw rocks at the cars. Unacceptable.

Petter and Phil - Mexico 2007 A friendly punch to the face Seb - Splish Splash The improved Impreza

March 15, 2007. Auto Racing, Citroen, Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Subaru, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

The Adventures of Henning Solberg: Mexico Edition

Rolling the car back over

Henning’s first roll of the year! And it’s the highest quality video yet, cuz it all happened in front of an ISC camera crew. Of course we want Henning to finish well, but it’s just as fun when he rolls. He hit a rock and lost three minutes getting the car upright, but the car ran fine. He and Cato finished stage two, and drove stage three at competitive pace. His Focus and their lungs were filled with *cough* dust, but they made it back to service.

Cheeky Ford boys…

The Ford mechanics posted this hilarious reminder for Henning. Very cheeky. Hey–they should count themselves lucky. At least Henning kept the windscreen on!

March 15, 2007. Auto Racing, Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, Solberg, The Adventures of Henning Solberg, WRC. 1 comment.

The Tyre Situation

Argh. The FIA loves making rule changes that maybe improve the WRC a bit, but makes everyone mad.

If only the WRC were like Formula 1, where the teams can throw gazillions of dollars around, no problem. But we have serious issues with the cost being too high to make it feasible for the manufacturers.

Morrie Chandler is trying his best to cut costs. But cheaper is never popular or exciting. No one buys the icky, generic brand at the market for the taste–it’s cuz it’s cheaper.

So tyres are the target. First, limits on tread patterns and number of tyres. Then, no mousse. And now, a single tyre manufacturer and what looks like one type of asphalt tyre.

So Pirelli’s bid won over BF Goodrich despite their reputation as an inferior tyre, and I can see two reasons why. First, Pirelli must have been cheaper. And if everyone is running on them, then the disadvantage is spread evenly and everyone is slower. Sucky, but fair. Second, the Michelin group ran afoul of the FIA in the Indianapolis ordeal of Formula 1. They didn’t do anything wrong in the WRC, but messing up that badly in F1 sure didn’t help ’em.

Maybe there’s a third reason, like the World Motorsport Council is a committee, and committees are incapable of making a sensible decision. Me no likey this whole limits on tyres because it changes performance based on talent to performance based on equipment availability. It’s so anticlimactic when, in Norway for example, Petter and Henning had a battle going on between them for third place on the second day, but Petter lost it when he had only short studded tyres left on the third day. He had no chance of fighting. Then, imagine the havoc it’s going to cause when mousses are banned for rallies like Acropolis. I want the fastest driver to win, not the driver who happened to stay out of trouble.

So what happens to the WRC, Mr. Chandler, when costs are down, but the excitement’s gone, ratings decline, sponsors leave and the sport’s been trashed? I’m really starting to worry.

March 5, 2007. Appreciation, Auto Racing, F1, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, Solberg, Thoughts, WRC. 3 comments.

Thoughts: Sweden and Norway

Who doesn’t love a snow rally?

But rather than give a recap, here are some random thoughts:

The C4 is quick enough, but not quicker than the Focus. So it has the same engine and suspension as the Xsara? So what has Citroen been doing the past four years? I hope it’ll get a new engine soon, because I don’t see how a car older than Sebastien Loeb’s career could possibly be competitive for much longer.

Snowbanks are evil blackholes and destroyers of hope.

Swedish rally fans find the funniest hats. You can’t buy those here in the US.

And you can’t beat their dedication either. Minus 23 degrees C, and they’re still out in the forest watching rally cars zoom by.

Toni Gardemeister is contending for the top five in an outdated Mitsu Lancer that wasn’t competitive even when it was new. The man deserves a drive, people!

I don’t like talk of Marcus Gronholm’s retirement. But you can see his motivation and enthusiasm waning with each passing rally. He looked like he couldn’t wait for Rally Norway to be over. Motivational issues aside, it must have been embarrassing to be outpaced all weekend by the #2 driver.

How impressive was Mikko Hirvonen? He held the lead from stage one and was faster than no less than three world champions. One of them was in the same machinery. Everything about him just screams “world champion!” The question is, “how soon?”

Seb had a…bad (?!) rally. I have literally never seen him finish lower than second. I don’t even know how to cope yet. But he’s been honest and upbeat–not anything like Marcus’ glazed look all weekend.

Petter and Chris couldn’t wait to get the heck out of the 2006 Impreza, I’m sure. I think Prodrive should take it out back and burn it. Keep your fingers crossed that the S14 isn’t the dreambuster that the S12 was.

Speaking of Solbergs, Henning is coming out of nowhere to regularly beat former world champion Petter. Leave it to the Solbergs to both entertain, and to have the most awesome colored cars ever. I just can’t wait to see if Henning can move up to the top level alongside Seb and Marcus.

Poor Becs Williams tore some ligaments in her hand. And she didn’t get the sympathy she deserved!

Dani Sordo’s inexperience really shows in the events where he’s a fish out of water. Or a Spaniard out of the sun. Or something. I hope he breaks out of his tarmac expert label, because he’ll need to in order to be world champion.

Jari-Matti Latvala is impressing me too. If he matures and quits making silly mistakes, he certainly has the speed to be a champion.

Alrighty then. There’s my two cents until Rally Mexico. I can’t wait to see how Travis Pastrana does!

February 19, 2007. Auto Racing, Citroen, Ford, Mistubishi, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Radio, Rally Reports, Rallying, Solberg, Sports, Subaru, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

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