2012…The Year of Rally?

It’s official. The NBA is locking out its players for the 2012 season, unless the players decide to take a few less million dollars’ salary out of the goodness of their heart so that some of the smaller teams can actually turn a profit.
The NFL is well into their lockout, which (I hope) ends when the team owners agree to compensate the poor players who are getting their brains turned into jelly.
So that leaves baseball (slow), hockey (where’s the puck?) and NASCAR (shudder) to fill up 24 hours/365 days of gab-gab-gabbing on ESPN next year.
Hey! Show the American people some rally and F1!
That would break up the all-baseball Top Ten Play compilations, at least.
One can dream!
I hope the NBA hurries up, because I can’t wait to see “World Peace” on the back of this man’s jersey.

June 30, 2011. News, Rally, Sports, Thoughts. 1 comment.

The Sebs, Rising Generations, and the “Global” Rallycross Championship

I honestly thought it had only been a few months since my last post, but alas! It never ceases to amaze me how time marches on, how the seasons pass, and how every day there’s yet another meal to cook (but I let my husband blog about that).

The seasons are changing in the world of motorsport as well. Michael Schumacher’s dominance as we knew it has ended. Just when we thought Lewis Hamilton would succeed him, he was outshined by another German, Sebastian Vettel, who looks poised to reign supreme. Will the same happen in rally? Has a worthy pretender to Sebastien Loeb’s throne been found not in Mikko  Hirvonen or Jari-Matti Latvala, but in Sebastien Ogier? Has Ogier actually been cloned in a French lab by rally-loving geneticists who, in their rush to inject talent into the sport, accidentally gave him the same name as his forebear? Are these people behind Sebestian Vettel as well? If you name your child Sebastien, will he poop his diapers faster than the other babies?

My point is, as much as I hate change, the march of time eventually robs our heroes of their prime, and the next generation must arise. Sure, we’re still far from rally’s heyday back in the 80’s and 90’s. But as much as I hate to see Sebastien Loeb lose, we are witnessing the ascendancy of the next World Rally Champion. And we have the fortuitous opportunity to compare the old and the new, apples to apples. We’ll know, that future day when Ogier is winning rally after rally, that he is as good, or perhaps even better than, the former greats. We’ll know that rally still has masterful talent behind the wheel. We don’t have to worry that rally is losing its glory.

Loeb’s former rival, the ever-entertaining Marcus Gronholm, put himself out to pasture in 2007, at the height of his game. I understand he got a bit bored in that pasture, but in a rather remarkable turn of events, he found a way to cure his boredom and come to California! Marcus has been dabbling in rallycross for a while, but he is now driving a Ford Fiesta in the “Global” Rally Championship. This is its first year, created in response to the interest generated by the X Games’ rallycross event, and it takes place in the western US. There were only three rounds this year, of which Marcus contested two, but even if there were 15, he’d smoke the other guys every time! And I’d imagine he’ll do the same at the X Games in July. There’s just no competition…but it’s always a pleasure to see good driving for the sake of good driving.

Photo Credit: GRC/Jan Tore Brustad

Photo Credit: GRC/Jan Tore Brustad

Photo Credit: GRC/Jan Tore Brustad

Photo Credit: GRC/Jan Tore Brustad

So if you’re in LA in July, make sure to snag some tickets to the two rally events this year! Rally cars in the streets of Downtown LA? Sweet.

PS: If there are any rally-loving American geneticists reading this–would you mind going to the X Games and cloning Marcus Gronholm? America needs a WRC champion!

PSS: If/When the NBA lockout happens next year–I know what to do with the empty Staples Center!

June 27, 2011. Auto Racing, F1, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

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!

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

I’m not gone forever…

I promise, I’m perfectly healthy, I haven’t been abducted by aliens, and I haven’t abandoned blogging. It’s just that by the time I’m done listening to the recorded Rally Radio coverage, it’s far too late for anyone to care what I thought about the rally. Besides, there hasn’t been anything spectacularly fascinating about Mexico or Argentina. There were barely any drivers left at the end of the rally to comment on!

So right now, I’m listening to Rally Jordan coverage and hoping to post something juicy in the near future.

Alrighty…back to work. Meh.

April 30, 2008. Thoughts. 2 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.

100th Post!

After trying for a while to come up with something special for my 100th post, I’ve finally got it. I’m dedicating this post to my baby brother Chadsen, who is leaving on Wednesday to serve a two-year mission to Sydney, Australia for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He’s the one who first introduced me to the WRC. He’s the one who first told me about an incredibly talented Frenchman and a Norwegian cursed with bad luck. He’s the one who answers all my silly mechanical questions. He’s the one to whom I ramble on about the rallies. He’s the one who drags me out to dry lake beds for rallycross events.* And now, for two whole years, I’ll be watching rallies all alone and redirecting my rambles to other unsuspecting friends. And there will be no one to understand all the countless rally in-jokes that we have. But he’s off to do a world of good, and I’m massively proud of him.

So if you’re in northern half of New South Wales and an Elder Kat knocks on your door, invite him in for a lemonade. But don’t give away any rally results, because we’re saving all that for a massive info dump when he gets home.

Us and Dani Sordo. Yowza.
My brother’s on the left. Because obviously, my brother isn’t Dani Sordo.

*He competes with our friend Robert as the Rayberg Rally Team. Why “Rayberg”? I still have no idea.

August 25, 2007. Appreciation, Thoughts. Leave a comment.

Thoughts: Rallye Deutschland Days 2 & 3

What a great weekend of rallying! I don’t want to ramble on too long, so here are the final results and some thoughts:

1 – Sebastien Loeb
2 – Francois Duval   +20.3
3 – Mikko Hirvonen   +1:19.1
4 – Marcus Gronholm   +1:36.5
5 – Jan Kopecky  +3:07.1
6 – Petter Solberg   +3:14.7
7 – Toni Gardemeister  +3:37.5
8 – Jari-Matti Latvala   +5:29.3

Francois Duval really surprised me this weekend. In his recent appearances, he’s retired quite quickly, usually due to his own error. Not only has he finished the rally, he’s won all of the stages on leg 3 and finished within 20 seconds of the undisputed master of German tarmac, Seb Loeb.

I was watching highlights of some classic rallies from the 90’s, when team orders decided the results of a few controversial rallies. So, when Marcus went off on the very last stage of the rally after being distracted by a cow, team orders were my first thought. Would Ford boss Malcolm Wilson order Mikko to incur a time penalty so that Marcus could gain an extra point in the drivers’ standings? All credit due to Malcolm, there were no such orders. Marcus’ error was entirely his own fault (you can’t blame the freedom-loving cow).  On principle, it would have been entirely unfair to Mikko to cede his own hard-fought position. In the press, it would have stirred controversy and left a blemish on the whole rally. I think that was a very gentlemanly thing for Malcolm to do (or not do). Anyway, Mikko gets very cheeky and headstrong, and I’m not sure he would have obeyed had he received them.

Classifieds: Young Czech needs drive for 2008 season. Would prefer competitive car. Can deliver results. Tarmac specialist. Learning quickly on gravel. Please contact Jan Kopecky.

I’d like to close with an *airhorn blast* in honor of Seb’s victory. Woo!

You could see Duval’s overalls from space!  Seb on an awkward hairpin

August 20, 2007. Ford, Motorsport, Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Thoughts, 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.

Spreading the Joy

Last Saturday, I had a group of friends over at my house to watch “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” But before I put in the movie, I opportunistically slipped in the 2006 WRC season review DVD. The results? Most of them wanted to watch rallying more than the movie! One of my friends wants to start an all-female rally team (although I have to sit that one out, as I lack the talent to either drive or codrive) and another can’t stop thinking about driving a rally car. Success!

So to all the rally connoisseurs in the US who find themselves alone in their fandom, spread the joy! It’s actually really easy. You’d be surprised how many people will start to love rallying for all the same reasons you love it.

August 13, 2007. Rally, Rallying, Thoughts, Why I Love Rally, WRC. 2 comments.

Miscellaneous Items

Some items that may be helpful:

If you’re wondering where to find torrents, leave me a comment with your e-mail address and I’ll see what I can do.

I know I can be a bit colloquial at times, so if you don’t understand what the heck I’m saying, ask me! I taught Spanish classes for a while, so I think I can handle explaining my own language.

If you find any broken links, let me know and I can un-break them.

🙂

August 9, 2007. Thoughts. 6 comments.

Summer Break

Ah, the summer vacation. When I was in elementary school, we were super-excited about it because we were tired of school. Then, it got old really fast cuz we were bored, sitting around playing video games all day. That’s what the two month break in the WRC is like. It was a welcome break at first, but now I’m just antsy. Just two weeks to go until Rally Finland…two long weeks…

In the meantime, I’ve been reading the interim news from Motorsport News–the Donegal International Rally, Le 24 Heures du Le Mans*, WRC Commission deliberations, and Colin McRae’s awesome new R4 all-purpose race car. I’ve also spent the last few weeks falling in love with Lewis Hamilton (though my heart still belongs to Seb Loeb). The kid is so wonderful; he belongs in the World Rally fraternity, not the in the hoity toity bubble of F1. Lewis is not only ridiculously talented, he’s also humble, friendly and approachable. He’s the type of driver who would look a fan in the eyes when he’s signing an autograph.

Anyway, if residual WRC news and Lewis Hamilton isn’t enough to keep you occupied, try the X Games Rally event. And Bear Grylls. He’s the man!

*Go Stephane Sarrazin–he set pole and finished second! And he recently said that he’d love to do a WRC event again. Excuse me, Xevi Pons: you’re a good driver, but you’re in Stephane’s seat.

July 21, 2007. Auto Racing, F1, Motorsport, Thoughts, 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.

I Have Returned…

Holy rally cow! It’s been forever since my last post because one, I only saw Rally Argentina coverage last night, and two, I spent a week in Hong Kong for business. So I played catch-up and…

Seb won in Argentina, but the rally was hardly enjoyable because of all the aforementioned frustration. Plus, the review show kept commending Jari-Matti Latvala on his fine performance, but didn’t get a single interview with him. Sigh…this rally is a classic, so I hope it’s just one off year for them.

The World Rally Commission is discussing their Vision 2012 plan, which (surprisingly) sounds OK. There are changes, but they seem sensible. It’d be even better if they stuck in a line about getting BF Goodriches with mousse inserts.

Xevi Pons is back! He’ll be driving the third Impreza for the Subaru World Rally Team. That’s right–not a privateer Subie, a factory car. At the start of the season, he said he wouldn’t drive anything if it couldn’t be a competitive seat. (It’s like he attended Derek Zoolander’s Center for Kids Who Want to Read Good, and Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too: “Screw him! Hold out for more!”…and he got more!) The deal begins in Finland and could extend up to 2009 if he’s a good boy.

Now, if only Toni Gardemeister could land a sweet deal like that…

May 16, 2007. Rally, Rally Reports, Rallying, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

Rallye Argentina–what a mess…

First, no Rally Radio. Now, no Day 1.

What is heck is going on?

Geez, I hope we end up with a rally to watch at all…

It’s a classic rally with the Mina Clavero and El Condor stages, but with Mexico de-facto gone from the calendar forever, it doesn’t make sense anymore to go to Argentina.  Norway, Ireland and especially Portugal are just poised to take its place. What. A. Mess.

May 4, 2007. Rally, Rally Radio, Rallying, Thoughts, WRC. 2 comments.

Slow news day…

I find it funny how Formula 1 journalists can pull a headline out of thin air: “Can [name] [verb] [something]?” But the WRC doesn’t receive that much scrutiny, which affords it that relaxed attitude. It’s pretty useless to ask questions you can only answer with “Um, maybe?”

But man, are there lulls in between rallies. That could be a good thing, what for all the bad news lately. (Did I mention that Gigi Galli is stuck without a drive, again?)

Sleepy time for Petter

April 26, 2007. F1, Rally, Rallying, Thoughts, WRC. Leave a comment.

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