Happy Birthday, Chris Rawes!

Thank goodness we have people like Chris Rawes running Rally Radio–it’s a rally fan’s best friend. There’s tons of information, analysis, serious stuff–and slightly deranged humor to break up the intensity of it all. So if Becs is the Duchess of rally, Colin the Town Cryer, and James the Court Jester, then I’d nominate Chris as the Prime Minister. And why does he deserve control over this metaphorical parliament?

He keeps everything together. If there’s a problem, then Chris is there to press the buttons and get things back on track.

You’ve got to love the suave, refined, and yet nutty vocal stylings of Mr. Rawes. I still love the way he says “the Limassol Sponge Museum.”

He’s Henning Solberg’s biggest fan! And why? Because Henning once raced a bobsled on Top Gear. That’s a good enough reason for me!

Kudos for being a responsible adult, oftentimes taking the morning shift when James sleeps in.

So this completes my birthday tributes to all the members of the Rally Radio team. I really have no idea how old Chris is (you can never trust what’s announced on air…), but a big happy birthday to him all the same.

PS: I have no pictures to post. I say WRR takes a group picture, perhaps a Christmas gift to the world!

December 1, 2007. Appreciation, Rally Radio. Leave a comment.

Why I Love Rally, Reason #19

The rally fans.

Behind the great shots of the cars in action, you’ll also find a slew of rally fans who have driven their cars down rocky roads and climbed up hills to see their rally heroes for just that split second. We sit there for hours on a rock getting dust, mud or water sprayed on us. We are there to push the cars back out when the drivers go off the road. We sound our air horns, wait in the service park for autographs, and wave ridiculously large flags. And we do it with gusto. We are amazing!

How did the fans even get up there?

Sebastien with rally fans

November 28, 2007. Rally, Why I Love Rally. Leave a comment.

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.

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

Happy Birthday, Nicky Grist!

This is the birthday I’ve been waiting for since the inception of this site. Nicky Grist, as host of the WRC reviews on the Speed Channel when I first discovered rallying, was the first personality that I fell in love with. That’s why so many of the following reasons for loving Nicky Grist are based on his TV antics.

In the review shows, he would deliver these ridiculous jokes with a deadpan expression. How did he keep a straight face while wearing a giant Mexican sombrero? So funny…

But he does smile! I had to wait until Turkey 2006 to find proof.

He’s a true professional, having sat beside many drivers including Malcolm Wilson, Juha Kankkunen, and the incomparable Colin McRae.

And he still seems to be OK after all the accidents. He must’ve lost count of them by now…

However, he still managed to rack up 21 rally wins beside two different drivers.

Although he and Colin parted company after in-car friction, I think he enjoyed the ride. I just love hearing him crack up after the sky-high pass over the Bunnings jumps in Rally Australia 1996.

He shares his vast store of rally knowledge. He offered a codriving class at Rally New York last year. Too bad I’m in California.

I did get to see him once. At the 2006 X Games codriving for Colin McRae. We shouted his name from afar, but didn’t get his attention. And on our way out, we just happened to be walking out to the parking lot at the same time as he was. It totally looked like we were stalking him. My brother and I didn’t want to disturb him on his cell phone, so we just got in our own car and watched him drive away in a rental minivan. In hindsight, I guess I should’ve chased him down for an autograph. Sigh…regrets…

Anyway, it’s hard to explain, but Nicky Grist is the biggest source of rally in-jokes between my brother and me. He’s the OG, as far as we’re concerned. If you’re in a window-shopping mood, why don’t you head on over this his website? It sells all the nifty rally equipment that he likes.

Colin and Nicky Grist, Turkey ‘06    Nicky wants you to go to nickygrist.com

November 24, 2007. Appreciation, Rally, Rallying, WRC. 1 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.

Happy 1st Birthday, Blog!

PS: I missed the blog’s birthday. “What in the World Rally?” is one year old!

They grow up so fast…*sniff*…

How will I celebrate? With lolcats–yay!

lolcats and funny pictures
moar funny pictures

November 13, 2007. Appreciation. Leave a comment.

Happy Birthday, Daniel Elena!

If ever there were a perfect codriver, Daniel Elena is it. So in honor of his birthday (almost three weeks ago), here’s the traditional rundown of reasons why Dany is so great.

Literally, he is the greatest. Thirty-five victories makes him the winningest codriver in WRC history.

He makes so few mistakes that when he does make an error, it’s a shock. I can count them out for you right now: the unlatched bonnet pins in Sweden 2006 and the misspoken pacenote in this year’s Rally Japan. That’s it, as far as I know.

The delivery of his pacenotes. It’s precise. It’s musical. It’s rhythmical. It’s a bit funny-sounding. It’s almost like rap!

But his voice sounds completely different when he’s talking normally. Much more masculine.

When he’s out of the car, he is so friendly and always laughing. He doesn’t even anger when they flip the flag of Monaco upside-down and get the flag of Poland!

He actually is from Monaco, not a rich guy who moved there for the tax haven.

His chin has a dimple in it.

What’s not great: the bleached tips on his hair. I don’t think it looks good on anybody (sorry).

Back to what is great: his professionalism and dedication. Codrivers have a lot of work behind the scenes, and don’t get a lot of the credit. Sebastien gets the glory for his immense talent, but Dany is there to back him up. So happy birthday to a man who deserves all the honor a triple world champion should receive.

Daniel Elena  World champ, yes! Fashionista, maybe not.

November 13, 2007. Appreciation, Rally, Rallying, WRC. Leave a comment.

Happy Birthday, Travis Pastrana!

Travis Pastrana, America’s greatest hope in rallying, turned 24 on October 8. (I could say sorry for the thousandth for missing their actual birthday, but that’s the way it’ll always be. You’ll have to get used to it, I’m afraid.) Anyway, why–even though it’s obvious–is Travis so freakin’ wonderful?

His enthusiasm! His energy!!! The adrenaline!!!!!! Woooo!!!!!!!!!

The gag photos where he pretends to be punched by his friends. If you look around, there’s a lot of them.

The double back-flip.

The impressive one-man show at the 2006 Race of Champions, where he made the team nations cup finals all by his lonesome.

This item from Travis’ Wikipedia entry, under “other activities”: “On Sept. 26, 2007, Pastrana jumped out of an airplane over Arecibo, Puerto Rico, without a parachute. In a carefully choreographed stunt, he met up in midair with another jumper, then lashed himself into a harness in time to make a safe tandem landing.”
WHAT?!

If all this weren’t crazy enough, he proves he’s even crazier than our already very brave WRC drivers by doing this:

And then reacting with a “Woooooo!”

And somehow, despite the apparent madness, Travis is still a friendly, humble, approachable guy who loves him mom. His is a personality we need in the WRC. For anyone who is wary of Americans, don’t be afraid of this one. He’s a keeper.

Me with Travis Pastrana and Ken Block–Yay!  A friendly punch to the face

October 31, 2007. Appreciation, Rally, Rallying, Subaru, WRC. 2 comments.

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.

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.

Happy Birthday to Me!

How self-centered would it be if I dedicated a post to how much I love myself? Ha!

Instead, I’m getting a wonderful birthday present in the form of Rally Catalunya–happy day!

I did update my mini-biography page, if you want to know how old I am.

October 5, 2007. Appreciation. 3 comments.

Why I Love Rally, Reason #18

Beauty is a car sliding sideways around a corner.

I maintain that our rally drivers could out-drift drifting champions. It’s simply one of the many driving techniques that they must master. They have so much car control and sideways experience. It’s business as usual.

Behold:

The other guys are good…

But that’s just Monte Carlo, really.

October 4, 2007. Auto Racing, Motorsport, Rally, Rallying, Sports, Why I Love Rally, WRC. 1 comment.

Thumb Twiddling

It’s been hard to get posts up lately because I’m still brokenhearted about Colin McRae and news is slow in between rallies. (I’ve been following the drama in F1, where there’s always a juicy Hamilton-Alonso story.) I do, however, have bullet points:

  • My official opinion about Suzuki’s choice of Sebastian Lindholm and Nicolas Bernardi: “Oh.” It’s all a bit anti-climactic.
  • There are reports of a 24-hour channel devoted to the WRC in development. Wow. Maybe I should pack up and move to England.
  • Seb Loeb won the Cork International Rally, taking only 100 miles to rack up a 5 minute lead over the next Irishman. Dani Sordo finished in 2nd and Mikko Hirvonen in 5th (he had a puncture).
  • Marcus Gronholm isn’t resting comfortably on his 10-point lead. He’s taking tarmac lessons to polish up his form for the three remaining tarmac events.

But with Rally Catalunya only a day away, the thumb twiddling will definitely stop. I am more than ready for some action!

October 3, 2007. Rally, WRC. Leave a comment.

The Best of Rally TV Ads

Just for fun, see how rally sponsors pay their bills.

September 21, 2007. Rally. Leave a comment.

Remembering Michael “Beef” Park

In two short years, Britain has had to endure the loss of its greatest rallying heroes. The first of the untimely losses was that of codriver Michael “Beef” Park, claimed by a side impact at his home rally on September 19 18, 2005. A man with arguably the best sense of humor in the WRC, he made everyone smile with his on-camera antics. But Beef definitely wouldn’t want anyone to mourn over his memory. Here’s a great tribute video from AXN’s Shakedown that includes the absolute classic moments (“Did you watch football last night?”)

Also, on the anniversary of his death, Rally Radio produced a tribute program, including a revealing interview with driver Markko Martin recalling their most spectacular moments. He talks about Beef bringing the wrong pacenotes on the Safari Rally, meeting Beef, and even Beef’s hidden Japanese accent skills. You can download it here.

September 20, 2007. Appreciation, Rally, Rally Radio, Rallying, WRC. 5 comments.

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