Monday, 3 August 2015

Rally - Kings of Speed

As rally fans, we live in hope. I suppose there was never really any doubt who and what would win Rally Finland. For sure, the Citroen team ran them close, the latest Ford is showing huge potential and Hyundai is showing flashes of brilliance.  But there is just no denying that the Volkswagen squad is a bratwurst amongst burgers.

This dominance is not just the result of big bucks. It's built on sound engineering and experience dating back to their Dakar exploits over 10 years ago now. Remember, they also had staff 'embedded' in the Skoda works ERC team (we saw them on Rally Scotland) and ran their own Skoda ahead of the commencement of their formal WRC campaign in 2013.

As for drivers, they certainly have the pick of the bunch. Direct comparisons can never be made and the only way that could happen is if they all competed in the same cars! But the Polo WRC and the back-up behind it will give any driver a confidence boost long before he grips the steering wheel.

It was perhaps fitting that Jari-Matti Latvala won his 'home' event, and he did it in style. This was only his second victory of the year and his third Rally Finland win. It was also the fastest gravel rally ever in Finland recording an average speed of 125.44 km/h (77.94 mph) across the full duration of the rally. He also won the fastest asphalt rally of all time in France in 2014.

On his way to victory, Latvala clocked the fastest average speed of 132.18 km/h (82.13 mph) over the notorious 'Ouninpohja' stage while team mate Sébastien Ogier won the 'Myhinpää' Power Stage with an average of 135.25 km/h (84.04 mph).

To mere mortals like us these are just numbers, but these are autobahn speeds on gravel roads with open ditches on either side and vertical wooden 'armco' lining most of it. It's no wonder that time is measured in hundredths of a second, but when things go wrong they happen faster than the curry-night-out trots. Just ask Andreas Mikkelsen. He suffered a multiple high speed roll on the fifth test, and walked away.

Which also makes the impending return of Toyota to the WRC such a hot prospect. They're spending a lot of time and energy away from the glare of public curiosity to perfect their next challenger.

Anyway, the next round of the WRC is Rally Germany in three weeks time, but before then, there is the ' Solway Coast Rally' this coming weekend. But you know what? I don't think any of the WRC teams could cope with the physical and mental demands or have the mechanical stamina to cope with 'the Dundrennan'. Even if they did, there is one challenge which would defeat them all, the Saturday night bunfight.

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