According to one of the comments on this post, Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala comments on Pikes Peak were collected weeks before the race, and they weren’t questioned about Sebastien Loeb personally. Which means I took it a bit too far, and Maxrally also played it well, skipping on few important bits, subtly adding Loeb’s name to title and garnish it with a suggestive picture. Well played, indeed. Fooled me, but I am easily fooled.
Everybody knows what happened few days ago at Pikes Peak – old record was shattered, and new was set in place, after Sebastien Loeb mastered the hill in his Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak. But, that’s not that impressive, it seems. Sitting at the start line, going through your belts and switches, with months of work and team expectations sitting on your shoulders, all while the 875 HP engine rumbles few inches from you… and then you’re off, all alone, no co-driver, no gravel traps or safety barriers… just you. Everything comes down to this one attempt, everything you and your team worked many months for, is in your hands now. And let’s not forget the fact that you’re also very much playing with major accident, should anything go wrong in the upper part of the climb.
But, all that is not very impressive to the Volkswagen Motorsport pair of drivers. People who grew up on the Pikes Peak climbs were full of praise, but not Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier. Because, waait for it, can you guess it, it’s not gravel anymore! It wasn’t so hard, was it? After all, we heard it already over the past couple of weeks – every now and then, someone would come up and say – it’s asphalt now, how hard can it be.
Except for the fact that today speeds are much higher, and while gravel sounds like extremely risky kind of surface, on which only the best of the best know how to drive, Pikes Peak wasn’t your usual Acropolis Rally gravel. Just look at the famous Climb Dance movie with Ari Vatanen. Yep, pretty smooth, and if you know what you’re doing, which I suppose Mr. Loeb does, you can drive very fast on such gravel, and have huge level of control in how you use the uniform, if loose surface.
In case you haven’t seen the reactions of leading two Volkswagen Motorsport drivers, please click on the link below. Ogier’s comment can be summed up to “the more horsepower you bring, the faster you will be, with little to no skill required”, while Latvala was more about “big wings”, “concentration” and “precision” not being his thing on such a track. Because, yeah, you use very little of those on regular rally stages, right? On the other hand, Jari-Matti might be right about concentration and precision… *cough* 2012 *cough*
Pikes Peak was a triumph of a man and technology, team work and attitude, skill and determination, with plenty of courage. I am pretty sure both Volkswagen drivers would love to do it. And I’m pretty sure they were watching the attempt. But they are also very young, and both are still 9 WRC titles behind Loeb. Who knows, maybe one day, the very idea of embracing this challenge will not be so foreign to them. That should also give Volkswagen enough time to prepare the car for Pikes Peak – but without big wings, and on gravel tyres, of course.
For me, Loeb’s heart rate was all I needed to see. From 92 at the start to 188 and then 172 near the finish. For a nine times world champ, you’d expect him to be cool and collected, but these numbers are noty lying – he was driving his heart out up on that mountain. As much as he dared and knew how to. I also believe both Ogier and Latvala actually respect what Loeb did on Pikes Peak, although their comments were not expressing that.
Funny volkswagen-esque comments by both Ogier and Latvala can be found on MAXRALLY.