Catching Up

Photo Credit: PlaneteMarcus.com

It’s been a little while since I’ve caught up on the rally news scene, and for that reason, it’s been some time since a new piece was posted on World Rally Blog. In the break between Portugal and Sardinia, my motor sport attention had been slightly diverted from rallying to the various high profile circuit-based events that were ongoing during the month of May. However, in anticipation of this weekend’s Rally Sardinia, I popped onto Twitter this morning to see what has been going on in the world of rallying during my absence… as turns out, quite a lot!

ERC in Trouble?

The first thing that caught my eye was an Autosport article from last week featuring a comment by Jean-Baptiste Ley, the head of the ERC. In it, he makes the claim that Skoda and Peugeot have hurt themselves by pulling their factory efforts from the ERC in favor of WRC2. Hmmm… what is to be made of this? I can’t help but wonder why the ERC would feel compelled to make a statement like this right now. Are they feeling threatened by WRC2? As we have discussed here in the past, the WRC2 is slowly moving towards becoming a junior factory/works championship. While this means there will be more top class cars running on the WRC stages, it may also result in privateers feeling alienated and unable to compete against the manufacturer budgets. However, doesn’t this consequence provide an opportunity for the ERC to become a place for these privateers to compete on a level playing field? This article makes the ERC seem like an organization that has gone on the defensive, but is there any reason for this? The Azores Rally this weekend featured over 20 privateer R5 cars in the ERC1 class. That’s a pretty good number considering that this is a “fly-away” event that costs the teams a fair amount of money. I understand that every championship wants the exposure that manufacturers bring, but I can’t help but think that the ERC would be much better off embracing their role as the premier privateer rally championship instead of squabbling with the WRC.

You can check out the original article here:

http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/124585/erc-chief-wrc2-switch-hurting-skoda-peugeot

He’s Done It Again!

While this isn’t pure rally news, it features a rally driver in a rally inspired car on an island famous for its rally roads… so close enough! Congratulations to Mark Higgins for breaking his own record over the 37.73 Isle of Man TT course. He completed the distance in 17:35.139 in a modified Subaru WRX Sti. When you do the math, that comes out to an average speed of 128.730mph. Let that sink in for a minute… an AVERAGE speed of 128.730mph! I have not yet seen complete onboard footage of the run, but Autocar posted a 5 minute clip of both in-car and roadside footage that is well worth a look. With all the exposure that Subaru is enjoying from this run, it got me wondering if any other manufacturers would want to have a go at the record. It isn’t outside the realm of possibility that this could become an event much like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb where manufacturers develop one off entries to attack the Manx roads. What do you think? What started out as a simple PR stunt could grow into something special over the next few years.

Here’s the video published by AutoCar:

 

This Could Be Good!

I’ll put my hand up and admit that since the WRC announced its intentions of hosting a round in China, I have been quite skeptical. In the early days, it appeared that a second-rate rally was being forced into the calendar to appease the manufactures who wanted the championship to be less “European-Centric”. When I first heard “China”, it conjured up unpleasant images in my head from the event held back in 1999. I imagined a poorly organized rally run on muddy jungle tracks with barely any spectators and no atmosphere. However, after seeing some photos that surfaced today on PlaneteMarcus.com, I am beginning to feel a bit more optimistic. It’s easy to forget how far China has come over the past 17 years. Yes, it is still a very large country that features some incredibly rural and undeveloped areas, but I definitely let stereotypes cloud my opinion of China’s ability to host a WRC rally. Just look at the quality of those roads! Already, several influential people within the sport are claiming that China may overtake Catalunya as the rally featuring the smoothest stages in the championship. OK, it takes much more than nice roads to successfully host a WRC rally, but seeing those pictures today has definitely improved my hopes for this event!

Here’s the link to the full gallery:

 

Sardinia Power Stage:

With all the other news, let’s not forget that the WRC is back in action this weekend. This year, Rally Sardinia will feature a jaw-dropping new power stage to culminate the event. Colin Clark posted a video today showing the last few kilometers, and it is going to absolutely spectacular. I’ve always felt that Rally Sardinia hasn’t done the best job of highlighting the spectacular scenery of the island. Over the years, it has appeared to be another “cookie cutter” gravel rally that didn’t differentiate itself much from the likes of Mexico, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, or Cyprus. It sounds like a ton of work went into getting this stretch of road ready for the rally, so hats off to the organizers. With the addition of this stage, I think that finally, the rally is showing the best of what this island has to offer. Have a look at Colin’s video below and check out that huge drop towards the sea! I’m wondering if any drivers are going to overcook it going down that hill and have a big moment… we’ll see!

Here’s Colin’s video…

 

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