Two weeks ago I wrote a short piece about how utterly underwhelming the 2016 edition of the Tour de Corse turned out to be. Let’s just be frank… as far as articles go, it was a bit crap… no, it was really crap. It wasn’t very hard to read between the lines and see that the WRC had totally and completely fallen off my radar. Maybe it was due to the long break caused by Rally China’s cancellation, but I just didn’t really care about rallying at that moment in time, and that apathy showed very clearly in my halfhearted piece. In the days leading up to Rally Catalunya, I really wondered if the WRC would be able to recapture my dwindling interest… or was I too far gone?
Fortunately, Rally Catalunya put up an absolute cracker on Friday and I can gladly say that yes, it is still worth watching the WRC in 2016. This leg had absolutely everything you could ask for! In just 6 stages we saw the absolute best of what the WRC has to offer. First, we saw Kris Meeke do his best Colin McRae impersonation by rolling and continuing on with barely a dent in his bodywork. Then Hayden Paddon lost his anti-lag system, but after scrambling to repair his car on the road section, he made a fantastic recovery to 5th at the end of the day. Thierry Neuville ripped off the front of his car, but is still right there in the thick of things by finishing the day only 11 seconds off the podium. We thought Seb had it all wrapped up by running first on the road in soggy conditions, but when the sun came out in the afternoon, it shone on the local man, Dani Sordo. What more could you ask for? Treacherous weather, lucky escapes, silly mistakes, emergency repairs, and a local hero… this day had it all!
So, let’s talk about Dani Sordo for a moment. I don’t want to jinx him, this very well might be his rally. He’s always been considered a tarmac specialist and now he is going into the sealed surface portion of his home rally with a 17 second lead. I don’t think that anyone (including Dani himself) expected such a result on the gravel stages of this rally. You can tell from his reaction on the road section to SS7, Terra Alta, that he could hardly believe what was happening. His performance yesterday has put him in an absolutely fantastic position to score a victory on his home rally. I really believe that on tarmac, the current i20 is just as quick as the VW Polo, and with Sebastien Ogier focusing on the championship, Dani has a chance to push and take the fight to VW. Ogier is going to be too concerned with what his teammate, Andreas Mikkelsen is doing behind him to worry about chasing Sordo, and that will give Sordo the space he needs to open up a gap. This is Dani’s moment, let’s see if he seizes it.
As I sit here in Philadelphia finishing this piece up in the wee hours of Saturday morning, it was one year ago that I was busy collecting not 1, not 2, but 3… YES 3… speeding violations on the drive to the La Figuera stage of the 2015 Rally Catalunya. It’s safe to say that nothing is going to come close to the excitement and anticipation that I felt in those moments last year. However, after what I saw yesterday in Spain, the WRC is right back in the forefront of my mind and it should be for you as well. Let’s bring on day 2!