Tag Archive | "rally"

Rally Aces To Contest Monaco Porsche Cup

As all F1 fans already know, the Monaco Grand Prix takes place on the weekend of 25/6th May. This legendary race is ably supported by supplementary events including the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup which is not the place you’d usually find WRC Rally drivers, yet it is so.

When at the Citroen Works Rally team, the now semi-retired Sébastien Loeb was often at odds with his younger team-mate and namesake, Sébastien Ogier, the current championship leader. Loeb still drives the occasional WRC event for Citroen but Ogier jumped ship and is now successfully campaigning the mighty VW Polo.

More often than not it was the younger Ogier who threw all his toys out of the pram whilst simultaneously taking the ball home because of the bias he felt was given to his legendary compatriot. Now the rivalry is being renewed but not on the WRC tour. Both drivers will be guest piloting Porsches in the support race at the Grand Prix. So instead of spikes there will be slicks; instead of the Col de Turini substitute Casino. This is the first time both drivers have gone head-to-head on a race circuit.

Loeb of course has previous form in race cars and has been expanding his driving career into endurance racing with a Le Mans win being his main objective after achieving a second place in 2006 in a Pescarolo-Judd. The legend has it that Loeb practices for the race on a Playstation 2. Ogier, on the other hand, is new to this and he has had only a couple of weeks to get used to the high-powered Porsche and its unpredictable handling.

No doubt more experienced hands are making sure he doesn’t attempt the Scandinavian Flick or handbrake turns at La Rascasse or Mirabeau and remembers that there will be a whole bunch of other cars at close quarters to contend with.

The Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup has been the only GT racing series to be held at Formula One weekends since 1993 during which time the cars have developed immensely. This years version is the new 911 GT3 Cup developing 460 bhp from the 3.8L Boxer engine. This car is something of a handful and it remains to be seen how Ogier will fare amongst the much more experienced field. So if you see a car overtaking on verges and pavements then you’ll know who it is.

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Rally Portugal This Weekend

After their foray over the ocean the World Rally teams are back in Europe for the Portuguese round of the Championship this coming weekend. Following their spectacular return to the sport Volkswagen have got off to a blistering start running second only in the manufacturers stakes to the mighty works team from Citroen. VW’s Sebastien Ogier heads the leader board for drivers after a string of successes in the early rounds, backed up by Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen, all driving Polo‘s.

Following the snow of Sweden and the rocks of Mexico the teams are back on more familiar territory with Portugal offering the traditional loose gravel stages. With a mixture of open roads and tight technical sections this event tests drivers to the max – especially when it rains, turning the surface into a slippery nightmare. The abrasive gravel takes a toll of tyres and the teams have to seriously factor this in when planning their campaigns.

The usual format applies except for this year there will be a marathon leg when teams will have to compete over four consecutive special stages without any service interval. This will push the cars to extremes and show up those whose preparations have been less than thorough.

Citroen are fielding three of their smart DS3 cars this time with Mikko Hirvonen and Danny Sordo being joined by new boy Khalid Al-Qassimi. Overall the event is fully subscribed with seventy two entries over the various categories. A star entrant is the Formula 1 star Robert Kubica making his debut in this event driving a DS3 RRC. There are 6 M-Sport Ford drivers, all piloting Fiestas. Ostberg, Novikov and Neuville are the rising stars and the ones to watch for a surprise result.

Last year’s Portugal Rally had it all. Thunder and lightning and fog, missed opportunities and unfortunate exits; most notably that of the great Seb Loeb who misunderstood a pace-note and turned left instead of right. This is not something you really want to do at high speed on a gravel surface!

Fans always hear about the drivers and it is a shame that the co-drivers remain the unsung heroes. They have a complex job to do interpreting pace-notes, reading the road and keeping everything on track and all whilst trying not to be riveted to the seat with fear. In-car TV coverage means that armchair rally stars can get a driver’s eye view of all the action. In the UK this means tuning into ITV4 on Thursday (18th) evening for the highlights show. This channel will be showing all the rallies but it looks as though they are being flexible about which night it will be on! Make the most of it anyway because in the UK that’s all we get!

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Red Bull Make A Move On The WRC

There is a conflict of opinion as to whether sponsorship in sport is a good or bad thing. Some say it has ruined many of the popular sporting activities; football, for example, where players pay and sponsorship deals make a mockery of the average wage packet. On the other hand many sports would have died a death had it not been for business investing money to promote products. Look at how the funding acquired from cigarette advertising enhanced the various F1 teams a few years ago. Certainly, F1 would not be where it is today were it not for the power of commercial cash.

So it is with the World Rally Championship. This year, with the failure of its principal sponsor, North One Sport, very early on in the season and much indecision by the FIA, the races have been promoted individually at a local level meaning coverage has been patchy. Most fans in the UK would not have seen it at all if it hadn’t been for the efforts of Motors TV showing regular highlights.

As a result, WRC teams who spend a fortune on R&D – which does filter down to consumer cars – were at one point considering their future in the sport. Without media coverage advertisers would stay away in droves and look for more appealing marketing opportunities. So it is welcome news that after much prevaricating, it looks very much as if Red Bull are going to step up to the plate and become the WRC’s prime sponsor which should in turn bring the media on board.

If it comes to pass then this is a fantastic coup. It’s a well known fact that when this company puts their efforts into a promotion, it usually succeeds. They already have the most successful F1 team and are also one of the principal sponsors of the all-conquering Citroen Total World Rally Team who, despite the best efforts of Ford, are almost certain to win the championship again this year.

Presumably Red Bull would not continue to sponsor individual teams if this becomes a reality. It may be that Citroen will have to spread the net to bring in more money next year. One thing is for sure though; Red Bull would not sit quietly by as the events in 2013 unfold. They will want to ensure that they get maximum coverage across all the media platforms. This hopefully will be good news for fans, especially in Britain, who are starved of their ration of one of the most exciting branches of motor sport.

Meanwhile, as the championship progresses, the other drivers are probably all hoping that the legendary and unbeatable Sebastian Loeb will finally retire next year to give the others a chance. It seems likely, now that Citroen have recruited Mikko Hirvonen as their number two driver. Hirvonen is not the type to sit in the shadow of another so presumably the idea is that he will be numero uno on the team when Loeb moves on. Let us hope that next season sees a revival in the fortunes of the WRC and that the fans get the coverage they deserve.

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