Welcome to the newest column at Openpaddock.net! As the rally season takes its short break they call an off season, the Sunday Service Park will be my time to give some opinion on the week’s news and address rumors within the WRC and Rally America blogs. This week has seen the driver market get kicked up a notch and Petter Solberg is trapped in the middle.
Last week during the podcast I had made the argument that Petter would be a reasonable fit at the Prodrive MINI operation. Rumor has it that Petter is not an option at his former team which would leave either Ford or Citroen. Citroen had announced early this week that probably four DS3s will be ready for Sweden and Petter would make a good addition. Loeb and Ogier are in the main factory effort and we have known that for some time. What remains to be unknown is who is going to be in the other two? Dani Sordo is currently awaiting an offer from Ford and Kimi Raikkonen has been silent on whether or not he will be in a Citroen. Rumors may have Kimi at Monster World Rally camp as Citroen have said they want money in return for a car. Solberg on the other hand has been driving hard negotiations and using language of leaving the WRC in order to get an appealing deal for 2011. Rumor has it that Citroen are about to finalize Solberg but what does that mean for his private team? Olivier Quesnel has already said that no private teams will get a DS3. So how will that sway Solberg? Is Citroen willing to let Solberg use his own team and team name? It wil have to wait as no one is rushing to make an announcement at this moment.
Subaru Rally USA Hires Pastrana’s Replacement
The Subaru Rally Team USA has hired David Higgins to fill the shoes of action megastar Travis Pastrana. TP was not in the car much this year and actually put together a deal that will see him own/drive a NASCAR Nationwide series car under his new Pastrana/Waltrip race team. David Higgins is not an action star, but has a rally pedigree that will serve him well in this season’s title race. The Isle of Man native has raced in the WRC and is a group N car specialist. He won the British Rally Championship in 2004 and has tested machines for a number of manufacturers. It was said that Higgins became the driver after Subaru looked at some Canadian talent that had a very successful 2010. One would think of Antoine L’Estage who was able to take a convincing title this year in all major North American championships. The interesting point I have about this signing is how does this market? We have known Pastrana, Block, and Mirra because of their out of rally accomplishments. What does Higgins bring that can be sold to the action sports community who makes up a large chunk of fan base? Is it the fact he drives one of the Subarus? How does that make any sense? You are then promoting your cars and not those who drive them and people will become turned off by that quickly. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that Higgins will do very well and is a proper rally driver which is always good for the series, but it is going to get increasingly difficult to keep these high school kids in the sport when the drivers have no personality. I hope that I am proven wrong but only time will tell.
WRC Academy Details
Further details have emerged on the WRC Academy feeder series that has taken shape. The series will run a six round European based calendar and will comprise of 24 Ford Fiesta R2s. The series will award 500,000 euros to the winner that will be put forward to plans in 2012. I am a really big fan of this series as it allows for the planting of future talent. There are a large number of national championships and what not around. This academy allows a central area where young people can get into rally and stand a real chance at making something out themselves instead of getting lost in all of the other championships that are around. The cars are also very beautiful too! Currently six slots of the 24 are taken and those went to the Pirelli Star Driver program. More details should be released soon on the series.
Kimi to Try Monte?
While you have seen Kimi Raikkonen blow around the streets of Monte Carlo in a McLaren Mercedes or Ferrari F1 car, you may get your chance to see him hit one of the most popular rallies in the world. That’s right! Rumor has Kimi maybe running the Monte Carlo rally in 2011 as a warm up for the WRC season. A Peugeot 207 S2000 ran by PH Sport would be his ride as he would tackle the IRC opening round. PH Sport was the same group who worked on Raikkonen’s C4 Citroen Junior this past season. Raikkonen has not confirmed the outing but it has been used the last two years for WRC drivers to tune up for their own season.
So there we have it. A few news items getting some attention in the rally world. I of course will report on breaking stories as they happen, but I will reserve this spot for my major opinion pieces and will use it during the season as well. Stay tuned as the rally silly season is really picking up as our season grows near and we can rejoice about new rally cars!