The WRC season has arrived and because of that, we will now move the Service Park column to Monday to accommodate. What a show the WRC put on in Sweden to usher in its new era of car and talent. This rally had absolutely everything and will go down as one of the most exciting rallies we have seen in a long time.
Final Thoughts on Sweden
Are you serious!?! This has been one of the best overall rallies we have seen in sometime. New Zealand was amazing due to its drama on the last day with Ogier spinning in the last corner and Jari-Matti’s unreal drive to catch him up for the win. This rally had it all on all three days. I think that World Rally Radio did an amazing job capturing the excitement and relaying it to those of us not able to watch. My hats are off to Mads Ostberg though. I thought he would be strong in the Stobart, but I had no idea that he would fight for overall victory, let alone stand on the second step of the podium. I along with a number of folks were very disappointed with P-G Andersson’s performance. That guy made Rally Sweden on the money of his supporters and while he was able to deliver stage wins, he really failed to perform the way he needed to. Luckily for him, he has a deal with Proton in the IRC already inked for this year. I felt terrible for Sebastien Loeb as he truly had a miserable weekend. Obviously not the way he wanted to start his 2011, but he did show that championship pace on the second leg by capturing multiple stage wins. Petter Solberg’s incident with the cops and then Chris Patterson’s driving the car through the power stage really captured what turned into a disaster weekend for the title hopeful. Petter does not have a ton of time in the DS3, but he put in some solid drives all weekend to put him in contention. Ford’s sweep of the podium was very impressive and I truly thought we would see at least one Citroen up there, but Ford has really started 2011 near perfect. My thoughts now turn to Mexico. Can Mikko carry that advantage? Last year, Mexico was the beginning of the end for Hirvonen and any title aspirations he had. Will also need to carry over for the other Ford drivers as well. With Ford evaluating the WRC program, the pressure is on to produce a manufacturer’s title.
Skoda UK driver and FiA academy driver Andreas Mikkelson has confirmed his 2011 IRC schedule this past weekend. The Norwegian driver will compete in all of the rounds except Rali Vinho Madeira. Mikkelson had an embarrassing performance at the Monte Carlo Rally but the team has said lessons were learned and the near immediate crash will be a one off. Andreas is tipped for mega success in the future and will really have big shoes to fill if he is to take the place of 2010 champion Juho Hanninen, whom is one of the best all around rally drivers in the world at the moment.
It was recently announced that VP Fuels will be the official fuel supplier of the US RallyCar championship starting at OpenPaddock’s home event, the 100 Acre Wood Rally in Salem Missouri. The company will be the only on-site fuel supplier for stage rally rounds in the Rally America championship.
“The sport of Stage Rally in North America is growing thanks to the efforts of RallyCar and we want to be a part of it” – Jim Kelly VP’s Corporate Director-Sales & Marketing
The press release issued made note of an even in Philadelphia where Vermont Sports Car put together a Subaru rally car for display. The report indicated that it was the top vehicle even amongst road and oval race cars. It is very refreshing to see that rally is really gaining here in the US and picking up a solid fan base of all ages. VP has asked teams to pre-order the fuel however in order to meet demand.
SPEED Center: Professionalism? Who Needs it!
Last night was the grand airing of SPEED’s flagship news show named SPEED Center. The show is an “upgrade” to the SPEED Report that we are accustomed. The opening round of the show highlighted the WRC in Sweden and to be honest it was an absolute joke. The hosts of the show mocked the WRC and its drivers during the segment. While I agree that some of the WRC names are hard to pronounce, do some research. Listen to the World Rally Radio and hear others say them before you butcher them into the next century. While OpenPaddock is moving to a more professional tone, we are not journalists and nor do we claim to be. The folks on the SPEED Center are in fact professionals, or so I thought. As a WRC fan I was embarrassed and extremely unhappy with the show. The point of offering coverage to a series is to promote it and help it gain a fan base, not mock it and joke about certain aspects of the event or those that participate. I counted it as a step back and hope those looking and craving coverage of events in the future, do not look to that show for it. I suppose working in the realm of NASCAR can allow such jokes to occur without so much as a batting of the eye.
Thanks for reading this week’s column and we hope to see you back next week as we cover all of the hot news in the world of rally!