Welcome to this week’s Sunday Service Park and it is with great regret we kick off the column with terrible news. Yet again the motosport world has turned its eyes to rally and not for the right reasons. Lotus Renault F1 driver Robert Kubica suffered a huge accident this morning in Italy competing in the Ronde di Andora rally.
The Formula 1 ace and a pre-season favorite has multiple fractures in his right arm and leg. The polish driver was air lifted to the hospital where surgery began on his right hand. Latest reports have amputation off the table, but the damage to that right hand is still unclear. Kubica was piloting a Skoda Fabia S2000 through a very high speed stage and met the guard rail. While there is no video if the actual crash, the video below shows the extensive damage to his Skoda.
The modern day rally car has seen significant improvement in safety. We need to look no further than Latvala in Portugal, Hirvonen in Finland, and Loeb in 2009 with a horrific accident after hitting a tree stump that was not in his pace notes. It is tough to speculate exactly what happened during the crash, but what is clear is the impact was big and accidents like these will always be present in rally. We have seen a number of rolling accidents and offs. One thing that seems to happen less is the full frontal impact. The cockpit of the Skoda was destroyed and the front end was completely gone. In fact, had it not been for the releases, I would not have known what that car was. Kubica has had a number of off season events and is an accomplished driver. This is just one of those freak accidents that will have far reaching repercussions for his F1 season and perhaps what kind of extra activities drivers are allowed in their off time. Regardless, we at the paddock would like to extend our thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery.
Patrik Sandell Moves Skoda Teams
The 2011 SWRC runner up has moved over to the IRC and will now drive with Skoda Sweden in a prepared Fabia S2000. Sandell who has also recently switched co-drivers, wanted the challenge of new events and found the IRC to be the best option. He will begin his challenge during the third round of the championship which takes place on the world famous Tour de Corse in France. Patrik will compete in seven rounds of the championship as listed below. One thing that remains certain is that Sandell has the ability to compete with the best in the business. Given Skoda’s dominance of the IRC in both drivers and manufacturers categories, I am confident that Swedish driver will see success. I think the IRC will also provide Sandell a real challenge as the talent pool is all on the same level. Granted Hanninen is bad fast, but him aside, I think the pool of drivers for this year’s title will be very even.
Tour de Corse (France): 13-15 May
Prime Yalta Rally (Ukraine): 2-4 June
Geko Ypres Rally (Belgium): 23-25 June
Sata Rallye Acores (Portugal): 14-16 July
Barum Czech Rally Zlin (Czech Republic): 26-28 August
RACMSA Rally of Scotland (United Kingdom): 14-16 October
Cyprus Rally (Cyprus): 3-5 November
DMACK Ready for Sweden
Let the tire war begin?!? Not hardly. Chinese DAMCK will begin its assault on the WRC next week in Sweden with a different goal. While Michelin will supply the major teams, DMACK has presented itself as a cheaper alternative to privateer efforts. Each DMACK snow tire has over 300 metal studs for traction in Sweden’s tough snow and ice conditions. The tires are said to be engineered to also deal with a lack of snow as well. After a number of rally cars tear through the snowy stages, gravel becomes visible and destroys the studded tires. DMACK has went the extra mile to ensure the studs last longer and the integrity of the tire remains through the event. Good thinking in my opinion. Lets face it, the majority of the teams that run this brand will be later in the starting rotation. Some 20+ rally cars will have already went out by the time this tire sees action. A lot of snow and ice will be torn away exposing pockets of the gravel that is underneath. A strong medal stud will be crucial to the success of this tire for its first event. Tire war it will not be, but there is the potential Pirelli/Michelin battle of 2012 to hope for.
Block Tests Fiesta WRC
Ken Block finally got behind the wheel of the new Ford Fiesta WRC in preparation for Sweden. The American will challenge all of the WRC calendar this season and has not got his first taste of the machine he will pilot…all be it a week before the rally. Co-driver Alex Gelsomino was quick to point out that the car was fun and the 1.6 litre turbo engine was solid compared to the 2.0 aspirated. He also claimed the car was like a “shifter kart on steroids” through Twitter. All of Block’s experience last season in a Fiesta is out the window as this WRC car is a completely different breed compared to his Rally America and Gymkhana machine. As we heard from Jari-Matti Latvala, this machine is really mechanical and makes you push it to the limit. Block is one of nine drivers that will pilot the Fiesta in Sweden under the M-Sport flag.
So there we have it. Another week and another service park as we now turn our attention to Sweden this week. The WRC boys will be at it for their season opener. We will have day by day wrap-ups of the event as well. You can follow the rally live on your smart phone as well! Just head to your app store and download the WRC app. You will get free World Rally Radio to listen to as well as up to date timing and scoring of each stage as it happens. Have a great week and roll on Sweden!!!