Ford Abu Dhabi

The 5am alarm was not a welcome wake up, but an early flight from Heathrow to Helsinki was worth getting up for. We were heading across to Finland, and locally to Jyvaskyla as guests of Ford to cover the Finnish leg of the Word Rally Championship.

Finland Rally

The 5am alarm was not a welcome wake up, but an early flight from Heathrow to Helsinki was worth getting up for. We were heading across to Finland, and locally to Jyvaskyla as guests of Ford to cover the Finnish leg of the Word Rally Championship.

In recent years rallying seems to have fallen off the radar within UK shores. The unfortunate death of Colin McRae in a helicopter crash back in 2007 and the retirement of Richard Burns meant no longer did we have homegrown talent on top of the world to cheer on and watch on our screens. Even so, it’s still a huge sport around the globe and there is no doubting these guys are some of the most talented, skilful and steely balled guys in the world of motor racing.

You may be surprised to hear Ford no longer use their family hatch (the all conquering Escort, and then the Focus), and the current WRC is the Fiesta, but speeds of upto 150 mph over loose surfaces with cliff edges to one side and immovable trees to the other, and a standing start to 60 mph in around 4 seconds, no matter on tarmac, gravel or sand leaves us in no doubt how quick these little pocket rockets are! In fact they put most supercars, even hypercars to shame.

The current Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team consists of;

Mikko HirvonenJari Matta LatvalaAbu Dhabi in Finland

Before the rally, both Jari-Matti and Mikka were tipped to take the win. The Finnish rally is notoriously known as one of the most difficult to win, with only 3 drivers from outside of Finland having won the rally in the past. In fact, when Sebastian Leob won the rally here in 2008 he said he had pushed the car and himself harder than he had ever done before, and no matter how good the win was, he would never push himself that close to the limit again. And that was coming from one of the most successful rally drivers of all time!! The unique ‘thrill’ of powering over a crest at full throttle on a blind turn and making sure you know 100% how the car will land and react is just a skill not many people possess.

As it turned out, Mikka Hirvonen had a nightmare first day, a problem with his suspension putting him over a minute down after the first stage. Excluding the three Thursday stages, Hirvonen was the quickest man in Finland, but alas, this is a marathon, not a sprint. For the last few years, that Frenchman, Sebastian Loeb, has proved to be the quickest and most consistent over his rivals, and so far this year it has been no different. And it turned out to be the same in Finland. Jari-Matti Latvala put up a spirited fight on the final afternoon, but it was just too little too late to stop Loeb from taking the points.

Ford WRC at Rally Finland

As for the British contingent, Kris Meeke and his Mini WRC retired as expected. As their testing year it’s been a difficult one. Good speed in some areas but a lack of power and overheating has seen them well behind the likes of Ford. Brit young guns Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin of Ford M-Sport Stobard came in 8th. Not quite the top 6 I tipped them for before the weekend, but a pretty good shout and a great top 10 finish. We will be catching up with the lads in an exclusive interview with AJB to ask them about the future of British Rallying. Keep an eye out in the next few weeks.

For those that have never been to a rally it is a unique experience. Miles and miles of woodland and random terrain mean you can be sitting on your own for hours without seeing a single person, yet be just metres from the track and the world’s very best whizzing past. Equally if you want to be in a known spot, like the ‘Jump’ on stage 14, expect around a thousand people to be crammed peering through trees to get a glimpse of their favourite driver getting air and a potential bad landing or crash.

As you hear the cars and the sound of their exhausts / engines tunnelling through the trees, the suspense of what car and who coming over the brow of the hill is a buzz in itself. But blink and you will miss them, for at any one time you are only ever going to see a single car for a maximum of 10 seconds on even the longest of straights / sections. After that they are nothing but a distant memory, but within 120 seconds you will see the next one blast past.

Ford WRC at Rally Finland WRC

Rally Finland was a huge success, the people, the crowds, the teams and most of all, the fans. Although we are still not sure about WRC as a spectator sport, and the FIA really need to look at how they can improve Rally days with the likes of live web streaming and things during the events. But we do suggest going to one before you get too old. Rally GB may be cold at the end of the year, but we are pretty sure we will go, and so you should to.

A huge thanks to FordUK and FordWRC for being the ultimate hosts this weekend and supporting us with pretty much anything we needed.

Ford WRC 2011Ford WRC Team at the Finland Rally 2011FordWRC at the Finland Rally 2011Ford Eco BoostCrowds at WRC Finland 2011Ford Abu Dhabi WRC Team

Comments

comments


Tickled your fancy?




Subscribe

Latest Posts