Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WRC Finland 2010

The organizers of Rally Finland took advantage of the relaxed regulations and ran the same number of stages over two days instead of the usual three. It probably made more of a difference for the drivers and spectators than for people like me watching it on a half hour TV highlight program.

Hirvonen was building a good lead until stage four when this terrifying crash at 140 km/h shredded most of the car's body work, even as its safety cell did its job. I've watched that a few times and it's really not obvious what went wrong. Hirvonen knows the corner very well (it's his favourite!) so it's more likely some kind of mechanical failure when he landed after the jump. Finland's fast flowing roads makes for spectacular rallying but the margin for error becomes so small that any failure or a tiny mistake, results in huge crashes.

With Hirvonen out, Petter Solberg found himself in the lead of the rally but it only lasted until stage seven when Latvala passed him. Solberg fell back steadily after that and on day two he was passed by both Ogier and Loeb. Solberg's 2009 Citroen just doesn't have the speed to keep up with the works teams on the fast Finnish roads. I suspect he wisely decided to drive for the points rather than try to push the car beyond its limits.

Latvala's driving can be a bit erratic sometimes but when he is on form, he is very impressive. Despite Ogier's and Loeb's charge on day two, Latval maintained his lead to score another well deserved win by a solid 10 seconds over Ogier. With Hirvonen out, Loeb drove for the points and didn't try very hard to catch Ogier.

I think Hirvonen's championship fight is over. An eighty point deficit is going require Loeb to not finish or score very little points over the remaining events. I just don't see that happening. On the other hand, Loeb did have a disastrous second half of the season last year, so it is not completely impossible. Just highly improbable.

Finally, Henning Solberg might be considering a career as a lumberjack. Seriously though, he was lucky that was a small tree, otherwise this could have been a lot worse.

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