Saturday, February 26, 2011

WRC Sweden 2011

The 2011 WRC season opener was a nail biter with five drivers in contention for the win at the start of day three. This was Hirvonen's first win since Sweden 2010 so I earnestly hope that he fares better this season. The Ford team swept the podium positions in a truly impressive performance. However I wouldn't read too much into this yet, as the Citroens fell behind due to driver error and bad luck, not a lack of pace.

Loeb lost a lot of time on day one as the road sweeper. This usually isn't a problem for him as the better road position on days two and three, allows him to charge back through the field and take the win. This time he had a puncture on both day two and three, which effectively put him out of contention. I'm sure Loeb will be back to his annoyingly winning ways in the next event.

Petter Solberg was caught speeding in one of the road section on day one. The penalty, which was only given late on day two, suspended his racing licence so he couldn't drive part of day three. Co-driver Chris Patterson, finished the rally in the driver seat. While this is within the regulations, Patterson wasn't driving anywhere near normal racing speeds, which meant that Solberg lost his chance for a third, possibly even second, place finish. Up until that point, Solberg's pace was excellent and was the best indicator of the Citroen's true performance, as he out drove the factory team's drivers. Solberg's chances for a win this season are very high indeed.

The new power stage, which is broadcast live worldwide, hasn't grabbed me yet, probably because I can't watch it live anyway. And also I haven't watched the full hour long show yet. Perhaps that might change my mind. Anyway, it's a great way to promote the sport which has never had live broadcasts as far as I know.

The new cars are very small and nimble and are very exciting to watch. Of course, from the driver's point of view, this translates into "twitchy" and many drivers were having very close encounters with the snowbanks. Henning Solberg's was the worst when his car was flipped into a high speed rollover that sent him flying about 20m down the load. Very nasty.

With most of the electronic driver aids banned, the cars are definitely more difficult to drive but it also means that WRC has become a true driver's challenge again. This is a good thing.

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