Saturday, July 2, 2011

WRC Greece 2011

It has been two years since the WRC circus last visited Greece. It is a classic event on the WRC calender and is traditionally a car breaker, although it has become much tamer in recent years according to the old hands. Still, the rough roads of the Acropolis Rally are unforgiving of mistakes. Just ask Loeb who in 2009, had the biggest crash of his career in Greece.

This year's rally was exciting but road position tactics over shadowed the action. On day one, Petter Solberg went on a tear and thanks to the others slowing down for tactics, he had a 50s lead at the end of the day. While that sounds like a lot, he became the road sweeper on day two and it only took a few stages before he was passed. Solberg did not help his cause by missing a junction, which cost him 8s, but mostly he lost the lead due to being first on the road.

With road position being so critical, there was little doubt that Ogier and Loeb, who were first and second, would again play tactics on the day two's final stage, a rare night run. What surprised me was that the Citroen team allowed Ogier to slow and fall back into second. Loeb is the championship leader so I expected the team to support him. The decision obviously frustrated Loeb as well, but apparently the team has internal rules about who gets to choose the road order.

Being first on the road is a huge liability at most gravel events, which is why everyone uses tactics to manipulated their road position. Next year the FIA is changing the road order rules at gravel rallies which hopefully will eliminate these kinds of shenanigans.

Chris Patterson, Petter Solberg's very experienced co-driver, got lost in the pace notes on day two's night stage. It can happen to the best of them but I wonder if part of the problem is that night stages are very rare in WRC these days. Maybe the skills are not being used often enough to keep them sharp.

It is great news that Rally Monte Carlo returns next year as the traditional season opener. Hope Monte Carlo gets snow next Winter!

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