So the long awaited 2013 WRC season kicked off last weekend with the most glamorous event on the calendar. The Monte Carlo Rally.
Admittedly I’ve never been a big fan of the event in recent years since its re-joined the WRC. Personally I think its to stretched out. The rally is set to start in Valence in South of France, where even the Service park was based. But by the end of the week everything has to be broken down and moved and re-built in Monaco, around a 5 hour drive away, a lot of work and logistics for the teams.
However this does open up the rally to a lot of fantastic Mountain Stages. And my word what brilliant and challenging stages they were. Fast, Technical, twisty, rhythmatic, the conditions were perfect and the scene was set for one of the best most exciting starts to one of the most anticipated seasons since the new generation of WRC cars came about. Thousands of fans flocked out to stages that were coated in snow. It was a world class event which tested the best drivers in the world. There were so many ups and downs over the 5 days of the rally its difficult to know where to start.
The biggest ‘up’ was for Volkswagen. After 20,000km’s of testing, It was time for VW to fight the best out on the World Stage. With their super quick driver, Seb ‘2.0’ Ogier, they went out on the first stage and won it! VW beat the likes of Citroen and Ford by an impressive 3.7 seconds. Showing to everyone that they are here for serious business. Over the rest of the week Ogier battled a little with his former team mate and rival Loeb. Although Ogier was not Driving at 100%, maybe holding back to ensure that he got his Polo R to the finish, he still claimed 2 stage wins. VW’s aim was to get a podium this year… Ogier not only got to the finish but he also finished the rally in 2nd place. First stage win, First podium, all on their first rally. They are a team to be afraid off in 2013. Just think if Loeb hadn’t chosen to enter Monte… A great start for the new manufactures.
Another plus was the most legendary Rally Stage in the world. The Col de Turini. We were lucky enough to not only visit that stage, but courtesy of RallyTravel we actually Stayed in the hotel on the top of the Turini. When we first went up the road (at night) the whole stage was bone dry. But the next morning we woke up to lovely coating of snow and ice and a buzzing stage already packed full of Fans. And then when the stage went live the place was like a Rally festival. The first run was tough for the Drivers, 3 of the top boys were caught out, Latvala, Novikov and Hanninen. The 2nd pass was even harder, ran in the dark with the rain turning to ice. The 3rd pass was cancelled along with the final stage due to the congestion caused by the huge amount of fans trying to get into the stage. The Rally buzz was more than alive and made for a fantastic end to a brilliant rally. The event almost ran perfectly.
I say almost, because their were unfortunately a few issues. And these issues caused serious problems on an otherwise fantastic Monte Carlo. The first and most important was the timing. Rallying is a sport were drivers will drive to a Special stage, and each special stage is then timed. Whoever completes all the stages in the shortest amount of time wins. This has been how the sport has worked since the 1930’s. So when the first day of the 2013 World Rally Championships have no timing or places drivers into incorrect positions. it makes all the millions of pounds and hard work that everyone working for the WRC a waste of time. Timing and tracking in the WRC is everything. All competing crews are expected to perform at the highest level. WRC is the highest form of Rallying. Its what F1 is to Track racing. So when competitors, Fans, Sponsors, media from around the world are given incorrect times or a blank time screen. Its a major embarrassment to the sport and the FIA. imagine watching an F1 race LIVE on TV and you don’t know who won till 4 hours after! We don’t really care much about what or who is in charge of the job of timing. What we DO care about and expected is for that company to be the best in the world at it. for it to be better than perfect. We expect the timing to.. well, work like clock work. I’m sure they won’t make the same mistake again. But This is a sport where there is no room for error. Not just from the competitive point of view but also from a safety point of view. the Tracking and timing systems must be tried, Tested to the point of perfection. And it’s up to the FIA to ensure that that is in place at all times.
The other issues was the lack of TV Coverage for UK Fans. We have waited a very long time for the Sport to get back up on its feet. Now we finally have what sounds like a Great Promoter, and what is set up to be one of the best seasons in the WRC for 10 years and the UK Rally fans have been let down, and are unable to see it. Not only that, the UK is a massive car market for manufactures. It’s already hard for the UK. we have the most expensive WRC event, and now no coverage of it. The Sport has already been forgotten about by most of the population. But is this what dedicated fans who have stuck by and shown their support get in return? We do not fully understand the reasons for this terrible situation and it can’t help that we don’t have a competing British driver. But TV and media coverage in the UK must be a priority for the new Promoter. if not for the fans, then for the competing manufactures to be able to show off their Product to the British Public, which is the main reason for their participation in the sport.
So a mixture of positives and negatives to take away from the first round of the 2013 WRC. What I must point out to all who is reading this though, is that the Sports official website WRC.com have in the videos section, Daily Highlights of each days action, similar to that of the TV programs sent out to Broadcasting companies around the world. In perfect quality and very well produced. The boys behind the scenes who put the coverage together did a brilliant job! Good to see some ‘photography skills’ put in to the filming. The ‘Slowmo’ shots are brilliant. So if anyone is struggling to get coverage anywhere in the world, I recommend you go over to WRC.com and check them out now! Hopefully that will be the case for the whole season. The WRC is a true spectacle that you don’t see anywhere else in the world and deserves to be on show to the world.
Loeb took the win on the Monte. 1 of his 4 rally’s won. Next up is Rally Sweden, can he do it again?