Posts Tagged ‘Rally’

Summer 2013 – Photo Scrapbook

September 8, 2013

A selection of images from this summer’s motorsport based shenanigans.

Scrubbing a Vanquish at Oulton Park.

Scrubbing a Vanquish at Oulton Park.

After the tragic passing of Alan Simonsen, we tried to honour him as best we could at the AMR Le Mans hospitality unit.

After the tragic passing of Alan Simonsen, we tried to honour him as best we could at the AMR Le Mans hospitality unit.

Rally Ypres takes over the whole town, electric atmosphere.

Rally Ypres takes over the whole town, electric atmosphere.

Alan Simonsen tribute sticker designed by Lillynd Design.

Alan Simonsen tribute sticker designed by Lillynd Design.

More Aston Martin GTs than you can shake a stick at. The grid for the awesome Festival race at Brand Hatch.

More Aston Martin GTs than you can shake a stick at. The grid for the awesome Festival race at Brand Hatch.

MotoGP, it doesn't matter what you drive, the appeal of a certain gentleman is universal.

MotoGP, it doesn’t matter what you drive, the appeal of a certain gentleman is universal.

The GT4 Challenge cars line up with the Dutch GTs in one of the Spa 24hr support races.

The GT4 Challenge cars line up with the Dutch GTs in one of the Spa 24hr support races.

Our view from the truck of the Spa 24hr, what a mega place.

Our view from the truck of the Spa 24hr, what a mega place.

Rally Ypres, cuts plus sump guards equals sparks.

Rally Ypres, cuts plus sump guards equals sparks.

Rally Ypres, the locals were fully lit for the whole event.

Rally Ypres, the locals were fully lit for the whole event.

Freddie Liox using as little of the road as possible

Freddie Liox using as little of the road as possible

Silverstone, Moto 2, a field of utter, utter lunatics.

Silverstone, Moto 2, a field of utter, utter lunatics.

Scott Redding on his way to winning the Silverstone round of Moto 2

Scott Redding on his way to winning the Silverstone round of Moto 2

The Doctor at Silverstone, biggest cheers of the weekend.

The Doctor at Silverstone, biggest cheers of the weekend.

Local hero Cal Crutchlow flying through Becketts.

Local hero Cal Crutchlow flying through Becketts.

Advertisements

Tour of Epynt 2013

March 10, 2013

A selection of shots from today’s Tour of Epynt. By God it was cold, but the guys ‘n’ girls put on a great show, as ever.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Wales Rally GB – End of an era

November 21, 2010

Last weekend I made the trip over to Wales for the final round of the 2010 WRC. Having lived in Wales, it’s always great fun going back (the roads are frankly incredible). This trip had an added significance however. With the driver’s title already wrapped up by a certain Mr Loeb, the championship fight wasn’t the draw. Instead, the pull was the fact that this would be the last time that we see the 2.0L World Rally Car in the hands of the quickest men in the sport, for this era is now at an end.

Remember when Loeb used to just be a Tarmac specialist? Me neither.

I’m a big fan of what is to come, so I won’t lament over the ‘slowing down of the sport’. The 1600 Turbos that are on the way look the part, sound the part and still go like something off a shovel. We needn’t fear for our sport losing it’s spectacle. That said, this was the last chance that we would have the chance to see works World Rally Cars. The plan was to do all three days, to get the most bang for our buck. Tickets were bought, cheap hotels were booked, the fuel tank was brimmed. We were going.

The shape of things to come.

The stages we chose were Sweet Lamb on Friday, Fourways & Halfway on Saturday and Resolven on Sunday.

Sweet Lamb is a natural amphitheatre were you can see the cars tackle jumps, hairpins and two water splashes, the cars being visible for well over a minute. The only teeny snag was the horizontal rain that battered us on the second running of the stage. It was certainly exciting, my iPhone overloading in my pocket made my coat feel like it had anti-lag. This didn’t dampen our spirits though, the cars were spectacular over both runnings, with Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala putting on the most flamboyant displays. Loeb was in ominous form but Petter was hounding him all the way.

Henning Solberg sprays some gravel on Sweet Lamb

Kimi kept it the right way up for the whole event!

Saturday took us back to Epynt. Regular readers will know my opinion of the Epynt military range, so the chance to see two stages there on the Saturday was a no-brainer. ‘Fourways’ was the first stage, a tarmac route, but with the stage directly after, ‘Halfway’ being gravel, the cars were up on gravel springs with gravel tyres. This created a huge amount of pitch and roll under braking and acceleration, fantastic to watch. It reminded me of the Grp A era in the early 90s when suspension technology wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is today, the suspension looked like it could barley cope with the demands. The cars looked far more at home on Halfway, the full gravel setup now far more appropriate. The speed that a top level car can carry over a loose surface is breathtaking to behold.

Mads Ostberg in the Adapta Subaru. Still my favourite car of this era.

Petter lobs it in, love the comedy suspension settings.

Ken Block had a solid run out in his Focus

Resolven on the Sunday morning was an early one, first car was at 7.38am. The road to the stage was absolutely brilliant. Uphill, switchback hairpins, in amongst the trees, it was a great way to get fired up before the stage started. We spectated next to a long downhill straight, the cars were absolutely flying past. The corner at the end of the straight was a tight 90 right, comparing the braking points was fascinating. Even compared to the other top guys, Loeb was so much later on the brakes than anyone else. He has so much belief in the car, it’s a joy to behold. There’s a reason he’s a 7 time champion.

Matt Wilson did his usual thing of finishing about 7th

Very slippery surface in Resolven, Kimi did well.

Andreas Mikkelsen beat several 'World' cars in his S2000 Fabia

I think it’s fitting that Loeb won it, even though Petter pushed him on all the way. Sebastian has dominated this period of the sport so convincingly, him taking the final win was predictable, but it felt right.

I was thoroughly impressed with the running of the event. I’ve only ever marshalled on it before, so I didn’t really know what to expect as a paying customer. I’d heard tales of tiny spectator pens ruining it for some fans in years past. Either this has been addressed in recent years by the organisers or the complaints at the time were simply blown out of proportion. I found the spectator areas to be huge and well marshalled. No heavy handed bossiness, just professionalism across all three days.

The National rally boys were keen to entertain!

Looks like next year will have to be a must see as well. I can’t wait to see what the new breed of cars can do in the hands of the factory drivers.

To finish I’d just like to add my voice to those lamenting the fact that Dave and Neil Cole won’t be covering the WRC next year. I think this is a real shame, the coverage has evolved and Neil has really grown in to the role of host. They really got the balance right this year, ditching the ‘celebrity guest’ element was a very welcome move. I’ve hugely enjoyed the coverage in 2010 and I for one am quite sad that Mr Cole won’t be venturing in to this new age of rallying with us.

A real MINI Adventure

August 2, 2010

Never one to be on time, here’s my take on MINI entering WRC.

Well it’s been such an open secret, for so long, it was hardly news was it? That said, how often do we hear manufacturers linked to motorsport series’ for it all to ultimately come to nothing? It’s very reassuring that pen has been put to paper and that Prodrive’s order books are filling up.

First and foremost, we have a new manufacturer in top level rallying, fantastic news. The IRC series has shown that the right regs and event format can attract new manufacturers to build works cars. Now that WRC has encouraged it’s first new entrant in years, I sincerely hope that others follow suit. We need some diversity, personally, I’m sad that WRC is purely Focus v C4 and PWRC is purely Impreza v Lancer, variety is the spice of life and all.

Hopefully, the S1.6 Turbo regs will encourage other manufacturers to come in. The 1.6 Turbo is particularly relevant to sport road models these days so why not prove it’s worth on the stages? Ford & Citroen have stood by the WRC for a long time, the marketing value clearly works for them, it could work for others too.

I’m totally in favour of the new 1600 turbo regs, from those who I’ve spoken to at Prodrive, the 1.6 unit will make the same peak power as the 2.0, it’ll just lack the torque. This means that the drivers will need to rev the nuts off then, revs = noise, so the fans will be happy, provided that these claims are accurate.

A new team means at least 2 more cars in the WRC, ignoring customer entries. The WRC badly needs more top level seats to improve the strength in depth of the field. There’s several crews in IRC and even National series’ who could hold their own at the top level, there just isn’t the seats to accommodate them. The driver question is a big one. MINI/Prodrive have said that they will only commit to certain rounds in 2011 with an eye on the full series in 2012. With this kind of plan, then need guys who cam develop a car. Drivers like Toni Gardemeister, PG Anderson, Marcus Gronholm or Markko Martin should be on their list. Once we get in to 2012, IRC chargers like Kris Meeke or Juho Hanninen could be a great prospect. I particularly rate Hanninen, he’s quick but also has a wonderful aggressive style that would thrill the fans.

While the MINI Countryman is a fairly reprehensible vehicle in terms of the original Mini’s vales, the WRC is a great way for them to market it so I wish them all the best. That said, you’ll still look a tit if you actually buy one with your own money : )

Finally, how good is to have Prodrive back? Yes, yes I know they never left thanks to Group N, but you know what I mean. It’s wonderful to have them return to the top flight.

Roll on 2011 I say.

Single Venue, Mixed Fortunes

April 20, 2010

This weekend I helped out a mate who was doing a rally at the MIRA test facility in Warwickshire. It was a single venue event, the stages made up of differing combinations of the test track and its access roads. It’s a popular one with the crews as it has lots of silky smooth tarmac that they can really attack on and bar the Armco, there’s not that much to hit.

My day started relatively early, Marcus’s (driver) co-driver Colin picked me up on the A5 at about 6.30am, just 10 mins down the road from MIRA. He’d come from the northeast, having left at about 3am, so my 6am start didn’t seem so bad all of a sudden.

The gate staff let us in to the venue at around 7am. We went off to the service park to set up while Marcus and Colin took the car and thier kit off to be scrutineered. The car in question was an all singing, all dancing 1400 Peugeot 205 Rallye with a specially built 1400cc engine running on Yamaha R1 bike carbs. It was only the second event with the car (but we knew how quick it was from competing against the previous owner). Event 1 ended badly with a bottom arm failure resulting in an unexpected meeting of 205 and tree, with the Pug coming off worst. In the weeks before MIRA, by some miracle the car was straightened up, re-prepped and made ready for the event.

We had high hopes as Marcus and Colin set off for stage 1, as Marcus had finished 2nd in class on this event last year in a car that wasn’t nearly as quick as the 205. The stage 1 result was mixed. The car was running well but Marcus had accidentally hit the engine kill switch a couple of times when going for first gear. It was decided that 1st wouldn’t be used from this point on!

Stage 2 is where things began to get interesting. Once we’d sent the guys back out, I wandered down to have a quick watch. I saw a few crews through before Marcus arrived. The corner was a 90 left round a straw bale leading to a short straight with a small bump on the exit of the corner. Marcus turned in, booted it and exited the corner. As they hit this small bump (with a bit of lock still on) I heard a loud CRACK. The 205 then began to coast, with Marcus revving the car but it wasn’t really going anywhere. Instantly I thought either clutch or gearbox, I didn’t know if he’d even make the end of the stage. I legged it to the stop control where they’d just managed to arrive. Turns out it was the CV joint on the driver’s side driveshaft that had broken and they’d crawled through the last 1/2 mile of the stage with 1 wheel drive. We pushed the car back in to service and got to work. We had about 50 mins before stage 3 started so we were in a bit of a rush. Trying to change a drive shaft when there’s a red-hot brake disc on the end of it isn’t easy, or much fun. However it was swapped out with a couple of minutes to spare and we sent the car on its way.

Despite the dramas we were sitting about 7th in class at this point, within striking distance of the top 3. The middle stages of the day went very well. Marcus steadily recovered the time lost on stages 1&2 and was setting times good enough for 2nd in class. The leader in class A was a Vauxhall Nova driven by Andrew Egger. We had no chance of catching him, he was on a mission and actually finished 10th overall, in amongst the Imprezas and Mk2 Escorts. A heroic performance.

No, we ignore Mr Egger, our fight was for 2nd and Marcus continued plugging away, setting good times. It was a very hot day for an April and the car was feeling it. To draw the heat away from the engine we had the heaters on max, lovely when it’s 18C ambient and you’re working hard behind the wheel in 3 layers of Nomex. Rather them than me! The thermostat read fine though and we just made sure we bled off any air that was in the system after each stage (there may have been a small airlock in the system) but it was fine.

2 stages, about 18 miles to go. While refueling, torquing up the wheels etc, a media type, we think from Motorpsort News, wandered over. The fact that we have been in the exact same position the previous year (2nd to Mr Egger by a huge margin) seemed to amuse him. However, after Marcus told him of our strife throughout the day, this appeared to pique the journo’s interest and he started scribbling in his notepad. Yay, it looked like we might get a mention in that week’s comic. Then came stage 8, the last one of the rally.

We sent Marcus & Colin off with simply holding station in mind. We were 2nd, about 1 minute ahead of 3rd place; a comfortable gap with only 9 or so miles to go. The service park was within sight of the middle of the stage so once we got packed up we stood watching for Marcus. The Metro 6r4 that he’d been behind on the road all day came through, so we knew Marcus would be 30 seconds or so behind it. Then we saw a white Nova. Where was our guy? Then a Mk2 Escort came through. Seriously, where was Marcus?  We shared some pensive looks, surely he hasn’t gone off, he had a massive lead? At that point the ambulance and recovery vehicles sped out of the service park. Shit. Were they for our car?

Then, the phone call. We instantly thought the worse, if they’ve gone off, God I hope they’re ok. They weren’t off, the engine had gone with only 2 miles to go. And when I say gone, I mean GONE. While cruising, simply to hold position, one of the connecting rods decided that it was no longer content with moving up and down and decided to follow a path of it’s own choosing. It fired itself through the engine block which instantly showered the exhaust manifold in oil. This immediately caught light, the car was on fire. It took both the handheld and the plumbed in extinguishers to kill the fire, brave work by Marcus but I guess the adrenaline was pumping and rally cars are expensive. The fire damage wasn’t too bad, but the bigger story was the extra holes now in the engine block.

Note the new holes, gulp.

We were gutted. Instead of waiting round to pick up a trophy for 2nd in class we waited for every car to go through the stage so the trucks could recover the 205. Pissing oil out of the bottom, the engine bay looked a mess, everyone was crestfallen.

The engine is off to the builders, they can expect quite a bill, but we had such a good day up to that point. Such is life I guess, but fate can be very cruel sometimes.

Quick mention for our sponsors, without which we couldn’t even go rallying:

Tinsley Joiners

Rodgers Plant Hire

Taylor Signs

Samson Fire Protection

*All photos kindly provided by www.rally-media.co.uk

An unfortunate question of timing

April 1, 2010

The news broke this morning from the New York International Auto Show, finally a new four-door, big winged Scooby is on the horizon. As a long time Subaru fan (family Prodrive connection) this is wonderous news, Evos just don’t do it for me I’m afraid. That said neither did the current gen WRX, only with the full fat STI did Subaru dig themselves out a hole that was entirely of thier own making. Quite why they tried to make a softer, more palatable car out of the Impreza when they had the Legacy sat there I’ll never know. But hey ho, that’s all in the past now.

Get out, you bloater

A new Impreza that looks far better then when the first shots were leaked last week, not that looks are really important in a rally replica but from the press renderings it looks right. It looks muscular, slightly awkward but purposful, everything an Impreza has historically been about.  No specs yet but you’ve got to expect a very similar set up to the current models. So hooray for the road car, but what does this mean for the competition side?

Is the Impreza back?

Since Subaru limped out of the WRC a couple of years ago, the rallying world has moved on. The WRC from 2011 will use 1.6 litre turbo engines as opposed to the current 2.0 litre units. The cars that contain these engines are much smaller than the Impreza (next year expect a titanic struggle between Citroen’s new DS3 and Ford’s scarily quick looking Fiesta). These cars, built on the current S2000 regs are significantly cheaper to run than the current WRC machines and are growing in popularity. They’re a match for the current group N Production WRC machinery from Mitsubishi and Subaru on both sealed and loose surfaces and cost roughly the same. The only real difference is that turbo group N cars are easier to drive but aren’t as spectacular as the high revving NA S2000s.

Add to this scene a wailing engine note and rejoice that rally's future might have been secured.

I can’t see Subaru (ok, Prodrive)  dropping a 1.6 into an Impreza, which means that the forseable future, Subaru still won’t be in the top flight of international rallying. The only way this could happen is if the regs went back to 2L turbos, which I don’t think will ever happen. The automotive world is committed on the path to small displacement turbo engines before we all have to run sodding diesel-hybrid-tofu-mobiles. I’m completely in favour of the small, turbo petrol engine, it’s the right thing to do for the industry, I’d like to see 1L turbo engines in F1 too, but I digress.

I hope my scepticism is unfounded and Subaru decide that it’ll be a great idea to  put a smaller engine in their WRC car (assuming they come back at all). However until such a thing happens my joy at a new Scoob will be tempered by the fact that, we probably wont see a blue and yellow one being flung down the road by one of the world’s top WRC crews, ever.

Will we ever see it's like again?

Brilliant Epynt

March 15, 2010

Last weekend, Epynt, near Brecon in Wales was the venue for the opening round of the 2010 Richard Egger Insurance MSA Asphalt Rally Championship.

Epynt Military Ranges are MOD land that is opened up a few times a year to host some of the fastest Tarmac rallies in the country. Narrow ribbons of tarmac weave their way across hillsides and through mock German villages, built to simulate fighting the Russians in WWIII. I love the place, mainly because it’s so sodding quick. The rally consisted of 6 stages, two layouts repeated three times, with each stage being about 12 miles long. It’s a mix of flat out sections over jumps and long, sweeping bends with the occasional tight, technical section thrown in to keep the average speed down. The weather was about as good as you get; Epynt seems to it’s own weather system, but it behaved itself on this occasion. It was chilly to begin with and quite windy, but crucially, it was dry.

After spectating on the event for a few years now, it seems to me that being quick here requires above all else, trust. The driver must first trust the notes that their navigator is calling, miss read a corner here and the consequences can be expensive and painful. The driver also needs to trust the car. He/she must believe that it will grip when they enter a string of 5/6th gear bends. They must know that the suspension will cope with the crests and not spit the car off in a direction of it’s own choosing when landing.

As usual, there was a real mix of machinery on the event. From ex works Impreza, Focus and Fabia WRC cars right down to 1.3 Minis and Novas. Add in to the mix a Metro 6R4, a very special, and rapid Audi S3, numerous Mk2 Escorts and a clutch of Darrians, made it a varied and exciting mix of tarmac weaponry.

The most spectacular viewing point of the day was a crest on stages 4-6. They ran in the opposite direction to those in the morning. This meant that instead of approaching the crest after twisty climb, the crews would now be hitting it after a flat, half mile straight.

The quickest crews were arriving at this point well in excess of 100 mph. The seemingly gentle kink launched the cars in to the air with breathtaking ease. The wind at this point was briskly gusting across the track, creating an intermittent, but fiendish cross wind. The cars were airborne for a good two seconds and seeing them buffet in the air as the wind hit was both thrilling a quite terrifying. There’s been some big accidents over the years at this point, the crews understand the risks but still display incredible commitment.

The event was won by Peter Lloyd/Graham Handly in thier Subaru S12 WRC by a margin of 37s over Steve Simpson/Mark Booth in another WRC Impreza.

Special mention must go the 3rd placed crew of Simon Mauger/Chris Butcher who beat a raft of far more exotic machinery in their Mk2 Escort.

The sight of these cars flying through the air only a couple of meters from where you’re standing is utterly intoxicating. These crews are performing absolute heroics and long may it continue. The guys in the BMW below typify the spirit of the event, brilliant.

2010 – A Race Odyssey

February 24, 2010

Epynt – A ribbon of Tarmac sent from Heaven

I need to see more rallies this year. While I lived in Wales for 4 years, top quality rallying was right on my doorstep, after Rugby, it’s got to be the national sport. A favourite venue to visit was the Epynt military ranges near Brecon. It’s a widely used venue, consisting of  fast, pristine tarmac draped on a hill side, oh and there’s some big jumps.

Epynt is a venue that rewards the brave. The stages consist of long straights and sweeping bends over dips, crests, leading to high speed jumps. To rally fans it’s like the Baumholder stages in WRC Germany, to others, imagine the Nordschleife, but half as wide and with no Armco.

You get a variety of machinery doing the event, from WRC Imprezas to 1.4 Nova SRis, via the odd Metro 6R4 and classic Escort. What’s so great about Epynt is that it’s so fast, even a tiny Nova can be spectacular due the speed that they build up. If you want to see a rally car in full flight, this is the event to go to.

http://www.ptmconline.com/tour_of_epynt.asp – The organising club’s website, you’ll find spectator info here

http://www.ptmconline.com/entry_list.asp – Un-seeded entry list

March 14th is the date of the 2010 Auto Fix Swansea Tour of Epynt – No the date hasn’t escaped me, it’s F1 from Bahrain on the same day, I’ll have a tape set, this is too good to pass up…