Rally GB: Retro Style
Rear-drive Escorts would be a good way to spice up WRC, unexpected oncoming traffic not so much
Christian Geistdörfer, Terry Harryman, Derek Ringer, Robert Reid: just some of the great co-driving names in the wonderful sport of rallying. My name, most definitely and absolutely, will never be on that list. Sure, like any bloke I like to think I can tell one end of the map from the other, and take pride in plotting a route the old fashioned way, especially if it means out-witting the sat nav system.
And then there's the car I'm sitting in. Arguably the quintessential rally car of all time, the Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800 doesn't want to know much about anything below 7,000rpm. It is also entirely comfortable with being ragged to 9,500rpm, at which point it sounds - and feels through the chassis - like the most savage, over-sized, industrial chainsaw ever built. It's so angry you imagine it wants to rip a chunk of front bulkhead off and start chewing on it while using it's pistons as missiles around the service car park.
We're at Great Orme, Llandudno in North Wales, ready for stages one and two of Wales Rally GB - part of a warm-up act of classic rally cars to run through the stage before Loeb and co show up.
Sadly - although thankfully without any tragic consequences - the fun stops (very) abruptly when it becomes apparent that various FIA cars have been let into the stage at the other end, a liberal smearing of Kumho's finest testament to the ensuing 'moment' along with a hefty dry cleaning bill.
The current troubles of the WRC are a frequent topic of heated debate among most motorsport enthusiasts, and rightly so. The A55 to Llandudno was quiet and seemed entirely devoid of the mud-splattered Impreza, Evo and hot hatch convoys of yesteryear, once ferrying tired rally fans to the next stage complete with dodgy service station snacks and dog-eared map books. The cars, the events, the competition, the prices, the media, the TV coverage, the FIA - there are many issues to discuss and no room for it here, but while it's far too simplistic to blame any one area, even with rose-tinted spectacles firmly removed, it's obvious that a drifting, rear-drive rally car at 9,500rpm has plenty of teach the current generation cars when it comes to raw entertainment. Long live the RS1800.
Still has fast cars driving like mad in difficult terrain and spectators can get very close to the action. I don't think there is a sport that offers what Rally does to its spectators.
Deviating off topic slightly, but the Group A period remains my fave period of modern rally. The 2.0L WRC cars are fantastic machines, but the homologation requirements of Group A placed the shortest distance between World Rally and mass produced showroom car that 4wd rallying has seen to date. And consider the performance icons that were born in that period: Impreza, Evo, Escort Cossie, GTi-R, Celica GT4...
...with the FiA wanting to bring manufacturers back, this sort of rule set is unlikely to come back to WRC any time soon, but for me it remains the best period of rallying as both a spectator and car enthusiast.
Referring back to the main article, I personally didn't attend the WRC this year as, of all the UK based rally events, it is by far the expensive and most restrictive to attend. I'd much rather spend the same money on attending a number of the smaller rallies in the UK (where you can see a variety of 2wd and 4wd, WRC and bespoke, rally cars) then the single WRC round.
Hopefully the return of more manufacturers will bring some interest back to WRC; full time MINI next year, the start of participation from VW and more manufacturers are supposedly developing cars as well. Plus someone needs to break Loeb's stranglehold on the title, his dominance is becoming boring!
Mk2 Escorts in particular are well represented, and who wouldn't want to watch this -
As I said in my previous post far more appealing then the WRC at present. Plus there were no ridiculously high entry fees to spectate and, when you were watching, you weren't penned in to a restricted viewing area (like the WRC).
Of all the current rally series its the Irish Tarmac Championships that has got my vote the last couple of years. Great entry lists, close competition and some of the tightest stages you've ever seen!
Oh sorry was I a bit late?
What he said though
I did however notice the lack of the usual machinery in the forest car parks. In the past even I would have been there in a Jap turbo or French hot hatch. The last time I spectated on WRGB it was like turning up to a Subaru club day! Not so this time. That, I think, is a very very sad sign of the times.
Germany and Spain don't seem to have such problems on their WRC rounds...
The best Rally in the UK....
Heater in the Grale is a bit pants though and I am getting a bit nesh in my old age :-)
Although the pace past us was slower than hoped it still sounded excellent, especially the V8 Firenza that was barking behind you
As for A55 being quiet - seems we all managed to make our way on to the hill in an orderly manner - local press had 10000 down as having been there, a good turn out I'd say