Loads of Drama on Special Stages - Day 2, Rally Finland - 2013

Today was a perfect example to explain about Sebastien Ogier and his veteran compatriot Loeb. It takes loads of patience, perhaps even large quantities of skill combined with a super intelligent mind to take it towards the victory. Competitor after competitor, stage after stage the carnage of the gravel GP took its toll, yet Ogier was the one who fought like a knight to take a 5.2 seconds overnight deficit to a 38.1seconds lead on the penultimate day. To make story easier, all tiny details are better explained below!

A morning rally stages in a cool damp Finland @15C, with overnight rain and light drizzle still, meant slippery roads! Opening stage for the day, SS7 Jukojärvi 1 with a total stage distance of 21.9 km was the first challenge and almost everyone got through safely on the top order cars, but not so lucky with Elfyn Evans. He had to tackle with a damaged front right suspension of his Fiesta R5 rally, and fix it at the end of the stage.

SS8 Palsankylä 1 - 13.92 km, and the WRC carnage started to with Novikov's crash [yet makes it to the service later, without serious damage, amazing!]. In the process of completing the stage, he showering with gravel to the Citroen DS3 WRC driver Kris Meeke, who was quickly behind. Meeke certainly not happy, as Novikov's car blocked him, unable to overtake.

SS9 and the drama keeps coming, now it was Hanninen's mistake and a rally end to him, for the day after clipping a rock alongside the road.

SS10: No tragedies, but Meeke remarks "When I've got nobody in front I'm really, really enjoying it", hinting the frustration in SS8

SS11, marks end of road to Martin Prokop who was forced to retire after a water pump failure.

SS12 Mikko has damage to the front, although not serious but with had a front left puncture from his moment.

SS13 & this time Thierry Neuville picks up a front left puncture near the start, he drops nearly 20 seconds. 

SS14 & it's Andreas Mikkelsen this time into trouble, shows up with his 3 wheeled Polo. Literally! He lost a rear left wheel completely off with the damper, to the floor dragging to the finish. But the drama didn't end there, quickly Mads Ostberg arrived with a front left puncture.

With just one super special stage to end the day, it was a moment of truth as to who would be the opener of the final day. Sebastien Ogier! Not to miss it, but what a class performance by Neuville!

The young Belgian fought with the odds back to 2nd overall by the end of the day. Laudable! The same cheer goes to Kris Meeke who despite being first time in a WRC car in Finland finished the day in top 5.

Now by the end of the day, it is VW 1 & Ford 2 & 3.. Check EOD timings here. Until tomorrow, sayonara!
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Day 1 Concludes, Quite a Bit of Drama on the Stages at Rally Finland - 2013

Sebastien Ogier opened the first stage win, Latvala came close in second, while Mikko clocked third quickest. The second stage, Torittu 1 got dramatic to VW boys after a bit of drama at the top 2 positions, as Ogier slipped down to get out 5th fastest, and Latvala hit a rock damaging the left-rear suspension and bled a lot of time finishing 35th.

Latvala narrates, "It happened just before the road widened, on a right hand corner over a crest," explained the Finn. "The car lifted and went wide and we hit a stone on the outside which broke the rear suspension." One man's agony is another man's opportunity, M-Sport's Fiesta WRC driver Thierry Neuville literally flew through the stage to claim the stage win, equalling Mikko on the top of the overall leadership status.

In SS3 Koukunmaa, Ogier took the stage victory, but was not enough to reclaim his top overall position. Neuville was very much behind Ogier with under a second and maintained his top rank. The impared VW pair with four more stages to complete without any service, Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila worked on to repair their car frantically. Later, the duo checked into SS3 being 28 minutes late, incurring a 4min 40sec penalty and also adding another vital three minutes after carefully cruising through the stage to finish the day.
Latvala realised that the suspension was getting worse and decided to call it a day at the end of SS4. With the lost advantage of another 2m30s in the repeat of the SS4 Torittu 2, it was inevitable to save the car for atleast tomorrow's action in Rally 2. It was the turn of stage win to Mikko in SS4 and to move upwards to equal first overall held by Neuville, while Ogier slipped to 3rd.

SS5 was the most dramatic, with showers in the middle of the stage, left the downhill part of the stage rutted and filled with water. Mikko lost nearly 16seconds and was left fuming with the situation, after dropping to 5th overall. The situation was almost same with most of the competition, who most of them barely racing in the narrow rainy gravel road section. Ogier, Neuville and most of them experienced fog inside the cabin due to steam arising from the drenched hot parts of the car.

Killeri was the celebrity super special, with Tommi Makinen entertaining the crowd with the classic Mitsubishi Evo3 Grp A rally car. Here again, Neuville took the stage victory and is the overnight leader of he pack. Ogier finished the day at second overall and Mads Ostberg in third. That being two fords in top-3, M-Sport boss should be a happy man.

In WRC-2 category, Jari Ketomaa leads the pack with Robert Kubica under 24 seconds deficit, while Elfyn Evans is right under the former F1 driver nose, a close 2 seconds short.

The action starts tomorrow morning, with SS7 Jukojärvi 1 at 21.9 km, it is one of the longest for tomorrow. Until tomorrow, Adios!
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Pirelli to Join the existing band of tire suppliers, Michelin, D'MACK and Hankook in 2014

FIA, the international motorsport authority announced that Pirelli, one of the most prominent global tyre manufacturer is shown interest to be one of the tyre supplier for WRC. Below is the official press release by the FIA.

The FIA is pleased to confirm that four manufacturers have registered to supply tyres to the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship.
DMACK, Hankook and Michelin continue to support the Championship and will be joined by Pirelli for next season.

FIA Rally Director, Jarmo Mahonen said: “We are obviously very pleased to have competition between four manufacturers next year, three of whom are already supporting our Championships. Having Pirelli return to the series is also very positive, and together these four brands will provide a great platform for open competition as well as choice and variety for our competitors.”

They were out of WRC by the end of season 2010, and it is indeed a good omen to the sport. Hope more competition fields up in every area of the sport.
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Mikko is the Fastest Finn in [Qualifying] Neste Oil Rally Finland - 2013

Rally Finland officially got into action today, with a couple of free practice sessions and finally finished all hair-raising action at the Qualifying Stage. It was Latvala & then Ogier who were fastest in the first two tests, but it is the Qualifying Stage timing that counts.

Local WRC hero, Citroen's No.1 driver, the birthday boy, Mikko Hirvonen - was the fastest with a time of 2m15.516s and is expected choose to start last of the WRC cars tomorrow.

Sebastien Ogier was the second fastest with a tiny lag of +0.248s, while Thierry Neuville was short of +0.437s behind the leader. Novikov +0.500s, Latvala +0.742s, Mikkelsen +0.974s, Ostberg +1.361s, Hänninen +1.417s, Meeke +1.835s, Sordo +1.906, Nikara +2.673s, Andersson +3.294s, and Prokop with +4.723s finished the WRC class order.

Apart from the top level competition, we get to see the new M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 cars, with Elfyn Evans and Jari Ketoma taking on the challenge, with Robert Kubica to defend against this new breed of car and the most awaited of the return of the former World Rally Champ, Tommi Makinen doing the short SS Killeri. Pontus Tidemand the leader in JWRC class and will be the one to watch in the Junior WRC.

With the good choice of starting position, will Mikko be able to hold on to the advantage to a victory that has been evading him so long? Only time will tell !

The first car takes on the opening stage Himos 1 of the rally tomorrow at 12:15hrs, local time. Until then stay hooked for more updates.
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Finally After a BIG Long Break - Top Level Rallying Resumes at Finland

WRC had hibernated to a mid-season break, so did we. After a gap of little more than a month at the top level action, WRC returns at the Jyväskylä, Finland. Neste Oil Rally Finland or best known abbreviated as NORF is the best of the gravel rallies and unarguably the most celebrated. Highly enthusiastic crowd, super-charged competitors,  teamed-up manufacturers/constructors, and not to forget the organisers; is the right combo to make this event not just celebrated one, but more like a seriously 'religious place of rallying'.

A couple of events passed through the break period [both at the ERC round of Sibiu Rally - Romania, and even back in Indian National Rally Championship, at Rally of Coimbatore], the top level rallying brings in the much charm that charts no boundary.

Although the much anticipated mid-season break gave most of the teams and their athletes, a minor slack here and there were expected. This time it was the championship leader Sebastien Ogier's co-driver, Julien Ingrassia broke his collar-bone after a fall during a mountain bike outing. Luckily, he got treated in time and the surgery paid back with a good recovery and he cleared a medical fitness check and will be there for the rally. His time-off of the testing was made-up with replacement co-driver Nicolas Klinger for Ogier, of VW's home rally, ADAC Rally Deutschland, which will be the next rally to happen.

Tommi Makinen will be back this weekend at NORF! Yes, that's right ! He had hinted this, a couple of week back and officially broke the news recently. We get to see the former champ blasting through the Killeri SS on Thursday, in beloved Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3 Group-A car. It is the same car which brought his first World Rally Championship Driver's title. It is going to be a single stage he would be driving, as we can expect it to be a collectible rally car; it is a shame that we might not get to see him in any of the existing lineup of cars.

Kris Meeke is back in a WRC [Citroen DS3 WRC] car after nearly two years and for the second time at Rally Finland, and for first time here in a WRC car; time filling up for Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al-Qassimi absence. He will be joining Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo, for Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT.

Everybody were busy testing before the event, so was JM Latvala. Watch him drive in this video.

Sit tight and enjoy the rally...
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