WRC Rally de España & Wales Rally GB
Volkswagen’s Sébastien Ogier had a pretty decent autumn. In October the Frenchman secured a fourth successive world title in Spain, then two weeks later took his fourth straight victory on the Wales Rally GB, a result that makes him jointly the most successful competitor in the history of the event (with Hannu Mikkola and Petter Solberg).
The Wales Rally GB – unusually the penultimate round of the championship – heralded Ogier’s sixth win of the season, but only his first on gravel. This was largely the result of running order regulations that have forced the championship leader to go first on the road over the opening two days of each event this year, sweeping up loose gravel for those following. Ogier was naturally bitterly opposed to this, even threatening to quit the championship at one point.
“What’s hard to take is that this was a regulation written specifically to punish our success, but in the end we still got the result we wanted, and that’s the memory we will take away,” he said.
He had to fight hard, however, for both his victories. Spain is the only mixed-surface event on the calendar, and after an opening day on gravel it was Hyundai’s Dani Sordo who led in front of his home crowd. Only when the route switched to asphalt on Saturday and Sunday was Ogier able to take control.
In Britain Ott Tanak was Ogier’s closest challenger in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta. The Estonian ended the rally just 10sec behind the new world champion, which was the tightest finish of the season so far. Tanak – who has a reputation for being devastatingly fast but slightly erratic – came heartbreakingly close to winning in Poland this year as well, and Ogier admitted: “I had to push very hard to keep him behind me: Ott drove an excellent rally in extremely slippery conditions, so I want to congratulate him for this.”
Generally, though, Hyundai emerged as the closest challenger over the season to Volkswagen, which wrapped up its fourth consecutive championship for manufacturers on the Rally GB. A few days later the German manufacturer announced it was withdrawing from the championship next year.
Belgian Thierry Neuville was third for Hyundai in both Spain and Britain, having put an uncertain start to the season behind him. With just one rally remaining, in Australia, Hyundai was assured of second place in the standings. The Korean firm had been impressive, but part of its success had been down to a combination of mistakes and accidents from Volkswagen drivers Jari-Matti Latvala (nominated to score points alongside Ogier) and Andreas Mikkelsen. In Spain Latvala broke his suspension and Mikkelsen had a big accident; in Britain they both suffered broken driveshafts, a fate Ogier feared might affect his own Polo.
To some extent it was a similar story for Citroën – which ended its transitional year with a privateer team on Rally GB, before the all-new C3 WRC makes its debut in Monte Carlo. Kris Meeke, a two-time winner this season, admitted that he made too many mistakes in Spain but secured fifth on Rally GB. Team-mate Craig Breen was stymied by a driveshaft breakage in Spain and then rolled out in the
forests of Wales.
But the most popular entry on the UK event was probably five-time British champion Jimmy McRae, who finished the national section 16th overall in a Vauxhall Magnum – a similar car to the one he used for his debut on Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship exactly 40 years earlier. Anthony Peacock
Breakfast Club Goodwood
A sunny yet near freezing day last month heralded the final Goodwood Breakfast Club of 2016. And whilst the temperature ensured hands were kept firmly in pockets, there was always the notable raspy sound of hundreds of polished hot hatches descending on the Sussex circuit to warm the hearts of the cold punters.
Not ones to be left out, Motor Sport brought along a pristine Lancia Delta Integrale to display amongst some impressive examples of ’80s, ’90s and ’00s hatches. With a free copy of the latest issue available for every attendee, the sunshine glinting off pristinely polished vehicles and a relaxed atmosphere around the circuit, it was an excellent event and one for the diary next year. Joel Fothergill
Race of Remembrance Anglesey
Perched on the Isle’s South-Western shore, overlooking the Irish Sea, Anglesey Circuit is arguably one of the best-kept secrets of British motor racing. In mid-November it hosted the annual Race of Remembrance, run by Mission Motorsport, a charity set up to support injured ex-servicemen.
The third running of the event attracted an appearance from one Britain’s most decorated Olympians, Sir Chris Hoy, competing alongside Jade Edwards, Paralympic gold medallist Jon-Allan Butterworth, Tom Onslow-Cole and Paul White in a VW Golf R. The Hand Controlled team got off to a bad start having been forced to switch to a more standard Golf before qualifying as their race car developed engine-mapping woes.
Synchro Motorsport pairing Alyn James and Dan Wheeler qualified the Honda team’s Civic on pole position for the nine-hour encounter, which began at dusk on Saturday evening for the first three hours. GT racer Edwards climbed from fourth to lead on lap one, and maintained the position at the end of the first hour, despite having to stop the car briefly with turbo trouble. Meanwhile, the Synchro Honda took the first of its stops and dropped down the order. Wade Eastwood and Charles Graham (Datum Lotus Elise) moved into the lead as night fell.
Racing recommenced on Sunday morning, until a pause in proceedings for a remembrance service. With the competing cars lined up on the start straight, the entire paddock assembled in the pits and maintained a poignant silence.
As the action resumed, the Synchro Civic retook the lead and went on to win, while Datum’s Elise dropped from second to fourth in the closing stages with gear selection problems. Caterham teams SBP Racing and Sofa King Fast completed the podium.
Aimed at club-level racers, the event mandated a minimum of six stops – each of at least four minutes – and the Hand Controlled Golf was forced to stop more frequently than its rivals, having only a standard fuel tank. Butterworth, making his motor racing debut, completed the last stint and brought the car home in 19th of 41.
“It was amazing, different from any motor sport event I’ve attended,” said Hoy at the end. “We had some problems, but the racing was great. It’s not just about the guys who are racing, but all those who are involved in the charity. I’ll definitely be back.” Hal Ridge