Anybody who follows the World Rally Championship already knows what happened here. Finally, without the superhuman foe of umpteen-time champion Sebastien Loeb around, somebody else looks like he might just win the WRC. Dude’s name is also Sebastien. Seriously, VW, your cloning program is just a tad too obvious.
Anyway, circumstances found me and my camera wandering around this Mediterranean Isle with press access, snapping away. I’m not the greatest photographer in the world, but sometimes it’s all down to the advice a pro once gave me: F9 and Be There.
Sproing! Owing to travel delays on the part of the Italians (WHO KNEW?), I was the only Canadian to show up to Micky’s Jump, the highest crest in the whole WRC circuit. No Problem, as that meant I didn’t have to do anything except shoot pics. Some of the more crazy ones are over at Road&Track, but everybody went airborne here, big-time.
Whee! There’ll be a few more shots in the gallery below. Suffice to say it was dusty and hot, and the sound of rallyists attempting to out-do Elon Musk’s SpaceX program sounds very much like cleaning up an ongoing fireworks accident with a really-big Dyson. Spectators were kept away from the action by a small piece of ribbon and several indifferent-looking track marshals.
Rally Sardinia is a two-day event, and during the first day cars had a remote service stage set up. That mean I could go for a jaunt around the empty main service area, checking out all the support vehicles and team areas. This bunch of Evos were all shop-worn and gravel-blasted. Pretty cool stuff.
Not as cool as these though. Gravel-prepped S60s! There were an entire transport-truck worth of these, and even a Subaru fan like me was thrilled to see Volvos and Mitsus still in use as official machines.
The next super-cool thing to happen was the arrival of all the rally cars – you can see how close fans were allowed to get. I may have elbowed Ogier accidentally while trying to get a shot of his car. All these machines drove here on public roads from the timed stage, and while you are nominally supposed to obey speed limits under penalty of being a very naughty man, the certainly didn’t spare the horses ripping up to the service entrance.
-Does this car actually crap Red Bull?
-What kind of a lease-rate can I get?
You are not allowed to take photos of the scrutineers doing scrutineering. I am just about to learn this.
Mechanics have just 29 minutes for the major service (one additional minute is burned going to-and-from the timing booth). They move quickly and quietly, speaking to each other only in low voices. However, at one point a shorter guy with a passing resemblance to John Oates misplaces his socket, and spend a good five minutes wandering around the car doing that hand-waving thing we all do when a tool goes missing. “Ach du lieber! I just had the damned thing!”
The head of VW’s three service teams explains how they make do with a limited number of spares. I do not like the way Miikka Anttila is eyeing me up.
Luis Moya explains the rules of rallying. Luis Moya! Luis turns out to be quite the gentleman, and is a pretty funny guy – he does a lot of endurance swimming, and always has to have a beer and a cigarette immediately after any event. Europeans.
I took this picture one-handed – I was wearing a Diesel Sweeties maple-leaf shirt and a Sardinian gent wandered up to me, said, “Canadian?” and then promptly handed me a plastic cup of home-made wine. While the cars all danced past, showering spectators in sand and grit, I metabolized this wine (pretty good!), and then pee’d it out against a thousand-year-old stone fence while the webcam helicopter went buzzing around all over the place as if its pilot had also been at the vino famiglia.
An integral part of the VW Motorsports media juggernaut. This thing was worth probably as much as a Golf R, and it hovered around getting great shots and reminding us all faintly of Skynet.
Here is Robert Kubica concentrating.
Here is Robert Kubica eating a ham sandwich.
We ate these, which came in a fresh-baked bun with the local Sardinian beer for like 3-4 Euros. No bleachers, no stands, no tickets, no concession stands – just a field full of cork trees and goat droppings and a bunch of people here to watch cars go fast.
This guy needs to learn about panning. Also, protective orange fence!
This stage had a portion of track “artificially” created to allow spectators a little longer look at the cars. The choppah was busy.
A third-tier Subaru from above. Run-out includes comfy-looking rocks and large trees.
Not a great picture, but the amateur rally stuff is my favourite. Plus, Pug!
Ah yes, the Italian team. Who don’t like neckwear.
Anyone who thinks matte-black is played out, check out this thing.
The Victorious Ogier rolls into the paddock, missing half a bumper.
The post-race scrum as everyone rushes to congratulate the drivers. Never mind that: on the bottom of the screen is evidence of Ogier’s celebratory mini-burnout.
Before the podium, some of the cars go tearing along this palm-tree-lined boulevard, right through the middle of town.
Of course, the Italian entry gets a hero’s welcome.
Here’s a very non-WRC Polo, that’s BCAS-approved. Damnit, Miikka, my eyes are UP HERE.