Not so much a bad idea but one that could have been improved. Stages one and two were run on the Great Orme, a ribbon of Tarmac around the cliff’s edge overlooking the Irish Sea. It looked fantastic in the sunlight and the spectators had flocked there to see their heroes giving it their all. But for me World Rally Cars in gravel specification on Tarmac just don’t look right. It’s a shame that we can’t run them in Tarmac trim, as they look great when they’re hugging the asphalt.
With a championship fight in the offing, any moment that involved either Loeb or Hirvonen was going to be key to the rally, and it was on stage seven where it heated up, quite literally. Only a few kilometres into Dyfnant, Hirvonen ran wide and clipped a bank, which subsequently spun him into the bushes. He was quickly back on the road but just as quickly his car’s water temperature started to rise. He stopped once in the stage and arrived at the stop line having dropped nearly four minutes to Loeb. It wasn’t looking good and when desperate roadside repairs on the way back to service didn’t fix the problem he had no option but to call it a day. Hirvonen’s emotional call to the team said it all: “Sorry guys, that’s the end of it”. Loeb was now eight times world champion.
What I liked:
Hirvoven’s road section woes - not because I wanted to see him retire but because of the good nature of both him and Jarmo Lehtinen, his co-driver. At the end of the stage the last thing they would have wanted was to see me and my cameraman capturing their frantic efforts to fix their car. Through all the trials and tribulations on the road they never lost their temper or told us to get out of the way. They were true professionals to the end.
Quote of the rally:
Jari-Matti Latvala arrived at the end of stage 17 on Saturday in the lead and desperately wanting to finish the job off the next day. I said to Latvala that Loeb said that he had found a new rival in him to which Latvala responded: “I’m so hungry for the victory, he’s now eight times world champion, maybe he doesn’t have that spark anymore to fight completely at 100 per cent, but I do!”
Pace note of the rally:
Ken Block has pace notes read to him on rallies all over the world, but one on Rally GB that Alex Gelsomino had to read out was great: “Right 6+/crest, sheep maybe”.
9/10. For me Rally GB had everything going for it. The two championship contenders were fighting at the front only for both to retire on road sections. Loeb won his eight world title, Latvala won for the first time since Finland last year. Two Norwegian privateers were on the podium. Eight Fords and two MINIs were in the top 10 and two Brits were in the top five - a gold star to anyone who can remember the last time that happened. Finally, seeing the emotion of Craig Breen and Gareth Roberts when they won the WRC Academy Cup was just brilliant and what a way to end the season.