In the second and final part of our Wales Rally GB review, we look at the driver who endured a weekend he will not wish to remember and name the pilot who opened our eyes with some blistering speed.
One to Forget
Rally GB is one of Jari-Matti Latvala’s favourite rallies. The Finn has won it twice before and ran as high as third on Friday morning, despite a couple of close calls.
Sadly, it all went wrong for the Toyota Yaris driver in the second pass of Penmachno, at the same fast right corner that very nearly claimed Elfyn Evans in the morning run.
Sliding wide and thumping the bank on the left, Latvala rolled across the road before coming to rest against a tree on the opposite side. His car’s roll cage was too badly damaged to continue.
Surprise of the Rally
He may only have passed his driving test the week before the rally, at the second attempt, but 18-year-old Oliver Solberg arrived in Wales with a burgeoning reputation. A battle with father Petter failed to materialise but Oliver’s pace took the breath away.
His first WRC appearance was littered with problems and ended after a Sunday morning roll in Alwen, but the youngster was fastest on all four forest stages in which he had an uninterrupted run.
Fastest in WRC 2 by 17.0sec in the opening run through Dyfi on Saturday was remarkable - almost 10sec quicker than fellow wunderkind Kalle Rovanperä!
Stage of the Rally
As he eased over the tricky snow-covered mountain roads, Lohan ‘Nexl’ Blanc knew the stage win was his. All he had to do was keep things clean and tidy on the final downhill asphalt section and a hard day’s work behind the wheel was complete.
Wait. Snow-covered roads? Asphalt? The weather might have been a little inclement in Wales but it wasn’t that bad surely? And wasn’t Rally GB all about those fast and flowing gravel forest roads?
Yes, yes, it was. But inside the rally’s Venue Cymru HQ late on Saturday afternoon, the final act of the eSports WRC Championship was played out. Nexl charged through Rallye Monte-Carlo’s final La Bollene Vesubie stage 16.3sec faster than closest rival Jon Armstrong to seal the title for the second time in three years.
Quote of the Rally
Craig Breen, one of our favourite masters of the one-liners, was in fine form again over the weekend. After running wide onto the grass at a hairpin near the end of Friday morning’s first pass through Dyfnant, the Irishman was asked if he was wide enough to be near the trees.
“I wasn’t near the trees, I was amongst the trees!” he said.