COLIN CLARK

“It is baf­fling that th­ese dis­putes are al­lowed to hap­pen”

Motor Sport News - - Round -

Rally Swe­den turned out to be ev­ery bit as ex­cit­ing and as dra­matic as we had hoped it might be. For a good part of last week, how­ever, it most cer­tainly didn’t look as if that would be the case.

We had an as­ton­ish­ing sit­u­a­tion where the driv­ers were openly talk­ing about re­volt. And what did it all come down to? One word: trust.

All of the histri­on­ics in the days lead­ing up to the event could have been avoided if ev­ery­one had put their trust in the Swedish weather ser­vice. Let me tell you, on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, I’ve set my watch by the ac­cu­racy of the me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal mar­vels in Swe­den. If they say it’s go­ing to snow at 1215, you can bet your co-driver’s bonus it will snow at 1215. Sadly, a fair num­ber of our driv­ers come from coun­tries where the weather fore­cast would be bet­ter be­lieved if it was de­liv­ered by Mr Bean.

So mak­ing their way through boggy, slip­pery, squelchy, rut-riven stages on the recce, our boys and girls quite un­der­stand­ably had con­cerns, pri­mar­ily about tyre wear and stud re­ten­tion. Crew safety was their num­ber one con­cern. It was put to me like this.

“Just imag­ine you’re a world class ski jumper. You turn up to the big­gest event of the year and the hill and land­ing area are com­pletely snow-free. You raise your con­cerns with the or­gan­is­ers, the pro­mot­ers and the gov­ern­ing body. The re­ply you get is: ‘Well, we’ve sold lots of tick­ets and we have TV com­mit­ments! So, be a good boy, don’t worry about it, head up to the top of the jump and we’ll sort you out with a set of roller blades!’” Suc­cinct, I thought.

As it turned out, the driv­ers were wrong and the weather fore­cast was right. By Fri­day, the stages were in re­mark­ably good con­di­tion.

Of maybe more con­cern is the ev­i­dent lack of trust be­tween the driv­ers and the gov­ern­ing body. There are some very big char­ac­ters with pretty big egos on both sides. If we are to be­lieve what we hear, the trust be­tween all par­ties has gone, the re­spect has gone.

Diplo­macy is needed here and, with the best will in the world, I strug­gle to see a diplo­mat in ei­ther camp. Kofi An­nan, Boutros BoutrosGhali and Ban Ki-moon are rather busy right now, so would some­one just call Ari Vata­nen and ask him to sort out this un­seemly mess?

Be­cause it needs some­one to step in. What I find as­ton­ish­ing is that when th­ese sit­u­a­tions arise, there is a gulf be­tween the two par­ties. It’s a bit like watch­ing a court­room drama, when de­fence and pros­e­cu­tion of­fer equally com­pelling and ut­terly be­liev­able ar­gu­ments.

The driv­ers swear blind it’s un­safe and those on the other side, feel the risk is ac­cept­able.

Give the big Finn a call, some­body...

Win­ning WRC2 in Monte Carlo was a great start to Elfyn Evans’ sea­son. But he was un­der no il­lu­sion. Swe­den last week was where the real work started.

The en­try list was packed with stars from Skoda and Scan­di­navia. And one Scan­di­na­vian in par­tic­u­lar was talk­ing to the talk.

“I’m not here to come se­cond,” said Evans’ M-sport team-mate, Nor­we­gian Eyvind Brynild­sen. “I did that last year. I didn’t come home to fin­ish se­cond again.”

Un­for­tu­nately for him, his home stages on Fri­day cost him dearly with a trans­mis­sion prob­lem leav­ing him in two-wheel drive. A fifth place fin­ish beck­oned.

Fredrik Ah­lin pushed Evans hard through day one and was the only driver other than the Welsh­man to lead the cat­e­gory. Skoda men Pon­tus Tide­mand and Es­apekka Lappi were also at the races, but slipped back when the Nor­we­gian Fabia broke a drive­shaft and the Fin­nish sis­ter car dropped time off the road.

Both re­cov­ered, how­ever, to se­cure the Czech man­u­fac­turer a dou­ble podium fin­ish.

The Brc-bound Ah­lin’s hopes of ar­riv­ing in Mid-wales on the back of a world cham­pi­onship class win went south with a punc­ture on Satur­day’s opener. Fastest on half the Fri­day stages, de­spite not set­tling in as quickly as he would have liked, Evans was 17 sec­onds up by the end of the day.

“It’s been good,” he said on Fri­day night. “I just want to show Monte was no fluke…”

Hav­ing shown the speed on day one, he demon­strated the abil­ity to con­trol that ad­van­tage on Satur­day, while man­ag­ing a mi­nor steer­ing is­sue. With Sun­day’s sole stage to come, he had 17.9s in hand over Tide­mand. It was enough.

“I was pretty con­fi­dent about that,” he said. “I have to say, the rhythm wasn’t so good on Satur­day morn­ing, but I didn’t panic – I just got on with it.”

Is there any­where he can’t win in the WRC2 cham­pi­onship this year?

“No,” replied the man now walk­ing the walk and talk­ing the talk.

Tide­mand ended the event 14.7s down in se­cond place, while Lappi took third with fastest time through the fi­nal stage.

The Finn was feel­ing ill for much of the event, as was his ri­val for the bot­tom step of the podium, Anders Gron­dal (Fi­esta R5). Brynild­sen was fifth with Ole Chris­tian Veiby round­ing out the top six in his Skoda.

Sixty-two year-old Michael Fabre took a lonely WRC3 win in his DS 3 R3. The French­man led from start to fin­ish as the sole starter.

DRIVER/ CO-DRIVER

Se­bastien Ogier (Fra)/julien In­gras­sia (FRA) Hay­den Paddon (NZL)/JOHN Ken­nard (NZL) Mads Ost­berg (NOR)/OLA Floene (NOR) An­dreas Mikkelsen (Nor)/anders Jæger (NOR) Ott Tanak (Est)/raigo Molder (EST) Dani Sordo (ESP)/MARC Marti (ESP) Hen­ning Sol­berg (NOR)/ILKA Mi­nor-pe­trasko (AUT) Craig Breen (Irl)/scott Martin (GBR) Elfyn Evans (Gbr)/craig Parry (GBR) Teemu Suni­nen (Fin)/mikko Markkula (FIN) Thierry Neuville (Bel)/ni­co­las Gil­soul (BEL) Khalid Al-qas­simi (Uae)/chris Patterson (GBR) Kris Meeke (GBR)/PAUL Nagle (IRL) Va­leriy Gor­ban (Ukr)/volodymyr Korsya (UKR) Jari-matti Lat­vala (FIN)/ Mi­ikka Ant­tila (FIN) Mait Maarend (Est)/mihkel Kapp (EST) Yazeed Al-ra­jhi (Sa)/michael Orr (GBR) Eric Camilli (Fra)/ni­co­las Klinger (FRA) Lorenzo Bertelli (Ita)/si­mone Scat­tolin (ITA)

FE­BRU­ARY 17 2016

Evans saw off all­com­ers for WRC2 glory

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