15 LOEB LEADS ON HIS DAKAR DE­BUT – THEN CRASHES

Motor Sport News - - Top 50: Defining Moments -

WHEN: JAN­UARY 4 WHERE: TERMAS DE RIO HONDO, AR­GENTINA

It was a big year of firsts for Se­bastien Loeb. A first year away from Citroen for over 10 years, a World Ral­ly­cross de­but and, firstly, a maiden visit to the gru­elling Dakar.

Driv­ing for the works Peu­geot squad, the com­fort­able favourite be­fore the event, he was out to an early lead. And de­spite his lack of rally raid ex­pe­ri­ence, no one

WHEN: JULY 3 WHERE: LON­DON

For­mula E’s two-year spell in the heart of Bat­tersea Park could hardly have ended in greater con­tro­versy.

First there was the lon­grun­ning bat­tle that pitched the se­ries and lo­cal Wandsworth Coun­cil against Bat­tersea res­i­dents, who were against the park host­ing the race. Crunch meet­ings led to a threat­ened court case, which was only dropped when FE agreed to see out the 2015/16 sea­son and never set foot in the park again. That is was re­ally all that sur­prised at the French­man’s pace. He is a nine-time World Rally Cham­pion af­ter all.

What hap­pened next, was a surprise. Af­ter lead­ing for a week, Loeb lost it. Some­thing he did so rarely in a WRC Citroen.

“There was a dip and I didn’t see it, so we ar­rived on it, fell in and it threw the car off bal­ance a shame, be­cause Bat­tersea hosted an­other su­perb sea­son finale. Lu­cas di Grassi and Se­bastien Buemi came to Lon­don with just a point be­tween them, and af­ter a wheel-bang­ing per­sonal duel in Satur­day’s race, di Grassi wiped out his ti­tle ri­val at the start of Sun­day’s finale. Both dragged dam­aged cars back to the pits and re­turned in their sec­ond ma­chines in a fight for fastest lap: which Buemi edged to win the ti­tle by just two points. SM and we rolled,” Loeb ex­plained af­ter the in­ci­dent.

So that was that, his first Dakar ended in re­tire­ment, but with the con­so­la­tion of his pace be­ing the bench­mark be­fore the end of his chal­lenge.

Loeb’s team-mate Stephane Peter­hansel took his 12th Dakar win, Peu­geot’s first since 1990. JB

WHEN: APRIL 1 WHERE: BRANDS HATCH

There was a cloud of smoke and some splut­ter­ing en­gines fir­ing in to life. It was March 31, just a day be­fore the start of the 2016 Bri­tish Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship sea­son.

Just 87 days af­ter the build had started, Team BMR had cre­ated four Subaru Levorg mod­els and they per­formed a quick 15-minute shake­down ahead of the open­ing ex­changes at Brands Hatch in Kent.

Double cham­pion Ja­son Plato and en­gi­neer Carl Faux hatched a plan back in 2014. They looked at the BTCC reg­u­la­tions and re­alised that the rear-wheeldrive car and its low-slung boxer en­gine would be a per­fect fit. Ini­tially, they cen­tred their ideas on a WRX model, but the Levorg was the pref­er­ence of the Ja­panese firm, which came on board as a backer of the at­tack.

There were some ini­tial prob­lems with the en­gine not be­ing able to breathe prop­erly and some faulty fuel lines. Once they were ironed out, the car flew, par­tic­u­larly in the hands of Colin Turk­ing­ton.

De­spite miss­ing a round of the se­ries at Thrux­ton due to tech­ni­cal prob­lems, the North­ern Ir­ish­man even­tu­ally placed fourth in the stand­ings and the car is des­tined to be a strong cham­pi­onship threat in 2017. MJ

WHEN: MARCH 5/6 WHERE: MID WALES STAGES

It’s al­most un­think­able now that Bri­tain lost its na­tional ral­ly­ing cham­pi­onship. Once thought of as on par with the WRC in the late 1980s, it was a shadow of its for­mer self, an un­spec­tac­u­lar and poorly sup­ported af­fair.

Fast for­ward to March and it was back with a bang. Four­wheel-drive R5 ma­chin­ery pro­vided the excitement, two of the world’s best young driv­ers brought the punch.

It was clear El­fyn Evans was the It’s ev­ery rally fan’s worst night­mare. In May, the Mo­tor Sports As­so­ci­a­tion con­firmed that there was a stale­mate be­tween it and Nat­u­ral Re­source Wales for a new deal to go ral­ly­ing in Welsh gov­ern­ment-owned forests. NRW claimed that the cost of re­pair­ing the forests was far in ex­cess of the repa­ra­tions they re­ceived from the MSA, and de­cided that the fees would need to rise by just un­der 100 per cent in or­der to sign a new deal.

Luck­ily, af­ter a long drawn-out process, by Septem­ber a deal was done with the hero of the story, Ral­ly4wales. The not-for-profit cam­paign will re­place NRW in re­pair­ing roads af­ter ral­lies in 2017, mean­ing costs for com­peti­tors will barely rise.

There’s still a long way to go to solve the prob­lem and many vari­ables to be ironed out. But the prog­no­sis is good.

The irony of the sit­u­a­tion is that al­though club-level ral­ly­ing was al­most lost in Wales, it’s Eng­land and Scot­land that have been im­pacted the most.

With Ral­ly4wales, fees aren’t set to in­crease. But be­fore that deal, the MSA con­cluded agree­ments for Eng­land and Scot­land, which con­sti­tute a three-year deal in which fees rise in five per cent in­cre­ments to 15 per cent by year three. JB

WHEN: OCTOBER 26 WHERE: IN­GOL­STADT, GER­MANY

It came as a shock to ev­ery­body, not least the Team Joest em­ploy­ees and driv­ers, but there was a cer­tain amount of in­evitabil­ity about this one in hind­sight.

As much as the Volk­swa­gen Audi Group wanted to cush­ion the im­pact of its ‘diesel­gate’ scan­dal with a brave face, the hefty fi­nan­cial losses were al­ways go­ing to have a far-reach­ing im­pact. Audi Sport was sim­ply an in­no­cent vic­tim of the boardroom budget axe.

But the logic is there. The main vil­lain in VW’S saga? Tur­bocharged diesel en­gines. The pow­er­train some EU coun­tries are striv­ing to ban? Same an­swer. Per­haps en­durance rac­ing’s most suc­cess­ful pow­er­plant of all-time? Audi’s tur­bocharged diesel en­gines.

It’s a sad co­in­ci­dence that the brand that re­de­fined sportscar rac­ing more than any other built its name solely around tech­nol­ogy that al­most overnight be­came a hate tar­get.

Team Joest had al­ready spent the devel­op­ment budget for the 2017 car, be­liev­ing it had at least an­other year. The next-gen­er­a­tion R18 was built and ready, but will now likely lan­guish in a cor­ner.

It had been a tough World En­durance Cham­pi­onship cam­paign for Audi any­way, hav­ing been ex­cluded from the first race at Sil­ver­stone for ex­ces­sive wear to the win­ning car’s skid plank.

The brand did at least bow out with a one-two in the sea­son finale at Bahrain, lead­ing to emo­tional scenes around the pad­dock as the sport bid farewell to a true gi­ant. RL

WHEN: JULY 31 WHERE: JYVASKYLA

When Kris Meeke hit the front at this year’s Monte Carlo Rally, I made a quick call to ‘Quick Vic’. I thought it would be worth get­ting the views of the last Bri­tish driver to win the win­ter race through the Alps – even if Vic El­ford’s Porsche 911 vic­tory had come al­most half a cen­tury ear­lier.

That story was spiked when a stone oblit­er­ated the un­der­side of the DS 3 WRC.

No stone was turned in Fin­land six months later, when Meeke and co-driver Paul Na­gle scored what was ar­guably the big­gest re­sult in Bri­tish (and Irish) ral­ly­ing his­tory.

That there was no­body to call, no pre­vi­ous Bri­tish win­ner to put Meeke’s ef­forts into con­text, just strength­ens to that claim.

Meeke was, quite sim­ply, mag­nif­i­cent in Fin­land. For­get run­ning or­der, road sweep­ing, all that non­sense, he just drove faster than any­body else that week. Or ever in Jyvaskyla, ac­tu­ally: let’s not for­get he and Na­gle set a new record for the high­est av­er­age speed for the WRC’S fastest of all the fast ral­lies.

The corner­stone was Oun­in­po­hja, where he de­mol­ished three-time win­ner and lo­cal legend Jari-matti Lat­vala. FIA rally di­rec­tor and proud Finn Jarmo Ma­ho­nen puts it far bet­ter than I could: “You could hear Jari-matti’s spine break at the end of that stage…” DE

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.