JACK COZENS JUNIOR JOURNALIST
How the weather could make a big difference
This year’s Autosport Show was my first as a member of staff and blew away my previous experiences of the event – but there was one exhibit on the F1 Racing stand that will stay with me for a while.
A plan to arrive pre-show on Saturday failed to materialise, so instead I hung around until the final minutes of the day to catch a quiet moment with a car I’ve longed to see: the Hesketh 308B.
It was by no means the greatest to grace Formula 1. Based on the March 731, five of the six drivers to race the Hesketh 308 and subsequent B model failed to score points; only James Hunt could unlock its potential.
The Hunt-hesketh story is one that’s well-told, but while it’s the lifestyle, rivalry with Niki Lauda and world championship success that Hunt is best remembered for, the 308B was the car in which he scored his first grand prix win and helped him to really catch the eyes of Mclaren.
The rest is history – and while it may well predate me by a good few years, it was a treat to get close to a car that helped launch one of the greatest characters in the history of the sport.
Freezing conditions from the east combined with the biggest regulatory changes in two decades will make this week’s Monte Carlo Rally one of the most unpredictable events in years.
Temperatures in the mountains around Gap could dive as low as minus 15 at times during the season opener – forcing a compromise in tyre selection as the crews attempt to second-guess the conditions.
Such conditions regularly bring the opportunity for wide time differences in stages, meaning round one could ultimately cloud the positions of the teams after a season of development on their 2017 World Rally Cars.
M-sport’s head of rally development Chris Williams admitted he was ready for such an outcome this week.
“The first two stages on Thursday night are the ones everybody has been waiting for, but will it be a straight fight?” said Williams. “We could have an awful lot of snow; we could have a snowy asphalt road; we just don’t know what the conditions will be like or how they will change as the cars pass. There will be a lot of questions about whether the performance is the car, the driver or the tyres. You could end that first night saying: ‘Well, that was interesting, but I’ve still got no idea where we stand.’
“Remember, we’ve seen Robert [Kubica] do this before. He’s found himself in the right place on the road with the right tyres on, he’s a competent driver running some risk and suddenly he’s fastest and fastest by some margin. It’s the Monte, it could be completely inconclusive. I think it’s pretty sure that there won’t be a lot of sleep the night before. There’ll be some very anxious moments before that first split.”
Heavy snow would skew the times