“Bin­ning 20 miles for no rea­son just isn’t on”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - DAVID EVANS

Speed is dan­ger­ous. We all know that; when did a car last go off on the start line?

But what about the ar­gu­ment that in­creased speed surely equals in­creased risk? That was the the­ory com­ing out of Rally Swe­den.

When Thierry Neuville av­er­aged 78.42mph sec­ond time through the open­ing day’s Hof-Finnskog stage, that was ac­cept­able. But when Ott Tanak upped the ante to an 85.63mph av­er­age on the fol­low­ing day’s Knon test, that was just un­ac­cept­able.

Hav­ing watched on­boards for both stages, I’m strug­gling with this one. When I heard the driv­ers talk­ing about there be­ing no risk, I thought this was just a bit of bravado. But watch­ing the on­boards, it’s hard to ar­gue.

Yes, they spend a stag­ger­ing amount of time on the rev lim­iter in top, but the road’s largely straight and these are the best rally driv­ers in the world. What’s the prob­lem? FIA rally di­rec­tor Jarmo Ma­ho­nen says any­thing over 80mph was now cause for con­cern. And, as it tran­spires, is likely to be can­celled.

Of course, in­creased speed doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean in­creased risk. If it did, what on earth would wing com­man­der Andy Green be think­ing as he lines Blood­hound up for its first 1000mph at­tempt?

But there ap­pears to be a de­gree of para­noia around the gov­ern­ing body right now. There’s a con­cern that they’ve cre­ated a mon­ster in these 2017 World Rally Cars. Within the walls of World Rally Cham­pi­onship of­fi­cial­dom, all com­par­isons with Group B are now frowned upon and the per­for­mance gains over last year’s cars se­ri­ously toned down. Quite a con­trast to the pre­vi­ous 18 months when the next gen­er­a­tion had been trum­peted as a fes­ti­val of greater speed than ever be­fore on the world’s stages.

Trou­ble is, this par­tic­u­lar horse (or all 380 of them) has bolted. The speed’s here to stay, so the onus is on the FIA for clear di­rec­tion to rally or­gan­is­ers re­gard­ing which roads are and aren’t ac­cept­able. Bin­ning 20 miles for no ap­par­ent rea­son isn’t on. And any­way, 85mph’s noth­ing. If it’s real speed you want, take a look at Stig Blomqvist on the 1983 Rally Ar­gentina. His Audi av­er­aged 117mph on the 52-mile road from Fray Louis Bel­tran to Valle Azul in San Car­los de Bar­iloche. Here’s the best bit, the A2 qu­at­tro was ‘only’ geared for 130mph…

What was per­haps even more im­pres­sive was the 110mph Markku Alen man­aged in his Lan­cia 037 – not bad for a mo­tor geared for 114mph!

Just last year we saw Mark Hig­gins lap the 37-mile TT course on the Isle of Man at 128.730mph in what was ef­fec­tively an ul­ti­mate-spec Subaru Impreza. Had the weather held, he would have topped 130mph.

Jus­ti­fi­ably, Juha Kankkunen would sug­gest all of that to be child’s play. A decade ago the four-time cham­pion Finn was driv­ing a Subaru Impreza WRX on the Rally of In­cas. On one all-as­phalt 68-mile stage, KKK turned in an av­er­age speed of 150.70mph.

Now that’s what I call an av­er­age speed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.