MOTORSPORT /// WRC /// 2014 RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA (5.6.2014 – 8.6.2014) /// UNWANTED COMMENTARY: SHALL WE DO THIS LIVE? /// SS17…

  • Good morning.
  • It’s 5am.
  • It’s dark.
  • And, this is Stage 17 of Rally Italia Sardegna.
  • …Otherwise known as Rally Italy.
  • …Which is being broadcast (in the US) on MAVTV.
  • SS17 is the final stage of the weekend.
  • …Which means that it is the Power Stage.
  • What is…
  • …Wait…
  • …No, with all due respect, I do not think Robert Kubica is pointless, Mr Desborough (WRC TV announcer).
  • …And, let’s focus on those points he picked up at Argentina, as well.
  • …(Drums, please!)
  • Anyway…
  • What is a Power Stage?
  • …The fastest car takes three bonus points.
  • …Second gets two.
  • …Third, one.
  • …It can make, break, or pad a championship standing.
  • …And, it can give a rally non-winner something to claim.
  • …Like, after Latvala and Anttila were atop their car, celebrating their Argentina win.
  • …And, (Volkswagen teammate) Ogier, was yelling for confirmation of his Power Stage win right under them.
  • …Because, he’s Gogiera; he stomps on stuff.
  • …(It -was- hilarious.  I do enjoy French Toast.)
  • Okay, how has Rally Italy played out (up to this point)?
  • …Very Volkswagen-y.
  • …Except for the first few stages.
  • …When the leaders and stage winners were a who’s who of underdogs.
  • …It was awesome.
  • …Then, Jerry Matt Latvala took the lead.
  • …Took it further.
  • …Then, as Saturday wound down, he hit a hard rut, thrashed a wheel, lost two minutes…
  • …Yes, two minutes…
  • …These are pros, kids…
  • …And, Jer Bear has had a lot of experience with mean-spirited rocks…
  • …And, those two minutes dropped him to third.
  • …Behind Ogier/Ingrassia and Citroën’s Østberg/Andersson.
  • …Just ahead of VWII’s Mikkelsen/Fløene.
  • …On Fløene’s return to the co-driver’s seat with longtime teambuddy Mikkelsen.
  • Keep in mind that these guys are (all) survivors.
  • …Italy is a rally that eats cars.
  • …It’s all very Blondie/”Rapture”/Man from Mars.
  • …And, he has yet to move to eating guitars.
  • …(Getup!)
  • …The roads are very narrow.
  • …And, they’re sandy AND rocky.
  • …Lots of trees to wrap a car around in hanging dust.
  • …Lots of hard ruts to lose a car in.
  • …By Friday…
  • …M-Sport’s Hirvonen/Lehtinen’s Fiesta had very suddenly and very mysteriously burst into flame.
  • …It was gone within minutes.
  • …With the aid of three extinguishers and two passing drivers.
  • …Ogier and Meeke, I do believe.
  • …As for the mysterious fire…
  • …The vent on the top of (teammate) Evans’ Fiesta displays a Welsh flag.
  • …The Welsh flag features a dragon.
  • …Dragons breathe fire.
  • …I’m just putting two and two together, here.
  • …Hänninen/Tuominen had crushed their Hyundai like a can.
  • …No, seriously.
  • …Prizes to those who could figure out what was what on that car.
  • …Hyundai’s Neuville/Gilsoul had stopped with damage.
  • …Likewise, Citroën’s Meeke/Nagle’s DS3 lost battery power (completely).
  • Saturday was not much better.
  • …With Kubica/Szczepaniak’s Fiesta having a wheel ripped off.
  • …And, of course, Jer-Bear’s reenactment of the Charlie Brown Halloween special.
  • …”I got a rock”.
  • …No word on whether (or, not) they received “assistance” from a man in a speedo this year, though.
  • …If you caught coverage of Rally Italy last year, and you watched closely, you would have noticed a man in nothing but a tiny black speedo, standing right behind Jer-Bear and Miikka as they changed a tire.
  • …It was a highlight of the season.
  • …Man in a speedo, right behind a crouching Jerry Matt.
  • …It’s exactly the kind of completely ridiculous detail I wait for and love.
  • But, back to today.
  • This stage is Cala Flumini.
  • …It is 8.98km (5.58mi) long.
  • …With a freaky, narrow, wooden bridge, ending in an equally freaky, narrow, upward stretch of wall-lined road as they approach time control (at the end).
  • …And, this is the second pass.
  • …The first pass started the day (SS14).
  • …It’s hot (90 Fahrenheit/32-ish Celsius) and sunny.
  • …Typical.
  • …It -is- a Mediterranean island.
  • …Though, did you know that Sardinia has skiing?
  • …Actual skiing, with snow and chairlifts and all.
  • …Look it up.
  • …I cringe at photos of drivers like Jerry Matt, out there in the sun.
  • …Dude, we’re the same color, I know how this works.
  • …It sizzles.  Just looking at the photos.
  • …One word: sunscreen.
  • …Just…be careful with the face.
  • …I’ve had sport sunscreen drip into my eyes while driving home (without air conditioning) after a long run on a very hot (like, what it’s like in Sardinia at the moment) day.
  • …I’ve felt better things in better situations.
  • …Let’s put it that way.
  • Okay, who’s been through?
  • …Meeke/Nagle, Neuville/Gilsoul, Hyundai’s Paddon/Kennard, Kubica/Szczepaniak, Citroën’s Al Qassimi/Patterson, privateer Prokop/Tománek (in Fiona the Fiesta), privateer Solberg/Minor, and M-Sport’s Evans/Barritt have entered the stage.
  • …It should be noted that Martin Prokop has been experiencing pretty serious back pain all weekend.
  • …So, let’s hop he gets through, gets through okay, and can get onto fixing this problem (before it gets worse).
  • …Volkswagen Motorsport II’s Mikkelsen/Fløene have just headed out on stage.
  • …Mikkelsen had opted to team up with Mikko Markkula at the beginning of the 2013 season, after a career with Ola.
  • …The two had to not only work out a system together, they had to make sure their English was up to par and on the same page.
  • …As Mikkelsen is Norwegian and Markkula is Finnish.
  • …They gave it a good, long, successful run.
  • …But, in the end, he missed his Ola.
  • …And, today, you are hearing those pacenotes in Norwegian.
  • …Latvala/Anttila enter the stage.
  • …With that amazingly robotic, expressionless face and all.
  • …It’s like he’s taking processing the information to a new level.
  • …I’m not sure if The Confidence is along for the ride.
  • …It (probably) is.
  • …(Brain trainer) Christoph Treier (probably) shoved it in the trunk before they set off (today).
  • …Someone had to catch it and cram it back in with every stage.
  • …My bets would be on Ogier, letting it out of the car.
  • …He does that.
  • …He knows how to screw with Jer Bear.
  • …And, he’s French, so he does it pretty shamelessly.
  • …Østberg/Andersson on stage.
  • …And, if Norwegian wasn’t pretty enough, these two combine Swedish (Andersson’s language), Norwegian (Østberg’s language), and English (for…fun?).
  • …Jer-Bear completes the stage.
  • …But, not before knocking a wall.
  • …As a bonus, much of this route is lined with walls.
  • …Mikkelsen and Fløene lead.
  • …Finntastic Finns Jer-Bear and Minni’s Dad are in second.
  • …Ogier/Ingrassia speed off the start line.
  • …What is he up to?
  • …He’s either screwing with Jer-Bear or he’s preserving the car.
  • …Will he put his foot down and (really) go?
  • …(Soundtrack this with Serge Gainsbourg.)
  • …(Oh, I don’t know why.  Just because you can?)
  • …Ogier/Ingrassia opt for third.
  • …Because, they won the rally and don’t (really) -need- those points.
  • …(Insert French “I don’t care” shrugs and pouts here.)
  • …Ogier’s parents!!!
  • …I love that his parents go to so many of these!
  • …I love seeing the parents!
  • …He looks so much like his mum.
  • …It’s pretty adorable.
  • …Mikkelsen/Fløene wins the three extra points.
  • …The band is back!
  • …Jer-Bear/Minni’s Dad take second.
  • …Which will be no consolation to the Finn.
  • …Who’s hobby and mastered skill is self-abuse.
  • …I know how this works, buddy.
  • …Fortunately, with the help of his sports psychologist and the training he’s been practicing, he’ll bounce back.
  • …The pair is (still) Ogier/Ingrassia’s biggest challenger.
  • …And, I’m sending this out into the Universe, that is huge and you know it.
  • …And, you know that you can beat him.
  • …So, stop backing away from everyone as you’re celebrating.
  • …Yeah, I noticed that.
  • Well, that’s another evil Rally Italy in the books.
  • …Everyone can take their anti-dust masks off and take a deep breath.
  • …Ogier/Ingrassia take the win and one Power Stage point, Østberg/Andersson take second, Jer-Bear/Anttila hold onto third and take two Power Stage points, and Mikkelsen/Fløene mark their reuniting with fourth and three Power Stage points.
  • …That’s a lot of V-Dub love, there.
  • Next up will be Rally Poland.
  • …Which has been run in the WRC, like, twice.
  • …It has been around forever and a part of IRC/ERC calendars.
  • …But, with revamped routes, including a trip to Lithuania (which is in a different time zone), it will be new territory for the WRC and its drivers.
  • …Of the current lineup on the Entry List, I think it’s down to Solberg, Latvala, Ogier, Østberg, and Hirvonen who competed in the 2009 round.
  • …Prokop was there, but in the Junior class.
  • …Solberg took third, Hirvonen won, and Jer-Bear…
  • …I recall a Focus, being pushed…
  • …Likewise, and I’m cheating and looking at the results (now), Ogier and Østberg retired.
  • …(Both) Jer-Bear and French Toast had stage wins.
  • …So, anyone care to place your history-based bets on another brutal VW battle?
  • …You know, as opposed to them not battling (?).
  • …So, yeah, that should be interesting.
  • …But, it doesn’t start until the 26th, so you have time to prepare yourself.
  • …Should you need to.
  • …If you look on the ‘Cookies & Gold Stars Facebook page (cookiesandgoldstars), I posted a screenshot of a bladder-leakage pantyliner ad that popped up next to an article on Jer-Bear at WRC.com (a while back).
  • …(Maybe) stocking up on those is part of your preparations.
  • …(Maybe) it should be.
  • Okay…
  • …Did I cover everything?
  • …Did I cover anything?
  • …(Probably) not.
  • …Ah, well.
  • …It was fun.
  • …I (always) enjoy doing these babbling (to myself) sessions.
  • …Sorry I missed yesterday’s live broadcast.
  • …If you’re thinking I chose F1 over the WRC…
  • …Nope, I was at work.
  • …I had to skedaddle just to get back for the Grand Prix of Canada Qualifying.
  • While I’m covering coverage…
  • …Meeke is right.
  • …The WRC does need to look into more internet coverage.
  • …If you’re here, and you are, take a look at my F1 commentary.
  • …Standard broadcasting (where I am, at least) has Practice 1 broadcast online, P2 televised, P3 online, and Qualifying and the race televised.
  • …So, every part is available in some form.
  • …And, that’s F1.
  • …Which has a reputation for not being as friendly as the WRC.
  • …I’m not going to go into a long rant, listing ideas.
  • …But, how about reinstating Qualifying (which I thought was great for fans and a quite exciting way to start a rally), televising that, adding daily Power Stages, televising those (to keep momentum and interest, especially if they’re not, necessarily, at the end of the day), and looking into things like end-of-the-day elimination (based on standings, like F1 Qualifying, with advancement for those who make the cut and place-reservation, with an opportunity to move up, should someone ahead in the standings fall, for those who don’t)?  Something like that.  And, while the elimination, could hurt guys with smaller budgets, the tradeoff would be (also) tackling the issue of giving lower classes of cars (if eliminations went by top however many of each class) a chance to compete with the big boys and give them an opportunity to be seen (which could mean more sponsorship interest and opportunities, creating a positive cycle.
  • …And, maybe, while the WRC looks into internet coverage, teams could look into things like online steaming onboards (so fans can follow their favorite drivers, etc, closer than ever).  Again, looking at F1, on top of having standard onboard cameras, Williams has moving cameras under their cars, which provides (really) different views of what’s happening around the drivers (the pit stops are really cool to watch, getting to see the mechanics, up-close, at work and all).  Just get creative, explore possibilities, and try things, see what works.
  • …Also, I’ve noticed that the in-helmet communication devices are made by 3M.
  • …Do you know what 3M stands for?
  • …You will.
  • …Because, I sure do.
  • …It’s Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing.
  • …So, how about doing communication with a heavy Minnesota accent?
  • …Think ‘Fargo’.
  • …It wouldn’t be much of a leap for the Nordics, actually.
  • …Except for the whole “ja” meaning “yes” in Swedish/Norwegian/Danish (Minnesota was settled by Norwegians and Swedes, a lot of things just stuck), but “and” in Finnish, and all.
  • …Hey, I’m just tossing things out there.
  • …It’s called being proactive and helpful.
  • …Has the WRC considered dressing up for Power Stages?
  • …Race car drivers used to drive in snappy clothes.
  • …Picture this…
  • …Tuxedo t-shirt-inspired racing underwear and overalls.
  • And, with that in your heads…
  • …Bye-bye!
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