So, I went to Rally Sweden. Actually it was the first WRC rally I have visited without working in one way or another since Rally Sweden 2005. And it was amazing!!!
Here are a few reflections from the rally:
- Petter Solberg was mentally stuck in his pre-rally business. He surprised with a silly mistake already on the super special stage and he continued to do them throughout the weekend. You could virtually hear where it all was going when Petter talked to the Swedish Radio early on Friday and started to talk about his mistake without even being asked. That’s not really the mental approach you need… I had high hopes on Petter for this season – and I hope he can be better prepared and repair the impression in Mexico.
- PG Andersson – give that man a works seat, now! He punished well-established drivers in better cars last year in the Fabia WRC and this year he totally undressed his competitors in the S-WRC class. Unfortunately, not results and neither Star of the Rally-awards can be used to pay bills. PG knows that for sure, and I’m afraid his Swedish fans will have to learn it if they don’t already know. However, I hope PG is lucky and that this opens up some eyes for the rest of the season and 2011!
- Patrik Sandell failed to stand the competition of PG Andersson when given the same car. I’m afraid I can’t say this surprised me – but it’s disappointing to see considering that Sandell has one year experience with the car and two years experience of S2000 compared to PG that sat in the car first time just days before the rally. Sandell’s comments during the rally started to sound very much like excuses – and what else could he say? However, afterwards he has paid his respect to PG’s impressive driving and that’s the kind of sportsmanship I like!
- Patrik Flodin did what he was supposed to do and just delivered – but got totally placed in the shadows by the new S2000 class and PG’s drive. He would have needed a real PR boost – but at least it looks like the winds are warmer back in Russia at the Uspenskiy team. Maybe Flodin can get a few drives or perhaps even the whole PWRC championship this year?
- Kimi Räikkönen and media… Ok – the guy isn’t really a media whore, but honestly… It’s Kimi Räikkönen, what did you expect? And at the same time it’s his personality. Isn’t a little bit about the media interest in Kimi also the interest in the shy, airy Kimi that you can hardly get to speak at all?! I think so, and I think that even a quiet Kimi is a huge boost for the WRC. Just let the guy be and suddenly he will talk…
- Kimi Räikkönen and rally driving… I don’t understand how people can be so disappointed!? After just a few rallies in his career and the second ever WRC rally – what results can you expect? I’m impressed that Kimi reached the finish, considering that he attacked quite OK. Posting multiple stage times withing the top 8 must be considered good for a newbie, no matter how talented he is. I have high hopes for Kimi’s driving!
- Mikko Hirvonen showed that he wants to challenge for the win this year. I hope and actually I also think that he will be up for the challenge this year and able to match Loeb in the charge for the title. He was really close last year and I don’t know if he will make it this year – but I think it will be close. And honestly… How fun wouldn’t it be with a new champion? Mikko has grown from silly mistakes in Subaru in 2004 to a mature driver. He really proved it by taking his own, gambling decisions regarding the setup of the car during the rally. Go Mikko!
- The surface discussion was just ridiculous. Paid drivers complaining about some frozen gravel and even saying it’s not winter conditions?!?! Nothing can be more stupid. This winter has been the coldest since 1986 or more in Sweden and we’ve had snow and sub-zero temperatures since early December in the rally area. Drivers complain because they want easy driving, but as spectators we want difficult driving! What should the WRC really be about if not difficulties?? The team managers understand it, at least, since they say Rally Sweden must stay in the calendar. It was pure winter conditions this year and the drivers just have to accept that winter isn’t synonymous with ice. On top of that the conditions were just perfect for spectators and TV – that in numbers represent the number of competitors multiplied by thousands…
- The media coverage sucked – as we’re used to with North One Sport. The WRC season opener are oceans away from the live coverage of the IRC season opener. Of course it’s difficult – but guys, you need to try at least! Why wasn’t all the super specials and sprints live covered on the web, as well as the Värmullsåsen stage (that was live in Swedish TV)? That should be a piece of cake, at least compared to airing a whole rally live. When will North One start to deliver???
- The Abu Dhabi people indicated that they may need to get better both in understanding rally and in writing press releases. To talk about PG Andersson’s performance as a result of local knowledge and home support sounds more like an insult than an award to me considering his earlier performances on the international arena?! His two J-WRC titles and his performance in the lousy Suzuki SX4WRC in 2008 is good proof that this isn’t about being some kind of snow expert. PG Andersson is one of the world’s best drivers, and to not give him that recognition cannot be called an award.
- The Rally Sweden organisers have had a really hard time almost totally out of money. They had some luck with the weather, but they also managed to do a really good rally despite the resources that has been a lot more limited than ever before (in “modern time”). World class!