Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Maybe I could win a world title whilst sitting watching TV

In all the excitement surrounding the finale of the MotoGP season, it should be noted that the World Rally Championship also crowned its champion this weekend.

In an unsatisfactory turn of events that sadly wraps up an unsatisfactory season, Sebastien Loeb took the title whilst sitting on his couch at his home in Switzerland.

After Loeb's mountain bike accident sidelined him for at least two events, Marcus Gronholm had to pick up a minimum of 36 points to take the title. With his win in Turkey, he needed 26 points from the three remaining events, and therefore at least third in Australia. Sadly (for the championship's sake) he rolled less than 5km into the first stage and lost 11 minutes that he couldn't claw back despite massive attrition in the WRC field, and a series of determined drives by the Finn.

A decidedly sleepy-looking Loeb appeared via satellite for the post-event press conference.

Next year doesn't show much promise of improving the field, unless Subaru goes ahead with its B-team idea. There's no decision on whether the OMV Peugeot Norway team will continue or whether the lame-duck Red Bull Skoda will be back. Suzuki had originally planned a 2007 debut, but that has been delayed to 2008. Citroen return as a full factory team (did they ever really leave?) and no doubt their new C4 will dominate. The one part of 2007 that should be interesting is the debut of two new events and the return of a another, those being Norway, Ireland and Portugal (only for them to go away again in 2008 - for god's sake, someone please please explain that to me!).

On a more positive note, Mikko Hirvonen took a much-deserved win at the Australian round of the WRC. I've always rated him very highly, and remember fondly the image of him in a 2002 Focus, loud pedal all the way to the floor, hitting a series of three yumps halfway through the Fredriksberg stage at the Swedish Rally in 2003. You can only really know how hard a driver can go when you see it up close, and I'll never forget that. Throughout 2006 he's tempered his massive ability to go fast with the aim of finishing rallies and racking up points. In Australia he put them both together to stay ahead of a charging Petter Solberg and take the victory. Well done Mikko!

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