Tuesday, January 15, 2008

RIP Ouninpohja

The world's fastest rally stage, Rally Finland's Ouninpohja, has been axed for being too fast. The maximum recommended average speed on a gravel stage is 130km/h, or 81mph.

Back in 2004, Petter Solberg blitzed the 33.01km stage in 15 minutes, 19 seconds. There's amazing video of this on Youtube (and on my hard drive LOL!). The average speed of this run came out to 129.39km/h which was too close to the maximum speed for the FIA's comfort. For 2005 and 2006, the stage was split into two, resulting in stages with 129.54km/h and 128.10km/h average speeds. Once again, Ouninpohja was too fast.

For 2007, the organizers put the stage back together, this time with three chicanes installed to dramatically affect the times. The result: Marcus Gronholm comes within 0.5 seconds of Solberg's incredible 2004 time, meaning he was effectively going MUCH faster through the bulk of the stage.

It had become clear to the organizers that although they could keep Ouninpohja within the maximum average speed numerically (just), it wasn't in the spirit of the rule, and crews, spectators and marshalls were being put at greater risk.

Which is all a great shame, because as I've mentioned on this blog before, Rally Finland and its "queen stage" are a perfect example of the true essence of stage rallying. To lose part of that is a loss for rallying the world over.

No comments: