Handbrakes & Hairpins Issue 19
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Image: RallyStuff.Net In this weekâ€™s Issue:
Jan Habig Interview
Ford Escort RS1800
Francois Delecour Profile
Loeb is King of the Mountains!
The wait is over: the 2008 World Rally Championship season has started! Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroen Total C4 WRC) romped home to their fifth WRC Rally Monte Carlo victory in six years, dominating this the world’s longest-standing and most prestigious event on the WRC calendar, writes Evan Rothman. Sebastien Loeb is the only driver to have won the WRC Rally Monte Carlo five times, putting him ahead of legendary drivers Walter Rohrl, Sandro Munari and Tommi Makinen. “More than the fact that this was our 37th WRC victory and our fifth Monte win, I think the most significant thing is the way we won this year,” commented Loeb. “Our C4 performed faultlessly throughout and the set-up we chose for the start proved excellent, which shows how well we worked upstream. The C4 and the Pirelli tyres also functioned well together on these asphalt stages which were often damp. It’s always nice to start the season with a win, but I have no intention of getting carried away because there are some very difficult rallies to come.” Leading from start to finish, Loeb and Elena were unchallenged throughout the weekend. Team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti lay second overall on the rally up until SS11, when they were forced to retire with a mechanical malady. The pair were permitted to restart under the SupeRally regulations on Day Three, and went on to finish a commendable 11th overall. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarno Lehtinen, in their BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC07, finished the event second overall some two minutes and 34 seconds adrift of Loeb/Elena. Hirvonen drove consistently throughout the rally, but could not match Loeb’s pace as Loeb seemed to be able to put together a blinding stage time whenever he felt like it, regardless of the weather and surface conditions. This did not mean that Hirvonen could coast through the stages, but rather he had to keep a very determined and hard charging Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prevot (Subaru World Rally Team Impreza WRC2007) behind him. The Subaru World Rally Team has decided to not further develop their Impreza WRC2007, but to focus on their WRC2008 challenger. Having said that, the Subarus of Chris Atkinson and Petter Solberg enabled the drivers to storm to through the famous Col de Turini stages with fastest split times! Solberg suffered problems with traction in his Impreza, but this did not deter him and
co-driver Phil Mills from fighting for their fifth place overall. Francois Duval and co-driver Chevallier finished in a strong fourth position overall in their new Ford Focus RS WRC07 car. Duval and Atkinson were locked in a rally-long battle for third place, and by the end of the weekend the two drivers were seper-
ated by a mere 1,4 seconds! No matter what Duval tried to close the gap and leap-frog Atkinson, the young Australian driver had the measure of him and was able to keep a cool head and light hands to steer his Impreza to third place. It was fantastic seeing two great WRC drivers battle it out, head-to-head, on what is one of the world’s most difficult rallying events. This event was Duval’s first and, so far, only drive for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team this season. (I hope we get to see more of this talented driver this season, for he has the potential to take the fight to the leading factory drivers.)
Even though the forecasted snow did not arrive on this year’s Matti Latvala finished twelfth in his first event for BP Ford Abu WRC Rally Monte Carlo, the cold temperatures and icy roads Dhabi World Rally Team after he suffered two punctures on the proved tricky. Gigi Galli, driving full-time for Stobart this sea- tough event. son, drove conservatively over the changing surfaces to bring Drivers’ Points the Ford Focus RS WRC07 to sixth place overall. Jean Mari 1) S. Loeb - 10 pts Cuoq, a privateer, bullied the factory drivers and WRC front 2) M. Hirvonen - 8 pts Manufacturers’ Points runners on his way to seventh place on the event in his Peugeot 3) C. Atkinson - 6 pts 1) Citroen Total WRT - 11 pts 307CC WRC car.
PG Andersson ended the rally in eighth position, scoring his first ever WRC point as well as for Suzuki in their full WRC Championship season debut. According to all reports, he showed an impressive turn of speed! His team-mate at Suzuki Sport WRT, Toni Gardemeister, also showed strong potential in his Suzuki, but was unfortunately forced to retire from the event with turbo failure. Rounding out the rest of the top ten was Henning Solberg in ninth and Matthew Wilson (both driving for Stobart) tenth. Jari
4) F. Duval - 5 pts 5) P. Solberg - 4 pts 6) G. Galli - 3 pts 7) J. M. Cuoq - 2 pts 8) P.G. Andersson - 1 pt
2) Subaru WRT - 10 pts 3) Stobart VK M-Sport WRT - 8 pts 4) BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT - 8 pts 5) Suzuki Sport WRT - 2 pts
Past WRC Master: Francois Delecour
Born in Cassell in northern France on 30 August 1962, Francois Delecour is a famous world rally driver, and earned himself the runner-up placing in the 1993 WRC season in a Ford Escort RS Cosworth. Interestingly, his navigator Daniel Grataloup won the 1993 WRC Navigators’ title. Juha Kankkunen was forced to swap navigators mid-season, thus handing Grataloup the WRC title. Francois Delecour was tipped as a rising rallying star from a young age, but was never able to be in the right team at the right time - he was known for having bad luck amongst his team members and fellow competitors. Take the 1993 WRC season as an example. Another is that he won the French Peugeot 205 Cup during the heydays of Group B rallying, but as when the time came for him to make his WRC debut, Peugeot were unable to offer him a seat as Group B rallying was outlawed. To highlight this Frenchman’s talent, on his first WRC event for a factory team, piloting a Ford 4X4 turbo machine on the 1991 WRC Rally Monte Carlo, Delecour lead the event from the first stage until the car suffered a mechanical failure on the last stage of the rally that forced him into retirement. Coming off a strong 1993 season, Delecour was tipped as being the title winner for the 1994 season. The championship started off well that year with him winning the first event of the year, the WRC Rally Monte Carlo. Unfortunately he was badly injured in a road traffic accident after the event, putting him out of contention for the rest of the season. Delecour left Ford for Peugeot, where he remained for the rest of the 1990s. The Frenchman proved highly impressive on asphalt rallies, and did much for Peugeot’s domination of rallying in the late 1990s with his involvement in the development of the mighty Peugeot 206 WRC. For the 2001 WRC season, Delecour switched back to Ford, where he piloted a Ford Focus WRC managed and maintained by Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport. Delecour had a big accident in at the WRC Rally Australia, which left his co-driver, Grataloup, crippled. Delecour didn’t stay long at Ford, as he headed to Mitsubishi for the 2002 WRC season to join Alister McRae at the team. Unfortunately, Delecour and McRae were not able to raise the Japanese motor manufacturer’s competitiveness to the levels it once was with Tommi MakNationality: French inen at the wheel. Active rallying years: 1984 - 2002 This prompted Teams: Ford, Peugeot, Mitsubishi Mitsubishi to World rallies: 96 withdraw from Championships: 0 WRC until 2004, Wins: 4 ending Delecour’s Podium finishes: 19 WRC career. Stage wins: 214 Points: 326 First world rally: 1984 Monte Carlo Rally First win: 1993 Rallye de Portugal Last win: 1994 Monte Carlo Rally Last world rally: 2002 Rally Great Britain
FAST FACTS FAST FACTS
This weekâ€™s favourite WRC rally car: 1970s Ford Escort RS1800
The Ford Escort RS1800 Rally Car was based on the popular two-door, rear-wheel drive Mk II Escort of the time. The factory fettled greatly with the motors to create a tricked-out version to power this rally car to success. According to the experts, the RS1800 was built primarily for the European off-road rally series in 1975 using the Mk I as its basis. In order to bypass homologation regulations of having to produce 1 000 road car versions to enable the car to compete in the European rally series, Ford updated the Mk I RS1600 to include the modifications needed for the RS1800. A BDA Cosworth-sourced 1800cc in-line four-cylinder, four stroke, 16-valve motor was used. It was longitudinally-mounted, and the gearbox was attached to the rear of the engine. The engineâ€™s power and torque was fed to the rear wheels via a prop shaft to the rear differential, all modified to cope with the rigours of rallying. Power was rated at around 250 bhp! For swapping cogs, a strengthened Mk II Escort RS2000 manual five-speed gearbox was utilised, allowing excellent acceleration in any gear, and reliability to boot. The Ford Escort RS1800 proved its worth by winning many rallies. It will be remembered for its sharp handling, power and reliability.
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South African Rally Driver Profile: Jan Habig
Images: Motorpics Interview with Jan Habig By Evan Rothman Handbrakes and Hairpins was fortunate enough to interview one of South Africa’s rallying legends: Jan Habig. With bucketloads of talent, dedication and enthusiasm, it is no surprise that this brave driver has clinched numerous South African National Rallying Drivers’ Championship titles to date, adding yet anothe title to his growing collection with last year’s championship honours. I have watched this maestro at work behind the steering wheel of his car, and am always mesmerised at his ability to whip the car into a 90 degree corner with such finesse. Jan Habig makes rally driving look easy! Sideways, in a four-wheel drift, and with a heavy right foot on the accelerator, this is Jan Habig on his way to another a rally victory... 1) H&H: Firstly, congratulations on being crowned the 2007 Sasol South African National Rally Drivers’ Champion. This was no easy season, as you had to fend off four strong competitors to take the title. How did you see your season pan out? Were you always confident of winning the championship title? JH: I would rate this as one of the more difficult championship wins, but almost as satisfying as our first. Our season started off a bit slow and by mid season Douglas and I made a concious decision to finish every remaining event and score as many points as possible. This strategy obviously paid off in terms of the championship. 2) H&H: Who did you see as your strongest competitor in 2007? JH: Definitely Serge. His years of experience makes him one of the most difficult competitors to beat.
3) H&H: The BP Volkswagen Rally Team provided great rallying action to many thousands of spectators this season. What were your memorable moments of 2007? JH: Winning the Total International Rally, and beating Enzo on the final stage on VW’s rally in Port Elizabeth by 1 second. Then I have to mention the Cape Toyota Dealer Rally where we trashed the other guys in the penultimate stage, to move up from 7th overall to 2nd. These were turning points in the championship stakes. 4) H&H: There is great talent rising up through the ranks in South African rallying. Who do you think is the next rallying star in South Africa fans should look out for? JH: Yes, I agree there is certainly a lot more talent around. I wouldn’t like to make any predictions, but let’s wait and see who proves themselves out there when the going gets tough. 5) H&H: What makes a rally driver a rally driver? What characteristics do rally drivers possess that other motor sport competitors don’t? JH: All motorsport competitors need committment and dedication and a desire to win and succeed. Rally drivers just have 100% more of all the ingredients. 6) H&H: It must be a busy office to sit in, the driver’s seat of your rally car. Can you tell us about your S2000 BP Volkswagen Polo? JH: It is the best rally car I have ever driven. The car is prepared by a team of technicians at Volkswagen Motorsport in Uitenhage. It is very responsive and almost indestructable, and extremely sensitive to suspension adjustments. The specs are: two-litre, sixteen valve engine, 198kW at 8500 rpm; six speed Sadev four-wheel drive gearbox and diffs; Reicher dampers; top speed: 200km/h; weight: 1165 kgs. 7) H&H: What are your predictions for the 2008 season? JH: Another tough and hectic season. 8) H&H: What is your favourite event on the calendar? And why? JH: Without a doubt the Sasol Rally, which runs in the Sabie/Nelspruit area. It is demanding on the car, but more demanding on the driver and navigator as this is one of the most technical rallies in terms of driving skill required. Also it is very well organised and well run by Willie du Plessis and his team. 9) HH:The glory days of the current WRC cars are numbered. From 2010, they will be running S2000-spec rally cars. What are your views on this? JH: It will not take long before we will have 2.5 litre normally aspirated engines delivering 230kW. An S2000 with a turbo charged engine will be the best solution and very spectacular, excluding the electronic gearbox and diffs. 10) H&H: Rallying attracts thousands for spectators to events around the world, and hundreds of thousands attend WRC rallies. This popularity, however, does not seem to apply to our rallying. What can be done to improve rallying in South Africa? The competiton in South African rallying is extremely exciting and competitive over the last couple of years. However, this is not captured by the television coverage, and is pretty boring watching a regurgitation of cars passing the same corner for an hour, with very little storyline attached. Half an hour programmes filled with excitement will have a much better impact on Joe Public. 11)You have been competing in National rallies for a couple of decades, at the front of the field for many of those years. South Africans will long remember you rallying sideways in your Skyline. What are your memories of those rallying days? It has only been just over two decades, thank you. The biggest impression the Skyline left with me was the engine performance. The amazing sound of the engine at 8500rpm for a six cylinder! The size and handling of the car can be long debated on another occasion. I think the rally fraternity can look forward to another nailbiting season with all the younger guns trying to prove a point. We will keep a close eye on them.