WRC season 2017 finale
2017 edition of Rally Australia, WRC concluded last weekend and was one of the most exciting rally of this season. The event being the last one in the WRC calendar and with championship titles’ sealed for both crews & manufacturers at the top level, it was mostly only a decider for the runner-ups. Usually, an event that has little or chance to be the decider is less likely to be exciting. But.., it turned out to be a super exciting one from the very first day, when Sebastien Ogier begun to struggle, and then the second day’s eventful results for the leaders of the rally and then the final leg of the event when the weather-gods decided to play some mischief! All in all, a complete exciting and entertaining to the spectators, rally fans and equally to the competition.
Right from the opening day, the newly crowned 2017 champion driver Sebastien Ogier (for the 5th consecutive time, mind you..!) seemed to struggle a lot with his grip levels (as his usual tasks on every rallies to the fact being the rally opener) had to tackle the loose gravel that he would be sweeping clean for his rivals to take advantage better, but was still exceptionally competitive. However later in SS2, his car developed issues with the paddle-gear-shifter system and the champion had to manage with manual shifting until the service. This seriously affected his performance, due to which he bled a lot of competitive time.
And also, by the way, with championships’ already sealed for himself and his team M-Sport meant he didn’t have to do anything close to insane driving, to prove their competence. The job was already done at Wales Rally GB, a couple of weeks ago. Although, there was just a single wish from their boss Malcolm Wilson who was yearning to make a record of completing on the podium in every event of the championship season. Just that one wish!
Now coming back, to the final day’s action after eventful day 1 & day 2, the weather turned their positions upside down to few, who early on encountered some surprise light-to-heavy showers amidst Sunday’s first two opening stages and then the heavens opened up, for almost everyone throughout the remaining major part of their day. With changing weather conditions, the situation became quickly turned tricky to many, as a result, there were a few retirements on this final day’s action.
On the top order, it began with Stephane Lefevbre running wide at a corner in SS17, damaging heavily on the C3’s rear left suspension and was forced to retire at the stage end as it was unrepairable by the crew. A second retirement came a bit too soon, when Craig Breen crashed heavily (until then he seems to be enjoying & doing really well), that when he too ran wide in a twisty slippery-technical downhill section in SS18, it is apparent that he definitely entered the section way too fast.
The third one was the shocker to everyone, when Jari-Matti Latvala crashed during the final Power Stage SS21, after he hit a tree stump on a fast left-hander which left him with no steering control as it ripped the left front wheel in the very first impact and was launched straight into the Australian bushes with absolutely no mercy. Now his retirement became a boon to the Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon who was at 4th spot and was automatically promoted to the podium, while the 3rd in contention Ott Tanak was upgraded to 2nd instantly.
Both these drivers were in disbelief and felt immensely sorry for Jari‘s unfortunate retirement, which, is shows the high spirit in the sport. Definitely, a good feeling and why everybody stay hooked to rallying the moment they get involved in any level! The final car from the WRC point scoring table was none other than the rally leader Thierry Neuville who was in perfect control and kept his cool ever since he was handed over the lead to him by his team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, who was forced to retire mid-day from the previous day’s action.
In the end, the entire rally seemed a bit too ‘dramatic’, maybe the better choice of word should be ‘dynamic’. Yeah, a dynamic rally it was – down under!