It is debatable if they are the best drivers in the world, but I don’t think you will get an argument if you declare them the most fearless and talented drivers anywhere. They don’t just turn left and right, they slide, skid, spin, and fly along roads you might crawl along on your best day.
The World Rally Championship is an astounding level of racing that is followed with a fanaticism everywhere in the world except the United States. At least for now.
Certainly there are a few rally-like events that are known in the US. There is the Pikes Peak hill climb and the Rim of the World Rally. Baja racing is similar, but these rally cars in WRC are very much like stock cars were back in the sixties. Other than the roll cages and some racing bits these cars are very much like cars that come off the showroom floor. While most of them are brands and models that have not graced our shores for a decade or more, at least two should be recognizable. The Subaru WRX and the Mitsubishi Evolution derivatives of the WRC cars can be purchased in the states. These pocket rockets even in their domesticated street version are incredible performers. How about zero to sixty in well under five seconds? How about turbocharged two litre engines that nearly 300 horsepower and even greater torque? How about all wheel drive? These are the street versions mind you.
The WRC venue spans the globe with events in many different geographies and climates. Some are run in snow and ice while others are on gravel in the desert. Sweden, Turkey, Japan, New Zealand, to name a few.
Rallies are not wheel to wheel events, no these are timed events where the cars are spaced a few minutes apart and are challenged to run the stage as fast as they can. It is rare that they ever see each other on the course. But the fans watch with great anticipation. They pick out the most exciting corners to stand at fearlessly as these rally cars of 300 horsepower perform handbrake turns at speeds that are unbelievable just feet away from the fans.
Unlike other motor-sports when there is a shunt or something breaks these cars don’t stop. Even if they only have three wheels working these cars keep going. They have to. Each car has a driver and navigator and they must work in perfect harmony. The navigator and driver speak in a coded language so that the driver can anticipate every turn, switchback, breaking point in terms of direction and optimal gear. There is a tremendous amount of dependency and trust here.
Between each stage is the Service Park where the pit crew waits to see what condition the car will arrive in. The crew will have only twenty minutes to make the car road worthy again. This is like no other racing. These Service Parks are not in nice air-conditioned garages, but tents set up in what ever weather conditions exist. The crew that restores these cars back to some semblance of rally condition truly work miracles.
Did I say this was coming to the USA? Yes, in the 2006 Summer X-Games.
If you watch closely you might find the WRC events shown on the Speed Channel, but usually at odd hours. If you can, it is worth the sacrifice. If you can ever attend an event live it will be an experience you will never forget.
Oh, and these cars don’t get put in a trailer and carted to the next stage, they are licensed and drive the roads with the rest of the public traffic.
I would love to see how the WRC would look being run on the Tail of the Dragon.
WRC and the USA – your time has come.