DRIVE Does Some Blind Rallying: Video
Motorsports are fun. This country has lots of options to choose from, including the straight-line acceleration fest that is drag racing, technical handling tests in autocross, and high-speed apex hunting in road racing. Rally racing is another option, but finding the right level of cost and accessibility can be hard for anyone without sponsorship money from a major energy drink company. Luckily, there’s rallycross, where wheel-to-wheel thrills meet dirt and counter steer, all for a relatively affordable cost. Drive recently gave it a shot in its latest episode of “My Life As A Rallyist,” and long story short, things get a little… blind.
There are a few things I really like about this video. First, it’s about rallying, the most incredible sport ever conceived by man. Secondly, it features an old school Impreza wagon tearing it up in the dirty stuff, complete with snowboard buckles to hold the front bumper in place. Finally, it shines a light on the incredible grassroots awesomeness of rallycross, which, in my opinion, deserves a whole lot more interest amongst enthusiasts vying for an adrenaline rush.
As you probably expect, most of the cars featured in the video are Subarus, but there are some interesting standouts, such as a beat-up looking Ford Ranger, and a very quick crosskart. The protagonist lines up against similar non-turbo Subies, and quickly finds himself in a battle towards the front. Unfortunately, a splash of mud makes it impossible for the driver to spot where’s he going. And that’s where things get really interesting.
Clocking in at seven-and-a-half minutes, this video is definitely worth a watch for anyone interested in testing their skills on the muddy battlefields of rallycross.
TopSpeed’s Top 5 Rally-Bred Street Machines
You gotta love racing. In the push for ultimate glory and a top-of-the-podium finish, automakers will do just about anything. Produce a sports car with the aesthetic of a shoebox? Sure! Completely ignore comfort in favor of a few extra tenths? No problem! Make a product that’s wildly overpriced and completely impractical in just about every conceivable way? Hell, Ferrari’s been doing it for decades.
However, with the unique pressures of each racing series comes a unique breed of cars. Drag racing makes muscle cars, while circuit racing makes mid-engine exotics.
This list gravitates towards the dirty stuff, where names like Tommi Makinen, Colin McRae, Walter Rohrl, and Sebastien Loeb are uttered in hushed reverence. This is the land of mud-flinging power slides and sky-scraping crests. This is TopSpeed’s Top 5 Rally-Bred Street Machines.
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The Smoking Tire Gets Acquainted With A Rally-Spec 1973 Datsun 240Z: Video
The 10,000-mile, 37-day Peking-to-Paris rally is without question one of the toughest races in all of motor sports. That has held true since the first race happened in 1907 and continues to be the case in its sixth iteration that’s scheduled to start on June 12, 2016. Needless to say, not everyone has the nerve to participate in the race. But there are those like Chris Bury who are embracing the ridiculous challenge of the rally race. But not only is he participating, this dude is racing with a 1973 Datsun 240Z. Of course, the car has been heavily tuned to withstand the rigors of the P2P rally race.
Bury and his father spent the last year restoring and modifying the 240Z to full rally specification and as The Smoking Tire’s Matt Farah finds out, it really has everything you need to conquer the 10,000 mile race. It’s got a full rally suspension, skid plates, off-road tires, a 26-gallon fuel cell, a period-correct limited-slip differential, and a bored out 2.7-liter straight six engine that not only produces 195 horsepower and 189 pound-feet of torque, but is also running on low compression to ensure that it doesn’t get stymied by bad fuel during the race. Seems like a smart idea if Bury doesn’t want to get stuck in the middle of the Gobi Desert.
According to Farah, the 240Z is currently in transit to China, but before it got shipped off, he got to spend some time behind the wheel of the rally racer with Bury riding shotgun. The whole episode is an interesting one because of what Bury plans to accomplish when the Peking-to-Paris rally race starts in June. It’s hard to imagine finding anyone who would willingly participate and even rebuild a stock 240Z specifically for the occasion.
All the best, Chris Bury. Here’s to hoping you get to see the checkered flag at the Place Vendome on July 17.
2017 Volkswagen Polo R WRC
Introduced for the 2013 racing season as Volkswagen’s first WRC-spec factory car since the 1990 Golf Rally G60, the Polo R WRC went on to dominate the sport by winning three back-to-back World Rally Championships through 2015. Having dominated each and every season since it returned to WRC, Volkswagen is gunning for more success starting 2017 with a new Polo-based racer.
Under development since summer 2015, when the FIA released the new regulations for the World Rally Car class, the 2017 Polo R WRC is previewed as a significant improvement over its predecessor. Just like any evolution out there, the new rally-spec compact is set to be lighter, more powerful and more aerodynamic. In other words, Ford and Hyundai have plenty of things to worry about for 2017 if they don’t shape up over the next 12 months.
Details about the next-gen Polo R WRC are still very limited, and the actual car was only shown as a rendering, but Volkswagen provided just enough information for us to have a closer look at Wolfsburg’s upcoming rally weapon. An unveiling is planned toward the end of 2016 with the official debut to take place at the Rally Monte Carlo in January 2017. Stay tuned for updates!
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For those of us residing in the northern hemisphere, January kicks off the gradual countdown to spring – that long thaw to lengthier days and warmer temperatures. But that means summer is already in full swing south of the equator, which provides the right sort of climate for one of the most ruthless long-distance races on the planet – the Dakar Rally. Spanning well over 5,500 miles of brutal, car-killing, spine-shattering terrain, the Dakar is a challenge unlike any other, but for four years running, Mini has walked away with top honors. This year, the marque looks to add a fifth notch to its belt, as evidenced by this desert shakedown video.
Hit play, and one thing will become abundantly obvious – this is no ordinary Mini. The composite body panels are fashioned after the showroom model, but that’s where the similarities end. Underneath, the beastly machine you see here is actually a tube-frame chassis stuffed with a torque-monster diesel engine, ultra-heavy-duty suspension components, and copious underbody skid protection.
Of course, that’s to be expected, considering what the Mini is up against. Sharp gravel, high heat, treacherous mountain passes, hidden boulders – it’s all in a day’s work when racing the Dakar.
If you wanna talk about the World Rally Championship, you could sum up 2015 by saying Sebastien Ogier took home his third championship title, but you’d be skipping out on most of the excitement of an action-packed season. Alongside the Frenchman’s nearly flawless performance was drama of every sort, including the rise of young talent (Elfyn Evans), the brief return of a legend (Sebastien Loeb), and a truly epic three-way battle in Sweden. Of course, it’s difficult to fit all the thrills and spills of WRC 2015 into a single introductory paragraph, but if brevity is what you’re after, hit play for two and a half minutes of rally-style goodness.
You know the drill – spectacular natural scenery, sky-scraping high-speed jumps, expertly executed power slides, and jaw-dropping crashes. These are the things you can count on when it comes to professional rally racing, and WRC 2015 delivered as expected. Add some angles from the helicopter up top, and footage of AWD systems churning for traction down low, and you’ve got icing for that cake.
This is the kind of thing that gets me stoked for the upcoming season. WRC 2016 kicks off in Monte Carlo on January 22nd. Look for coverage right here on TopSpeed.
After three days of asphalt-flavored action through vineyards, military tracks and flowing country roads, Sebastien Ogier took the win in Germany over the weekend, positioning him ever closer to clinching his third consecutive World Rally Championship title. Fellow Volkswagen teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen joined him on the podium, making for a clean 1-2-3 all-Polo R VW sweep at the make’s home event. Latvala finished 23 seconds behind Ogier, while Mikkelsen trailed by an additional 94 seconds.
Germany marked Ogier’s sixth win for the 2015 season and his 30th career victory, placing him alongside Marcus Gronholm in second for most all-time wins (Sebastien Loeb still holds the outright record at an astonishing 78 wins). In order to secure his third driver’s championship, all that’s left for Ogier to do is finish ahead of Latvala at next month’s Rally Australia.
However, Ogier said the focus in Germany was not on the driver’s championship, but rather on bringing a win to VW at its home event, something the make has failed to do since it re-entered the WRC in 2013.
“It was a perfect rally and that was the target, to try to finally give a victory here to my team and I’m proud to achieve that,” Ogier said. “The third title is getting really close so that’s fantastic, but this weekend the interests of the team were bigger than mine.”
The WRC next heads down under for Rally Australia, September 10th – 13th.
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Defending world champion Sebastien Ogier has secured his fourth victory of the 2015 WRC season, finishing this past weekend’s dusty four-day event more than three minutes ahead of the second place finisher, New Zealander Hayden Paddon. In third was Belgian driver Thierry Neuville, who completed the event almost four-and-a-half minutes behind the Frenchman.
Despite seeing a comfortable lead by the end of Sunday’s stages, Paddon gave the world champion a solid two-day fight, leading the rally outright in his 2014 Hyundai i20 for 15 stages. However, Ogier managed to overcome his appointed gravel-sweeping duties, eventually overtaking Paddon when the Kiwi had a spin that resulted in damage to his gearbox.
However, Paddon’s second place finish was undoubtedly the story of the rally, as the weekend saw him become the first New Zealander to lead a WRC event outside his home country. What’s more, the result is Paddon’s best career finish, with 2015 being his first full season at the top echelon of rally racing.
Further back, Neuville managed to claw his way onto the podium Sunday morning when Citroen-driver Mads Ostberg had an off that damaged the brakes on his 2013 Citroen DS 3. Ostberg eventually settled for fifth behind Ford’s Elfyn Evans, while Jari-Matti Latvala came sixth in his 2015 Volkswagen Polo R, just 16.6 seconds shy of Ostberg. You can check out the rally’s highlights on the WRC official YouTube channel here.
Ogier currently leads the championship by 66 points over Ostberg, while Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen sits three points down from Ostberg in third. Latvala and Evans complete the top five positions. In the manufacturer’s chase, Volkswagen leads with 179 points, Citroen is in second with 115 points, and Hyundai is in third with 113 points.
Seven of 13 rounds remain in the 2015 WRC season. Up next, the championship heads to the fast, grass-lined gravel roads of Rally Poland, July 2nd through 5th.
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Volkswagen enjoyed another dominating run in the latest round of the 2015 WRC season, taking every position on the podium in Portugal. Standing at top honors was Jari-Matti Latvala, who managed to stave off a hard charge from defending world champion Sebastien Ogier, ending the weekend only 8.2 seconds ahead of his teammate. At third was Andreas Mikkelsen, who finished 20.4 seconds behind the rally leader.
Latvala managed to capitalize on his back marker starting position by shooting to the top position Friday afternoon, taking full advantage of the cleaner road conditions offered by the swept gravel stages. It was the 13th career victory for the 30-year-old driver, who had not seen a win since October of 2014.
“After the last three rallies some people were doubting if I would come back,” Latvala told WRC.com. “It was one of the worst situations in my rally career so to come and win here is unique. I really appreciate this victory feeling.”
With a fresh infusion of points, Latvala climbs from ninth to fifth in the driver’s championship. Meanwhile, Ogier increased his championship lead to a 42-point margin.
Northern Irishman Kris Meeke, who clinched victory in the previous round at Argentina, was the only challenger to VW’s dominance, becoming embroiled in a fight with Mikkelsen for third. Unfortunately for Meeke, a broken anti-roll bar on his Citroen DS3 allowed Mikkelsen to slip by, knocking him back to fourth place.
Meanwhile, Ott Tanak came in fifth in his Ford Fiesta RS, besting Dani Sordo in his Hyundai i20.
Next, the WRC heads to Italy for more gravel at the Rally Italia Sardegna June 11th through 14th.
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So there you are, deep in the woods of some European country, huddled around a crackling fire, cradling a warm beverage to stave off the frostbite in your fingertips. Spots of ice keep you from wandering too far, as does the cheery atmosphere of the locals. Murmurs of several different dialects mix with the floating wood smoke, while a collection of colorful flags flit among the branches.
Then you hear it – the rising crescendo of an un-muffled turbo four-cylinder at full song, popping through the gears with shocking alacrity, each upshift accompanied by a heady tailpipe explosion. The crowd around you is hushed, and all attention turns to a narrow dirt road slithering its way through the trees.
The sound builds, until finally, it bursts over the crest – a brightly stickered race car takes flight, giving you a clear view of the battered skid plate underneath. The suspension droops like landing gear as the winged hatchback sails past you, and for a brief moment, you see two helmets brace for impact in the cockpit. Momentum carries the car well over a hundred feet until it reconnects with the ground, and you watch as the rear squirms under braking before disappearing around the following bend in a sideways spray of frozen mud, covering nearby trees and spectators alike. The exhaust note fades, replaced by the cheers of all around you.
This is rally racing. It’s a contest characterized by ruthless conditions, unyielding machinery, outrageous talent, and gut-wrenching crashes. In this article, we’ll delve into some of the finer points of what makes this one of the most exciting sports in the world.
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With the frozen drama of last month’s ice and snow-covered Rally Sweden in the history books, the WRC headed to the high, dusty trails of Mexico for the first gravel rally of 2015.
Featuring sharp rocks, loose dirt and obstacle-lined roads, Mexico would present significant challenges to this year’s competitors, with more than a few learning first-hand just how punishing it can be.
Rally Guanajuato Mexico is the most elevated round of the year, never dipping below 5,910 feet above sea level, with a maximum altitude of 8,860 feet. This put a huge strain on the turbocharged engines, with power outputs dropping by as much as 30 percent in the thin air.
Going into this third round of the season, Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier led the driver’s championship with 53 points, followed by Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville in second with 30 points. Two additional VWs followed, with Andreas Mikkelsen also carrying 30 points and Jari-Matti Latvala in fourth with 19 points. Citroen’s Mads Ostberg held fifth with 14 points.
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Ford launched its Fiesta R2 program back in 2010 to help young and inexperienced drivers learn the ropes of rally racing and move their way up the ladder in the sport. From the R2, the ladder moves drivers up to the Fiesta R5 and later up to the RS WRC, but they must first master this lower-powered rig, and dominate all the other drivers that Ford is testing. For the 2015 racing season, Ford has launched a new Fiesta R2, and it debuted the model at the Geneva Auto Show.
This new subcompact rally rig features Ford’s award-winning 1.0-liter EcoBoost engine, but its wick is turned up beyond its standard 123-horsepower mark. This small-displacement, "relatively" low-powered engine is a great jumping-off point for up-and-coming rally drivers, as it helps them focus on controlling the car rather than reining in a super-powerful engine.
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A brand-new season of the World Rally Championship was launched last week in the frigid mountain passes of southern France. Steeped in history and glamour, the “Monte” is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious racing events in the world, with a reputation for drama and stunning natural beauty stretching all the way back to 1911. Speaking to press Thursday, former WRC champion Ari Vatanen described the rally as “like a princess, like the only girl of a rich family, somewhat spoiled, difficult. You can’t tame this event.”
Roughly 75 percent of the route was new for 2015, offering a fresh batch of challenges to the teams and drivers that dared to traverse the treacherous tarmac stages. Chief amongst them was Sébastien Loeb, past winner of an unprecedented nine consecutive WRC championship titles, who would make a guest appearance in a Citroen DS 3 at this year’s event for “fun”.
Stepping up to challenge this former titan of the sport was another Frenchman, current champion Sébastien Ogier, who arrived with every intention of beginning his run at a third world title.
Stage 1 kicked off Thursday night in the freezing, inky darkness, as each car fired up its headlight pods to help illuminate the highly variable road conditions. Tire choice was particularly tricky, with half of the stage on exposed tarmac, half covered in snow, and plenty of slippery ice patches dotted in between.
As current champion, it was Ogier who would set the pace with a blast into 2015. Given the particularly hazardous road conditions presented by these first two stages of the season, the Volkswagen driver wisely exercised a good deal of discretion, but still managed to net the second fastest time of the day.
Unfortunately, there was no such luck for Hyundai driver Dani Sordo, who was the first to fall victim to unpredictable grip levels. Misjudging the braking into a left-hander early in his run, Sordo accidently parked the frontend of his i20 into a ditch. Co-driver Marc Martí exited the vehicle to physically encourage it back onto the road, resulting in a 40 second loss for the Spanish driver.
But it was Loeb who handily took the rally lead, cutting ahead of Ogier’s time by more than 13 seconds. While the former champion may have touted his WRC return as simply an excursion for enjoyment, it was clear from the off that Loeb’s tour of Monte Carlo would be anything but a pleasure cruise.
Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 Rallye Monte Carlo.
“Dominant” is one word that springs to mind when considering the Ford Fiesta’s performance in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship (GRC). Going into the 2014 season, the supermini was responsible for three driver’s championships and three manufacturer’s championships, each claimed consecutively since the series’ launch in 2011. In 2013, the Fiesta won nine of the 10 scheduled races and claimed 22 of the 30 available podium spots. Last year, this American-bred hatchback added to its already impressive record with yet another driver’s championship, another manufacturer’s championship, three race wins, and 18 podiums.
Of the six different teams flying under a blue oval in the 2014 GRC season, Sweden’s Olsbergs MSE was undoubtedly the best. While other Fords contributed to the automaker’s overall series supremacy, it’s only Olsbergs MSE that can currently boast a four-peat championship drive, with Tanner Foust crowned winner in 2011 and 2012, followed by Toomas Heikkinen in 2013, and Joni Wiman in 2014.
The Fiesta has a long history of rally competition success, with different versions of the party-maker entered in series both nationally and internationally. But somehow, it’s the Olsbergs MSE Fiesta that comes out on top every time at GRC.
So, what is it that makes this Fiesta ST so successful? Part of it is the talent behind the wheel, which in 2014, included Patrik Sandell, Brian Deegan, Nelson Piquet Jr., and the new reigning champion, Joni Wiman. The other half of the equation is the team itself, which works closely with Ford to develop the Fiesta ST platform to its utmost potential. Olsbergs MSE is also responsible for a variety of GRC Supercar Lites, which extends its competition knowledge even further.
Like any good racing team, Olsbergs MSE is always in development, constantly building on past successes, solidifying its lead around a competitive field hungry for victory. Simply put, it’s a philosophy that translates into trophies.
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There’s something wonderfully evocative about watching a modern 911 executing Scandinavian flicks and slinging gravel everywhere. It’s not without precedent either. The Porsche 911 has an incredibly rich rally history that includes several high-profile victories, including a Dakar Rally win in 1984. But, since then Porsche has been pretty quiet on the rally front.
The FIA established the World Rally Championship RGT class as a way to diversify beyond the Ford, Citroen and Volkswagenall-wheel-drive hot hatches that make up the majority of rally entries. Starting in 2011, RGT regulations allowed rear-wheel-drive GT cars to enter WRC and European Rally Championship events. So far, Lotus is the only manufacturer to build an RGT car, the Lotus Exige RGT, but it was a very short-lived program.
In 2014, the FIA changed the homologation requirements for RGT entries, allowing individually prepped cars to become eligible, like this Tuhill-prepped Porsche 911 Cup turned rally car getting wrung out by Chris Harris in this video. Richard Tuthill carved out a niche for himself building classic Porsche 911 rally cars for the East African Safari Rally and other classic car rallies, but he’s since turned his attention to more modern machinery and the WRC RGT.
The car started life as 997 911 Cup racecar. Its chassis has been raised on softer suspension, and gravel tires have been fitted at all four corners. The engine is unchanged, with the exception of an air-restrictor to meet horsepower requirements. Inside, the roll cage has been modified with side-impact protection and a passenger seat added for the navigator. It’s a massively desirable thing, and, according to Harris, it’s just as much fun to drive as you would hope.
Take-up for the RGT class has been slow partly because the cars compete directly against factory-backed WRC cars, the pace that RGT cars can’t hope to match. Still, it’s awesome to see these cars competing, and I have my fingers crossed that there are other nut-jobs out there hatching schemes to rally-prep Astons and Ferraris.
When it comes to racing schools the name Bob Bondurant comes up a lot. With the largest purpose built training facility, the largest collection of student cars, and one of the largest collections of student programs, the Bondurant Racing School is the biggest and one of the best options for anyone looking to improve their driving skills.
The school is also one of the oldest names in the world of advanced driving instruction, with a history that dates back to 1968. The school is set up to be a one-stop location for students from all walks of life to come and learn. There is a giant skidpad, four tracks, and multiple configurations of courses for advanced students. From karts to stock cars, there is something here for everyone.
If this sounds like something you may be interested in checking out, we have gathered all the information you would need after the jump. We have a breakdown of many of the courses, cars used, costs and more. When you get done checking it out, why don’t you hit the comments to let us know which course you would most like to take.
Click past the jump to read more about the Bob Bondurant Racing School.