Hard as it is to believe, this week’s Rally Australia will be the final outing for the Volkswagen Motorsport team. Incredible.
We’ve had some issues along the way and without them I think we’d have been the fastest Ford reasonably comfortably. Next year, our DDFT win gives us two World Rally Championship prize drives in a Ford Fiesta R5 car and coming out here and pitching ourselves against the best in the world has really given me good confidence.
I’d been a bit messy through there first time, but the second time it was all looking very, very good. A few people told me we were up at the start, but to see the split times and see we were taking more than a second per kilometre out of the top guys in the class – guys who are being linked to full world championship drives next season – is fantastic.
I drove this car for 10 or 15 miles on Monday, but apart from that I was straight into it this morning and to be beating drivers who have been in these cars all year is what I was hoping for at the end of the rally – not the first day!
It’s a big deal to take on the drivers in WRC2,” he said. “A lot of the guys who have been in there all season are moving up to the main WRC next year. This is where it’s at for aspiring drivers in the world championship, so it’s a real honour and privilege to be here.
I know I’m biased, being British, but don’t take my word for it. Listen to the best drivers in the world, they all say the same thing: these are some of the finest roads of the season.
We’ve been to some amazing places this year,” he said, “places that are really hot, lovely and sunny and all that. But, I’ll be honest, there’s no place like home. When I was going off to work this morning, the sun was just coming up on a crisp autumn day and I thought: “This is it, this is the time for Rally GB.” I can’t wait to get in the car and get on with it. It’s such a special feeling to be competing at home, surrounded by so many family and friends. It’s fantastic. And to be doing it with the championship won and the pressure gone is just such a bonus.
After that, everything was fine until my map light broke at the start of the last stage. I went for the spare, but that didn’t work. With just a couple of minutes to the start, we tried a few options. The torch I carried was too bright, the torch on the phone was too bright – in the end I had to just use the glow from my phone to read the notes. That definitely made the last one pretty interesting for me!
It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Osian said, “and I don’t think it will sink in for quite a while! This sport can be so cruel at times, I was on the floor on Friday – I couldn’t believe we’d come so close and it looked like we were going to lose it. But we picked ourselves up and got on with it and now look: we’re champions!
“We’ve been very impressed with Osian and Dale this year. They’ve shown plenty of speed and consistency to win rounds outright and now take the title in what’s been another incredibly competitive season in the Fiestas. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what they can do next season.
This has been such a close season in DDFT – and an absolute thriller of a final round. Congratulations to Osian and Dale, they’ve been right at the sharp end of the pace all year and they deserve this title.
We have waited so long this season to be back on the podium and to make it here after the disappointment in Latvia two weeks ago is unbelievable. That race was our worst result ever and one I never want to repeat.
This one really is going down to the final stage – what an incredible way to end the season. We have nothing to lose on the final day, we just have to push as hard as we can.
I’m gutted about today. There’s no way around it, no other way of putting it, I’m just so, so disappointed. We were quickest on the first stage this morning, leading and – at that point – looking at an extra three World Rally Championship drives next season. Then disaster.
The stage in Barcelona tonight is just for the fans really,” said Osian. “It’s a real shame the weather’s been so miserable for them, but it’s still amazing to see so many of them out watching. The stage itself was really tricky with lots of places to be caught out. Driving down really narrow streets in the dark and heavy rain was a tough way to start.
Outside of rallycross, I’m really excited to be going to my first Gymkhana GriD event in Greece at the end of the month. I think you’ve probably seen that I’m quite fond of smoking some tyres and that’s what the weekend will be about. While I’m there, maybe I’ll try and show my friend Ken Block how to do some donuts!
Friday night in Salou is one of the highlights of the season as the world’s best drivers and co-drivers hand their too-tall gravel-rashed rally car over to the world’s best mechanics. And 75 minutes later, they’re handed back a hunkered-down Tar-snorting racer. Just in time for the weekend…
John MacCrone and I are out for our second win in three years on one of the rally world’s best-kept secrets. We’re in a Ford Fiesta R5 and start on Friday night, stop around midnight, then re-start Saturday morning and go through until the early hours of Sunday. It’s fantastic competition on some incredible roads on an island just off the west coast of Scotland.
The only stages Alister and I managed were the first two on Friday night. It was just an incredible feeling to drive through these stages in the dark with camera flashes, flares and fireworks going off all around the place. And the car – the Subaru Legacy – was something else. It was running in 1991 specification with a big restrictor and no anti-lag on the turbo. It was: wait, wait, wait, bang all the power comes. And it came in with one hell of a wallop. It was absolutely amazing, a real privilege and honour to go and do that event in that car with Alister.
I flew 9,000 kilometres to drive 14! Obviously it’s really frustrating to retire so early, but what an event! I would love to be back to give Rallylegend another go. I loved the atmosphere and driving something like a Mk II Escort would be perfect – you’d really have the chance to entertain the crowds in that
I’m looking forward to driving the two surfaces,” said Osian, “it’s like getting two rallies in one. All I can do is go there and give it my best shot. Dale and I have prepared as well as we possibly could: we’ve done exactly the same as we have for the other rallies. Basically, if we go well on the rally and score well on the rally then the championship will follow. At the moment, the momentum’s with us – all we’ve got to do is keep it there!”
It’s always great to get a telephone call from Alister [McRae], but this one was particularly special. He asked if I was free to co-drive for him on Rally Legends – as usual, I was really keen. But when he told me we would be in one of Colin’s old Legacys, I couldn't believe it. That’s when I got seriously excited.
I’m also pleased to be driving a Legacy as well – we have some fond memories of these cars in the family – specially from 1993. That was the year Colin won his first world rally in a Legacy (Rally New Zealand) and I got my first professional drive in one of these cars as well. It was one of the best cars of its time and I’m really looking forward to getting back in one in San Marino later this week.
Latvia’s a new country for World RX and a new track for us and that’s a good thing for me. I don’t know if it’s because I spent my life driving roads twice and then going absolutely flat out as a rally driver – maybe that forces you to look for finer, smaller details than if you lived your life on a circuit, I don’t know – but I always seem to go well on our first time at a new track.
I’m co-driving Mohamed Al Mutawaa in an Abu Dhabi Racing Citroën DS 3 R3T. We tested together for the first time in France last week and everything went well – it’s fair to say we’re both very excited about getting into those 10,000 corners.
Frustration is definitely the word from here,” said Solberg. “We had some issues early in the weekend, but still I was confident for Sunday and then they come with this crazy decision to water the track. How can they do that?
Golf’s a good way to relax,” said Solberg. “I hadn’t played since 2012 though, so I was a bit rusty. We were playing with our sponsors near to Stockholm and everything was good: the sun was shining and I was relaxing. But then I got the same competitive urge – I wanted to win again!
I’m really excited about the chance to co-drive Mohamed in Corsica,” said Loudon. “Everybody in the sport knows about the challenge this island provides – it’s not known as the rally of 10,000 corners for nothing!
This is a great opportunity for me. I look forward to working with Stuart and to learn from his experience. I think we will have good chemistry on the stages in France.”
John and I have a great relationship in and out of the car, he’s a very, very good friend of mine and I’ll always grab any opportunity to co-drive him with both hands.
It remains one of my favourite rallies of the season and I’ll not forget that first win with John, it was a very special moment. Saturday’s a great chance for the pair of us to be out in a car competing, getting used to each other again. A couple of wins for the Scots in Scotland would go down very well!”
Just to make it to this race was a victory for the team. When I was in the car after the finish of the final in Canada, I could see my legs moving, but I couldn’t feel them. Trust me, at a time like that, you think about a lot of things. I was so worried.
One thing I wasn’t worried about was the car. I knew it was a big mess; I knew the cost of the crash was massive in terms of the budget, but I also knew that only one team could make everything right in time for this race: my team.
I have to say, I’d heard a lot about the infamous Panzerplatte stage, but I absolutely loved it – what a challenge and what a stretch of road! That’s how I feel about the whole thing, to be honest. It’s been a great, great rally.
It’s been pretty much the perfect day,” said Osian. “It’s been hard, mind; when you’re pushing flat-out and driving as quickly as you can go that brings its own focus. But when you’ve got a gap to manage, it’s quite a different proposition.
We’ll certainly be needing the brakes tomorrow, especially with 96 junctions in 25 miles in Panzerplatte!
There are so many junctions in the Baumholder stages,” said Osian. “The key to pulling time in here is being as neat and tidy as possible. You see drivers like Thierry Neuville, guys who are really strong on these kind of stages, being so, so good on the brakes. You leave it absolutely as late as you dare, off the brakes, turn in, power. Get that right on 96 junctions in 25 miles and you’re on for a good time. That’s what Dale and I are after.
I’m delighted to say I’m joining Ma Qinghua for the recce in Trier this week. Making pacenotes on these asphalt roads was the latest stage in Ma’s preparations for next month’s now cancelled Rally China.
This might be my first Tarmac round of the world championship, but I’m just as happy driving on asphalt as I am on the loose. I think it came as a bit of a surprise for a few people when we won our first BRC round on Tarmac, but for me, a stage is a stage regardless of the surface.
The team said that he [Marklund] lost all braking in the car. To be honest – on my feeling alone – this was probably the worst accident of my career, much worse than my crash at Rally Germany in 2004. It took me at least five minutes to get the feeling back in my legs and feel strong enough to get out of the car. I went to get checked out at the hospital and I’m okay, but very, very sore.
And the track, the track is just so cool. It’s a street circuit, so you have to be careful to be absolutely neat and precise. The key to making the car work around here is to not slide, not to put too much heat into the tyres and just try to stay cool. If you are behind somebody, it can be frustrating, but there are places to pass. This is one of my favourite tracks of the year. I won the final two years ago and won a heat last season – I want to do more of the same this week!
I did a lot of homework on this rally, talked to as many people as I could and watched more YouTube coverage than for any other event. The person who inspired me here was Richard Burns. He came to this rally for the first time in 1998 and finished fifth overall. The following year, he almost won it. Being a fellow Brit, Richard’s always been a huge hero of mine and I definitely try to follow his neat, tidy, efficient style of driving.
Everything was going well until we got to a fourth-gear right. As soon as I turned into the corner, I knew I was carrying too much speed. The corner tightened a little bit and I was already over-committed; we got onto the loose at the outside of the corner and that was it, we were into the trees. We rolled.
Ouninpohja’s some kind of wake-up call in the morning,” smiled Pryce. “I can’t wait for that though – I’ve heard so much about this legendary road and I’m sure it’s going to live up to that billing.
Even the street stage tonight is famous. When you watch YouTube footage of Rally Finland and the 1000 Lakes going back to the Eighties and Nineties, you see this stage being driven by Hannu Mikkola in an Audi Quattro, Tommi Mäkinen in a Mitsubishi and Colin [McRae] in a Subaru of some sort. Just this mile-long stage is a very, very big deal – there’s a story on every corner of this event. It’s fantastic to be here and to be competing.
I’ve done this great event twice, the first time with John MacCrone in a Ford Fiesta R2 in 2012 and the year after in a Fiesta R5 with Robert Barrable. I had a good run and made the finish both times, but one thing you don’t forget from Finland is the sheer speed of the place. Honestly, even in the R2 car, you still have to push the reset button in your brain a little bit; you have to remind yourself that cars can fly.
For anybody involved in this sport, Finland has always been such a special place. Like everybody, I have grown up watching footage of guys like Marcus Grönholm or Markku Alen driving roads with unpronounceable names like Ouninpohja or Mökkiperä and now I’m here and about to be doing the same thing – it’s fantastic. It really is a dream.
It’s easy to get drawn in to a big push on Epynt, but that place and those roads can bite. I have to say, though, I’m really excited by this rally. We all know about the long and illustrious history of the fabled Welsh Rally, so I think we owe Nicky himself and the Quinton Motor Club a debt of gratitude for reviving an iconic format. All we need now is for Russell Brookes and Mike Broad to come back in their Andrews-liveried Opel Manta 400 to defend that 1987 win.
And now we’re here: what a fantastic week to be a Welshman – first the football and now my dreams come true! Like I said, it’s a fantastic feeling. But we can’t get too carried away, there’s another two drives on offer next time out in Finland!
It’s been a good one for the British crews, but congratulations to Osian for taking the first prize of the season.