Rallying ... It isn't for the faint of heart.
Of all the people in motorsport that I admire the most, rally drivers and co-drivers are far and away at the top of the list.
I make that statement not just as a supporter of rallying, but because I also have personal experience of just how dangerous it is, how hard you must push, and what awaits you with any kind of minor misjudgement. An old school and work colleague of mine, Michael Park, paid the ultimate price while acting as co-driver to Markko Martin in the 2005 Wales Rally Great Britain.
A tragic loss
On September 18th 2005, 'Beef' as he was affectionately known was killed when their Peugot 307 left the road at Bryn and struck a tree. Michael, a rally fan since age 10 was killed and a heartbroken Martin has trouble racing again. Every so often, Beef tried to push me to get up at 4am on a Sunday to go and watch a rally with him. I never got the chance but I do plan to visit his memorial at the spot where he lost his life…
The dangers of rallying have hit hard here in Britain this year with deaths at both The Jim Clark Rally held in Scotland where three spectators were struck by a car, and The Ulster Rally, held in Northern Ireland. Despite the dangers and incredible stress, the drivers in the World Rally Championship always come across as genuine, friendly, and just good people.
Champions on and off the track
Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala have good reason to smile. Their Volkswagen team have just won the 2014 constructors championship with Ogier and Latvala seemingly set to finish first and second respectively.
As soon as a driver finishes a stage and comes to a halt, they have a microphone under their nose. Very calmly, they go into detail of how the stage went and how the car felt. Ogier and Latvala are particuarly good with the media, but to all intense and purposes, all the drivers are of that manner. Maybe it’s the dangers and the sheer relief of coming through unscathed?
I really don’t know but they certainly seem to be the sort of people that would make you welcome, should you ever meet them. Maybe Formula One and NASCAR drivers should watch how rally drivers act with the media? They could learn a lot if they did!