Countdown to Rally de Espana The rally Going from zero to 83.9mph in three and a half seconds is pretty impressive by anybody's standards. And it's available to everybody - those with and without the driving licence - in Salou this week. And...
Countdown to Rally de Espana
Going from zero to 83.9mph in three and a half seconds is pretty impressive by anybody's standards. And it's available to everybody - those with and without the driving licence - in Salou this week. And you don't even have to keep your eyes open. Particularly when you roll, at 83mph.
Performance talk in these terms is nothing new right about now in Salou: the World Rally Championship's in town. And the Port Aventura theme park which hosts the service park also happens to house Furius Baco, Europe's speediest rollercoaster.
The g-forces generated by the ride give the mere mortal the opportunity to sample something similar to what our WRC heroes will be go through on the super-smooth, racetrack-style stages in the hills of Tarragona.
But wait. It's not all about the black stuff this time. There's some dirt in there too. Oh yes, for the first time since Sanremo 1996, the World Rally Championship boasts a genuinely mixed-surface event.
Day one is full gravel specification, with the cars jacked up on the suspension and running chunky Pirelli Scorpions at each corner. But for the weekend, they'll hug the tar, with their sticky, fat PZeros generating the g-forces. Unless it's raining. If it is, best join the line for Furius Baco.
On the opening day, crews will use the hard compound version of Pirelli's Scorpion WRC gravel tyre. Afterwards, teams will rush to convert their cars from gravel to asphalt specification in readiness for days two and three when Pirelli will make available its PZero asphalt tyres in soft and hard compounds.
As on all rounds of the world championship, tyre usage is restricted. In Spain Priority 1 and Priority 2 drivers will receive an allocation of 12 hard compound Pirelli Scorpion tyres for gravel use, 20 hard compound Pirelli PZero asphalt tyres for warm and dry conditions and 16 soft compound Pirelli PZero Tarmac tyres for when ambient temperatures are cooler and in the event of rain.
Junior World Rally Championship drivers will get a choice of Pirelli's K tyre (for gravel use) and the RE and RX tyre for the all-asphalt stages on Saturday and Sunday.
Who's going to win?
Eighty-two times Dani Sordo has taken the start of a World Rally Championship event. And 18 times, he has finished second. Sixteen times, he has finished second to Sebastien Loeb. Will Catalunya be number 17? Not if the former Junior World Rally Champion has got anything to do with it.
Sordo deserves to win. And he will be more determined than ever to remove the monkey which has been on his back for too many years now, the time has come for his WRC duck to be broken.
And, reading between the lines, Loeb's as keen to break it as Sordo is. Loeb and Sordo genuinely get on. Sordo's the sort of character it's impossible not to like: he's enthusiastic, amusing, entertaining and above-all, a team player. Not so much this season, but in years gone by, Loeb has been quick to pay tribute to the assistance Sordo has offered him in taking his titles.
Who's going to win? 1 2
A Sordo win in Spain would be hugely popular, not just in the Citroen team, but across the service park. A mark of Sordo's decency as a human being came in Poland last year. Jari-Matti Latvala had just handed Sordo second on a plate with his final-stage accident. Sordo waited for the distraught Latvala and, instead of celebrating another step towards another title for his employer, he comforted the Finn.
Everybody likes Dani. And nobody likes him more than the partisan Catalans, who will be cheering for him next week. It's been a long time for the faithful fans since El Matador, Carlos Sainz took his second home win in 1995.
If the event was running three straight asphalt days, there would be few concerns that Sordo really could put one over on Loeb. He's been so close to the Frenchman in the last three years, leading Loeb and doing all he could to show the world that he was ready to fight, before having his wings - understandably - clipped by the white shirts in the red corner. And, let's face it, with win number 60 and title number seven sorted, Loeb's not exactly going to fight tooth and nail for this one, is he?
But the gravel aspect of day one brings another element to the equation. Sordo starts fifth on the road, which can be near perfect for him if the weather stays warm and dry, forcing those ahead to sweep the loose gravel from the surface. But if it's wet, the advantage could be handed back to Loeb, leaving Sordo to face the role of bridesmaid for a 19th time.