Surprise! Ken’s writing about cars and racing again! I’ve been a fan of auto racing since I was a young kid. It doesn’t even really matter what the races are. NASCAR, Formula 1, Top Fuel Dragsters or Funny Cars (Stupid Cars, as my step-mom calls them), endurance racing like the 24 Hours of Le Mans – I’ve watched it all.
I always had an appreciation for rally drivers as well, but that came a little more to the forefront when I was in college. We had a Television Professor by the name of Dave Lostracco, one of the raddest and most down to earth teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure of having. He’s worked all over the world on all kinds of different shows, but his love for cars is obvious as he regales his students with tales of working on shows like Dream Car Garage and the like. In fact, I found an IMDB page for Dave, though I know he’s worked on FAR more than what is listed there. Anyway, the discussion in lecture one day turned to auto racing, and I can still remember the quote pretty vividly when someone mentioned how they liked one particular type of racing. Dave said “Yeah? You think those guys are good? Rally drivers would bitch slap them and take their lunch.”
My memory is aided by a Facebook group that a few of my classmates started back in the day where we collectively appreciated Dave’s style as an instructor, as well as his seemingly bottomless collection of colourful and memorable quotes – most of which I can’t repeat on our family-friendly website.
But to illustrate his point, one night after all the classes had wrapped up and one of the lecture halls was open, he booked it and invited us all to watch one of his favourite films, Dust To Glory. Not only is it a great documentary about off-road racing, but it’s also pretty visually stunning, so it served as a good piece to observe for television production techniques.
Taking in that film, documenting one of the harshest races in the world – the BAJA 1000 – certainly kicked my appreciation of rally racing up a notch.
And then I got a Playstation 3 and started playing a couple of games from the DiRT series of games.
I spent countless hours playing DiRT 2 and DiRT 3, and that helped me appreciate the work that goes into keeping a car right side up while flying over rough terrain at high speeds – though I could never really know just from playing a game.
But if you need more reinforcement to believe that these drivers (the successful ones, at least) are some of the best in the world, check out what can happen if your concentration weakens even for a second:
As the title would suggest, that’s a compilation of Finnish rally crashes. That’s not to suggest that Finns are not good drivers – in fact, it’s kind of the opposite. There are plenty of Finnish drivers who would be considered among the best in the world. Tommi Mäkinen jumps to mind from the rally world. I also remember watching Mika Häkkinen dominate Formula 1 back in the late 90’s, and more recently Kimi Räikkönen has been one of the more dominant racers in that sport. I think what the above video is trying to suggest is that Finns make great rally drivers because they just go flat out with little regard for their own health and well-being, all in hopes of winning. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, and the result is a big crash… But nobody ever won a race driving like an octogenarian! Unless… it was a race specifically for octogenarians.
Not to be outdone by their neighbours to the northeast, the United Kingdom has also had its share of great drivers emerge. For example, Lewis Hamilton has been a dominant force in Formula 1 for years now. In the rally world, Scotsman Colin McRae was a very well-known driver, after becoming the youngest person to ever win the World Rally Championship Driver’s Title in 1995, a record he still holds. There’s actually a series of video games with McRae’s name attached to it. That series eventually morphed into the DiRT series that was mentioned above, though after DiRT 2 (the first of the series to be released following McRae’s death in a helicopter crash in 2007), his name was no longer used in the title.
Kris Meeke is another UK export (from Northern Ireland) who has made a name for himself in the World Rally Championship. He hasn’t had quite the illustrious career (at least, yet) that McRae had, but he certainly knows what he’s doing behind the wheel. This is evidenced by his performance at last week’s WRC Rally Guanajuato, Mexico. Meeke had built up a pretty sizable lead of 37.8 seconds going into the final stage of the race. Less than a kilometre from the finish of that stage, everything was going well for Meeke, until he hit a bump that sent him airborne and flying through some trees on the side of the course. On the other side of the trees? A parking lot full of the parked cars of spectators. Watch what happened:
After making his way out of that maze of parked cars, Meeke was able to get back on course and make it over the finish line – with a punctured tire, no less – in first place! He still managed to beat four-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier by 13.8 seconds after all that! Pretty unbelievable, right? It was for Meeke as well, as you can see from his post-race interview:
What’s awesome is that most of the cars in the parking lot escaped damage too. MOST of them, though this Volkswagen CC did find itself just slightly in the way:
I would imagine the Citroën WRC team has some pretty good insurance, but for good measure, Meeke left a little note and an autographed hat (which he also scrawled “Sorry!” on) for the owner.
And you know, it certainly could have gone a lot worse…