Blink, and you’ll hit something

I’ve posted rallying videos in these pages several times before.  I participated in rallying as an amateur enthusiast in my younger days, but never at the level the professionals attain.  They’re the true master drivers of the motorsport world, able to handle almost any terrain and road conditions.

Here’s Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio, from the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team, in action during the recent Tour de Corse (Corsican) rally, held at the end of March this year.

RallySport reports:

Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville finally won a nerve racking Tour de Corse in which the lead changed on each of the final four stages.

. . .

The event featured many roads unknown to teams which led to an unusually frequent pacenote and consequent driving errors and perplexing handling of the competing cars. Dry sunny conditions were perfect for the fastest ever Tour de Corse, the first time it was won at an average speed of more than 100kph.

There’s more at the link, including many photographs of the event.

Don’t let the seemingly low average speed of the winners (a little over 62 mph) fool you.  On winding, twisting, narrow roads like that, the margin between safety and disaster is measured in split-seconds, irrespective of speed.  That’s why rally drivers seldom make a successful transition to racing on a typical Grand Prix or Nascar circuit, and why drivers from the latter events seldom make good rally drivers.  Rallying demands total concentration, total focus, in a way that no circuit can possibly duplicate.



  1. Based on the video the transitions from bright sunlight to deep gloom cast by trees and buildings caused near total blackouts of the roadway for me as a viewer. One can only hope that it was lesser so for the drivers.

  2. Peter,
    having been a circuit racer (motorcycles), and a fast solo rider, I can say you have a misperception of the abilities needed to go fast.

    Circuit racers need to learn the details of a track, and how best to get around it, and figure out how to do this while dealing with other racers trying to get in front of them. Rally drivers seldom have to deal with other vehicles, but they don't get to practice the course at speed, IIRC. They have to be concerned with stray animals more than circuit racers do (want to stop racers faster than a red flag? Wave the deer flag!), and the surface conditions can change after other drivers have covered the course.

    Kenny Roberts (US bike racer who changed GP racing circa'79?) mentioned that after practicing a track, he would sit and mentally run the ytrack using a stopwatch, and if his time was faster than his actual laptime, he knew there was a section of the track he didn't know properly. That sort of driving precision is not practical for rally racing.

    Circuit racers are generally pushing the limits of their vehicle's handling ability, and the tires lead this, normally. It does not appear to be the case with rally.

    It would appear that mental focus would be similar, but shaped by different priorities. On the cooldown lap, where you might be running at 80% of a race pace, it would seem so slow that I felt I could get off and run as fast. Your brain is overclocking, and that makes the world seem to be in slow motion.

    BTW, at least here in the US, it is very common for car racers to also be motorcycle riders. For unknown reasons, it's very uncommon for winning racers to be as successful when switching to the other vehicle. I suspect that when they retire and switch, they have used up their competitive edge.

  3. I ride motorcycles. An average of 100 km/hr is not at all shabby–in fact, I'm impressed.
    I bought a little Ninjette–a 2008 Kawasaki Ninja 250R–a couple of years ago, just because of where I live. I live in hilly, folded country, all hills & hollers & twisty roads. The Ninjette weighs about 300 lbs, & so is eminently flickable. I can go riding locally & have a blast, screaming into turns, powering out & setting up for the (rapidly approaching) next curve, & never exceed 50 mph–all with about 30 hp.
    –Tennessee Budd

  4. T Budd:

    I was wondering what sort of times a bike would make on that course. Sort of like a small scale Isle of Mann.

    My last bike was an air-cooled '96 Ducati 900SS-SP, and with race-compound street tires, I could flex the frame on the backroads of far north CA. Bike would weave braking into corners, and exiting them. Distances between corners was short enough that the bike was seldom upright, so the weave was near constant. My concession to safety was tiptoeing through the apex, as sometimes it was dirty. My engine was stock, about 80hp, and I was riding with Ducs with built motors, probably 120hp, so they were seldom visible.

    That was my last group ride, as the leader was setting a stupid fast pace, and I was riding harder than I had at Sears Point the week before, when I was passing water-cooled Ducs.
    One of that lead group died on his Duc a year later, riding with that idiot.

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