Sebastien Ogier, Ford Fiesta, WRC Monte-Carlo Rally, 2017

F1 pair star at RoC but fatality mars WRC opener

Weekend Racing Wrap

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Ex-F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya won on his debut in the Race of Champions last weekend.

However the World Rally Championship’s new season was overshadowed when a spectator was killed in a crash during the first stage of the Monte-Carlo Rally.

World Rally Championship

Round 1 of 13: Monte Carlo

The opening rally of 2017 saw the debut of the WRC’s much-vaunted new, quicker cars. And with reigning champions Volkswagen having departed, leaving Sebastien Ogier to find a berth at M-Sport, there was no shortage of questions about how the championship would unfold.

Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota Yaris, WRC Monte-Carlo Rally, 2017
Latvala was second in Toyota’s first WRC event since 1999
However these matters retreated to the back of the mind after Hayden Paddon rolled his Hyundai i20 on the first stage. The Automobile Club de Monaco later confirmed a spectator died after apparently being hit by the car. Paddon’s entry was withdrawn as a mark of respect.

The rally continued and Paddon’s team mate Thierry Neuville built an early lead as his rivals fell off the road. Kris Meeke and Juho Hanninen both crashed out on the opening day, while Ogier lost over 40 seconds in a ditch.

Despite an advantage of nearly one minute however, it was not to be for Neuville. A small error on the final stage of Saturday broke his suspension, and he spent over 30 minutes fixing the car and dragging it to the end. Following the conclusion of the action on Saturday, Meeke’s weekend went from bad to worse after he was hit on the road section by a motorist, leaving his Citroen too damaged to continue.

This left Ogier leading from his team mate Ott Tanak, with Jari-Matti Latvala third on Toyota’s return to the championship. M-Sport’s dreams of a one-two were soon shattered however as an engine problem for Tanak left him haemorrhaging time on the final day. Under the circumstances he did a fine job to hold onto third.

Crowd control worries after Thursday’s crash meant a late start to the Saturday running and prompted the cancellation of the penultimate stage.

Guest Series: Race of Champions

Race 1 of 1: Miami

Montoya made his Race of Champions debut with style on Saturday, by picking up the Champion of Champions title after a comfortable 2-0 defeat of multiple Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen in the final. The talking point of the opening day however was a big crash for Pascal Wehrlein which saw the Sauber driver clip Felipe Massa as the race ended and roll his car. Thankfully, both Wehrlein and his passenger – who got far more of a ride than he bargained for – escaped without injury.

Wehrlein’s accident ruled him out of competing in the Nations Cup on Sunday, leaving Sebastian Vettel as the sole entrant for Team Germany. This did nothing to detract however as he swept to victory without losing a single race, beating Team USA NASCAR – consisting of Kurt and Kyle Busch – in the final.

Following the Nations Cup, a brand new event for 2017 was held – USA vs The World. In a variety of pre-matched head-to-heads, The World came out on top 8-7 after Petter Solberg beat Scott Speed in a three-point final. Following the final race, eight of the nine The World drivers climbed aboard the car with Jenson Button behind the wheel for a highly unusual victory lap.

Over to you

What are your thoughts on the opening round of the World Rally Championship? Will Ogier have more of a fight this season to retain his title?

And did you watch any racing action last weekend that we haven’t covered? Please let us know in the comments below.

Next weekend is the historic Daytona 24 Hours, marking the start of the 2017 IMSA series.

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  • 26 comments on “F1 pair star at RoC but fatality mars WRC opener”

    1. In sim racing, there was the 24 Hours of Daytona, in iRacing (the simulator that Verstappen also uses to practise). Over 700 teams registered, each consisting of three to five people, and the broadcast was viewed by thousands of people.

      1. we finished 5th in our class in a lone BMW in the 8th split. Where did you finish, @jaapgrolleman? It was a great event, despite the connection issues.

        1. I didn’t race myself, but I’m a member of Coanda Simsport. The race went rather well ^_^

          1. @jaapgrolleman wow, what’s your name if you don’t mind me asking. I owe a lot to your Virtual Racing School. Best thing I’ve ever come across in simracing. Very helpful.

            1. Jaap Grolleman :P And VRS isn’t mine, I just help out blogging. The team of developers is great though!

    2. Wehrlein’s accident was pretty scary,he was lucky not to roll & hit the barriers with the head…ROC was a nice event,but a YouTube stream would have been nice!

      1. Yeah, gutted I missed the event completely, hoping to find a repeat somewhere..

        1. Its difficult to find streams for motorsports events who aren’t covered in TV unfortunately…

          1. I watched on sky sports F1, also Fox Sports covered the event in North America. I am sure there are some streams available.

            1. After checking Sky and not finding a repeat running of it in the next few days or on catch up, I tried YouTube and found a stream…

            2. @latorres86 In Greece the only motorsport who is transmitted in TV is the F1 races only…So,as @maddme said,bad Youtube streams was the only solution…

            3. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
              23rd January 2017, 20:54

              @maddme @miltosgreekfan was it the YT stream with this annoying earworm?

            4. Indeed it was…

      2. I don’t know if it was available in your region, but there was an official stream on the RoC website. Though they certainly didn’t make it particularly visible, I missed a lot of the group stages before I found it.

        1. @fullcoursecaution Yep!!!!It had this annoying “song” all the time!

    3. Without wanting to sound callous, but, in the GB Rally, certain special stages had to be dropped as the crowd were putting themselves into extreme danger. Even nowadays on some Rally stages you see how close the crowd are to the track, making spectator involved fatalities a real risk.

      Since rally stages are effectively public areas, this isn’t really the fault of the organisers or land owners (although potential solutions are available), it really is the spectators themselves who put themselves into high danger areas.

      1. While some people don’t have clear ideas of what can or cannot be done while watching a motorsport event that races through the woods, I can’t blame anyone but the organisers for that kind of accidents. It’s their responsability to ensure the safety of all involved, not just the spectators, but the drivers too. What if trying to avoid an spectator means crashing badly and getting injured?

        1. In this instance, the spectator was standing on the outside of a left hand corner with no escape route as there was a very steep incline behind him.

          Organisers do what they can to prevent spectators putting themselves into dangerous locations, including stopping some stages. In GB rally, there used to be stages run around locations such as Tatton Park, these had to be removed due to spectators crowding the corners to such a degree that drivers struggled to get through them.

          Shifting the blame to the organisers is all well and good, but, blame also needs to lie with the spectators who deliberately put themselves into potentially deadly locations.

          1. I think it would be unfair to blame the organizers. The area to police is just to great and people should have common sense. The spectator who unfortunately died climbed down off the bank where everybody else was standing and stood on the outside of a tight ice covered corner. Stage 16 was cancelled because a lot of people came and they couldn’t control the crowd

        2. It’s literally impossible to ensure the safety of every single corner during every single run of a rally event. Who knows what the circumstances were leading to this terrible accident (for example if the spectators moved to get closer after the final reccy) so it’s really unfair to place blame anywhere. Leave that up to those who investigate it.

          All that should really be said is that our hearts go out to those affected by the tragedy including Hayden Paddon. Heart-wrenching stuff.

    4. I was lucky to be in Miami at the ROC on Sunday.

      Very impressive drives from Vettel despite having to do double work as Pascal could not attend the Nations Cup. I was impressed by his smooth driving as I could compare it to other drivers at the corner where I was sitting. He is absolutely one of the best drivers we have.

      Also impressive were Montoya and Massa in my point of view, who just hadn’t the best teammates with them. I was quite disappointed by Button though.

      But in the end of the day, I think everyone in Marlins Park was enjoying the event. There were a lot of free seats but the atmosphere was great (no wonder, American spectators are always fun – and fair).

      1. I was disappointed by the GB team to be honest… Shame that our winning duo from last year didn’t take their place.

        Vettel did a stunning job in the Nations event and made himself a very worthy winner…

      2. i was there also and agree with your comments. Vettel was outstanding & Button showed why he did the best thing to retire! I found the event a bit boring though.

    5. You got to watch the clip where Vettel discovers the radio in the KTM. So funny.

    6. New rules on wrc, a lot like the new f1 rules, wider cars more aero, the wrc’s even got more power. Unheard move from the FIA. Unfortunately though first rally, first day, first stage, a poorly placed spectator gets killed by the rear end of an hyundai. I hope F1’s new tenure doesn’t start the same way.

    7. Montoya is good at winning a lot of things first time out. so now he has 2 indy 500s, Daytona 24hours, 7 f1 wins including monaco, champcar title, RoC…. now I wish he does the lemans 24hours at some point.

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