Saturday, 1 January 2011

Welcome to the Heart Beat of Motorsports

If you guys agree that from a tiny 'bug' to huge 'mammoth', there is a sportive side of life called 'RACING', and human being is not freed from it, as he was bittern by it! So right from the ape ages, to 'age of empires' to the 21st century everybody needed to feel that wonderful feeling of adrenaline rush from sports, racing,... and hence... Rallying!



Rallying as we all know is the sport where the men/women compete against each other on specially prepared road-going vehicles and race against a set of road sections (called 'Special Stages', or simply SS), which are closed for other daily traffic, monitored at the ends and in between too that are timed for each competitors against the clock. The average fastest among these SS's is the winner. But it is not how it all started, to know more, go on with the rest of the article below.


A brief History of how it all started,.. Rallying

Rallying, as many of us know that it all started in an organised way from the January 1911 in Monte Carlo, by a group of wealthy motorists. But only when we really dig in then it will be revealed that it started as a race, way back in 1894 when a French named Pierre Giffard who organised the world's first car race from Paris to Rouen, while the chief sponsor being a paris based newspaper publisher Le Petit Journal published in their daily describing that it was race which is a safe, cheap and ease for any person with horse-less-carriage who can drive could participate by paying 10 francs as entry fee. The entry also encouraged serious car manufacturers who dared to not to miss it, and De-Dion, Panhard, Peugeot made their presence. The organisers, however didn't give any clear format of how the event is judged upon, with just basic details. But, they didn't forget to mention that it will be the first to reach the destination will be crowned the winner. An self taught mechanical engineer, De-Dion himself with his automobile, which he created by himself finished ahead of the Peugeot's and Panhard. But he was denied of the win, as his car was a steam powered and needed a stoker and the judges decided that it didn't fare even with the other cars. So officially Peugeot/Panhard jointly were the first manufacturer to win the world's first motor cars to race and win..


The first race was basically held almost in current form, like regular road cars driving over long distances on mostly gravel roads, with dust and weather to bear apart from the not so like today's format, the regular road traffic, from pedestrians to cattles and animals on the roads.

After the first race, there were many races like Paris–Bordeaux–Paris race, and later in early 1900's races like Paris-Madrid races where the average speed crossed 100kmph and were getting dangerous. So the organisers also realised it and like in modern day rallying, they implemented the time control, racing against the clock rather than head to head, passage control on so on.. Despite these and with all the above mentioned conditions with raging fans and traffic on road, during a event unfortunately there were few deaths reported and resulted with the French government to ban such races. With the ban of the open road racing, organisers started to hold such events only on closed and later on purpose built racing roads.. so the original motorsport, the rallying was split into track racing and the modern rallying styles. There were many other countries who were also interested in races, Italy also held a reliability trial between Turin and Asti in 1895, British in 1900's though to a max speed of 12mph and many more to come. Austrian prince held an alpine trial in Austria after he was he found that his first outing in a German event which was not organised in a better way and had confusing regulations. In the year 1904 a non-profit organisation, Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus (AIACR) was formed to represent the interests of motor-car, and its users.. this in the year 1922, formed an autonomous committee exclusively for automobile racing that was later christened as FISA, Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile.

Later in 1911, at Monte Carlo a bunch of wealthy automobile enthusiasts organised the Monte Carlo Rally with the help of the casino operators, who were very keen in attracting wealthy motorists. The rally was also organised in the next year in 1912. It was not so easy to drive in Monte during winter, but was surely a hit among the participants and fans.


Then came the era of world wars, and which made the rallying and racing industry (by then) to take a back stage and enter hibernation for nearly a couple of decades... later only by 1924 the rich and famous Monte Carlo rally was held on year after year for the WRC, with a brief pause in the second world war phase. But the war time developments helped the automobile industry with a great deal of technical expertise and data, which helped to better the cars. During wartime there were new roads built to charter the war machines and artillery, but was closed after they were not good enough for the regular traffic to pass. These roads turned out to be a boon for the racing and rallying community who found new use to these alien routes and were soon rumbling with the mean machines and the lessor mortals.

During this time it was probably the cross-country or 'raid' type events like the 'Paris...' noooo not the Paris Dakar.. not so early, but it was the Peking-Paris, and New York-Paris events and other long distance events which really started to shape up the rallying style with which the competitors ensured very careful and meticulous preparation for both the men and the machine with their team of service crew and managers. Back in the european countries there were many more gentlemen like events organised, which were not speed based, but more navigational and endurance type of events. The cars too were evolving in great scale of improvements in terms of technological and material developments.

In the year 1946, is exactly where the track racing and road racing, rallying, parted ways with much formed regulations for the formula one. 1950 marked the year for official driver champion emerged from the formula one track. Year 1953 marked the World Sportscar Championship, but the rally world was left out for a good two decades from any official world championship, however FISA held European Rally Championship for 11 years.


In 1950's Finland & Sweden had started holding short sprints on closed road sections over gravel roads in the forests away from the habitation and population. This idea was taken by other european countries, but still the scandinavia and scandinavians made the headline news for their unique style of driving and their roads. The Britains also adopted them and the RAC Rally of the English was more had turned international soon in the 1950's, but the government didn't allow the closure of the highways for the events. Later a gentleman named Jack Kemsley managed to get clearance from the government for usage of the good surfaced and twistier gravel forest roads for running the event and it became the ever popular among the rallying fraternity, to be later famous as the Rally Great Britain.


The south american continent was ruled by mostly europeans and it really showed the available vast stretches of roads to be driven hard. The socio-economic conditions later lead to the demise of such events. There were also those super tough African rallies during the same time in the 1950's, but after a decade it too fell victim to the political crisis.




So in the 1960's, it was mostly only in European continent that rallying managed to live and it did it in style. The closed section speed rallies became more often and everybody learnt a great deal of how the sport could be organised, held and competed. It was mostly Saab and Volvo which dominated these years around Finnish and GB. There was also 'Monte' which was a specialty by its own weather, which was held in winter with the ice and snow covered roads. It is said that the BMC's Mini was the car which changed the way people look at the car and the manufacturers to think into making of light weight and smaller cars. It sweeped victory in Monte for 1964, 1965 & 1967 and twice in 1000 Lakes rally. Timo Makinen is remembered along with the famous Mini even today.


Later in 1973, FISA created World Rally Championship, for manufacturers and did not considered for drivers and co-drivers. From the year 1979 onwards the drivers championships were officially added and the first World Rally Champion driver was  emerged, however it started the process from 1977. During the 1970's the cars really got faster, the Fiat Lancia brought the Stratos, the car specifically made for rally with its unique wedge shaped body, with space-frame design and an special ferrari formula one engine at the rear, which won 1974-76 World Championships. The Renault Alpine was hit with its 600+kgs of weight car which was kind of unbeatable in its debuted couple of years, and also the Fiat had the Spider against its own Stratos, funny though! But it was the Fiat 131 Abarth, that replaced both its stable with its more production based car which won the World Championship titles thrice in 1977, 1978 and in 1980, with Markku Alen, Timo Makinen, Walter Rohrl behind the wheel.



By late 1970's the sport was mostly well regulated and had started to evolve to the way we know it right now. The FISA (now FIA) in the year 1980 announced its less regulated 4wd in a newly formed Group-B category for the cars to compete in the rally stages. This was not recognised positively by most world champion car manufacturers including, the Italian Fiat, English Ford & the German Mercedes who also made a short and sweet stint in the world rally stages. But it was until an almost unknown car manufacturer called Audi from Germany introduced its coupe version of its sedan called 'Quattro', a turbocharged 2.1 liter, 5 cylinder, 4 wheel driven car, which literally ruled the shortlived, but most spoken Group-B era. In 1981 it debuted as a zero '0' car for Monte Carlo Rally round and it made an unbelievable timing among all the cars of all time until then. The following years until 1985 it ruled the roads with its unmatched handling combined with monstrous power.

The Peugeot also came out with a small and nimble AWD 205 T16, a centrally mounted, tubular frame under a plastic body. It resembled its road-going 205, and due to the WRC fame the upward sales pitch helped the manufacturer recover from the brink of bankrupcy. Not only it helped the manufacturer to survive, it also won two championships during its time in the Group-B era. It was the time like everybody wanted to own the small nimble 205.



Fiat launched its attach by Lancia 037, however it was not a 4wd, but a RWD. Then later it introduced the famous monstrous Lancia Delta S4, which was considered as one of the tough drive.

The Delta was so powerful that it was called too dangerous to drive and control. This had one of one major accident killing at least 3 spectators in the Portugal Rally, but was still not taken out or any changes in the regulations. Sadly until there was the death of the Finnish driver Henry Toivonen and his co-driver in the Tour de Corse Rally it marked its end of the Group-B era.


With all the three manufacturers making their impact in the new regulations, Ford didn't leave behind and it also introduced its Ford RS200 Group B car. Also Renault introduced its Renault 5 Turbo, and Austin/MG its one of the ugliest Metro MG 6r4 car. However it was for a very small period only, as soon after by the end of 1986, Group-B cars were completely banned from the end of the season.



So by the end of 1986 it was very clear that from 1987 onwards its going to be Group 'A's again. Group A regulation said that the cars will be 4WD, turbocharged, but restricted to 300bhp, and almost a road going  car. It also said that a minimum number of production car has to be produced and the WRC car has to be directly derived from it. No more purpose built cars allowed. People who were big fans of those Group B monsters laughed at the cars when they debuted in the 1987 opening round, some also commented that even they can go rallying owning such car. It was in-fact a cost cutting regulation too, but very few realised that the champion drivers were still left which they had to tackle.


The new Group A cars had to be driven more carefully with much more straight line driving style to carry speed and not loose time. In the coming couple of years, the drivers had adopted the needed style and were even beating the Group-B times on the stages. The Audi introduced their Saloon Quattro, Lancia soon produced the required number of cars and sold them and made their entry in a Delta Group-A spec. Mazda already had their a 4WD car which most privateers brought it and started rallying. By then other Japanese car makers like Toyota and Subaru started preparing their cars for the ultimate test and get the attention of the prospective buyers from European continent.

By the year 1990, there were professional motorsports allies like Richard's Prodrive, who began preparing and running the events for cars manufacturers like Subaru. By this time younger generation like Colin McRae, Tommi Makkinen, joined the fleet of existing senior talented drivers and the sport began buzzing with more enthusiasm, which was considered post Group-B era. FISA was officially restructured to FIA as we know know by the year 1993. The FIA realised the burden on the manufacturers to produce the minimum number of WRC cars to get it homologated, so it relaxed the regulations and allowed other manufacturers to produce the regular road going cars for homologation requirements in their basic form, but for the competition they could add the 4WD, turbocharger as a kit for their existing production based car and enter the Championship from the year 1998 onwards.

At the dawn of the 21st century there were nearly so many other manufacturers competing for the World Title like the Seat with their Cordoba, Skoda with their Octavia, Ford switched to Focus, Peugeot entered with their 206, Citroen with their Xsara WRC, Hyundai with their Accent WRC, Suzuki with their SX4 WRC, to the existing Mitsubishi Lancer Evo's, Subaru Impreza's, Toyota Corolla WRC (though who exited by the end of the century out of rallying to concentrate on F1).

From the year 2006 FIA event allowed non-manufacturer teams to compete for manufacturers points. By that year there were only 4 manufacturers into the game as the other manufacturers couldn't hold on for long term due to the high financial demand of the sport.



These video's here below provides the documentary of how the entire WRC and motorsports has evolved over the period of time. Make good use of it even though they are very long videos, its definitely worth spending the quality time!


This one video is even more exclusive.


In the year 2010, FIA decided to make drastic changes to the almost standard technical regulations from nearly two decades. It published at the start of the 2010 season, that from 2011 season onwards the cars would be smaller in size with, turbocharged 1.6 direct injected petrol engines with permanent 4WD but no central differential, but only mechanical front/rear differentials. It also restricted from usage of any special and costly materials like, titanium, carbon-fibre parts, but only mostly ferrous replacements. This change was to cut down the costs involved to run a team in long term in the sport, and allowing other manufacturers to start competing and helping in the improvement of the sport at large.

So when the 2011 season kicked off, there were Ford's Fiesta WRC with the M-Ford stable, Citroen Racing's DS3 WRC cars competing against each other. BMW motorsports also announced that it would be introducing Mini WRC with the help of Prodrive motorsports team which would be running a few selected events to test and develop their Prodrive Mini WRC, which was welcomed with nostalgic values alongside the earlier legendary BMC Mini's and its drivers at Monte Carlo.

FIA's WRC 2012 season was expected to be more exciting, and would have been a reality if not for the economic crisis that hit the world economy with a blow one after the other. The Yet it is h

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