I’ve been watching downloads of espn’s highlights shows of this year’s World Rally Championship. I’ve never really been into rally driving but it’s been a refreshing change of pace from formula 1 and its good watching the whole lot in one go rather than seeing an event then waiting a month for the next thing to happen.

The places they go to are hot, (or freezing) dusty and a long way from the glamour of places like Monaco. Before the race, F1 drivers usually have lackeys standing behind them holding an umbrella for shade. Rally drivers have to change their own tyres and fix their own cars. And because of the kinds of roads they drive on I’d say they’re just as talented as the f1 drivers.

Also I have to say I’ve got a bit of a man-crush on Sebastien Loeb. I’d heard his name before because he’s won the championship 7 times but it was really cool to see a world-class driver who seems so down to earth. Apparently he was a gymnast (lol, those french) until 21yo and stumbled into rally after that. (Big diff. to F1 where the drivers are basically bread out of test-tubes now.) And he’s the same ages as me. He looks like a French, rallyin’ version of Russell Crowe.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/5915569650/” title=”sebastian-loeb by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6032/5915569650_38b6eaf2a3.jpg” width=”500″ height=”276″ alt=”sebastian-loeb”></a>

Most of the top drivers are scandanavian – Finnish, Norwegian or Swedish and I have to say that living where I live, doing what I do, I’m very impressed with their English-speaking ability. It’s like they’re in an in-between category – not quite native-speakers of English, but far beyond English as a 2nd language.

Each driver has a co-driver/navigator which makes for some interesting in-car dynamics. There’s no way that any driver could remember the layout of the routes they drive so the co-driver gives them instruction of what kind of corner is coming up. The driver has to have complete faith in what they’re told is correct because when they go barrelling into these blind corners the difference between being told it’s a mild corner and a sharp one can be the difference between getting around it smoothly or rolling down the side of a cliff.

The Finland rally is on this coming weekend.