Call me controversial but I think that Rally drivers are better drivers than those of Formula One. It’s more fun to watch and it’s a lot easier for people to enter it and compete as well. Sure the Formula one car might look glamorize cruising around Monaco and gliding effortlessly around the hairpin at Montreal or executing a nice slipstream at Spa in Belgium or going flat out on the bank at the Brickyard in Austin. I would still rather see a driver and navigator bombing along a Welsh Green road with thick oaks and pines lining the road then going sideways round a bend and getting good air off a humpback bridge. I’d like to see an F1 driver tackle the twists of Corsica’s roads or the unpredictability of the Finnish thousand lakes. When I win the lottery and buy a car it would be the Subaru used by the late Colin McRae rather than Schumacher’s Ferrari.
Formula one has the pick of the gadgets whereas rallying is the pure racing skill. It’s the trust you have in your navigator as they quickly read out the notes for the next set of bends and straights. A formula one driver knows the course in and out, a track rarely changes, but a rally driver has all the elements and natural hazards to compete against. Sure, they are the only ones out on the course but with a sheer drop on one side or a mountain bank on the next disaster is just one slight mistake away.
“Hard right 90!” “Caution Fence, into slight right, don’t cut Tree!” This is being chanted into the rally driver’s ear by the navigator. The only thing Lewis Hamilton hears is “Box on this lap and take care of the tyres” (and then he moans as he was about to go into a corner and they might put him off!) or to Felipe Massa “Fernando is faster than you”, meaning pull over when you see Alonso in your wing mirrors, not that we’ve got team orders or anything. Rally drivers drive on the edge, quite literally sometimes, and they have to make split-second decisions. They drive in the snow; they drive on ice, up mountains, and around lakes. They even used to drive at night until the governing body FISA decided it was too dangerous. Even with Vehicle Tracking on all the cars, it was still decided they couldn’t drive at night but to be fair these were in pretty dangerous conditions. If you have a fleet of vehicles that aren’t driving in these circumstances the trackers really do help especially with operational efficiency and they can be sourced from websites such as https://www.vehicle-accessories.net/vehicle-tracking. I remember the Group B days of the 1980’s when the Audi Quattro was born. A 4 wheel drive and a massive engine that was pretty much it. We even had a Metro, the 6R4, made out of fiberglass and nothing else.
It’s not like rally cars can’t race against each other. We’ve got rallycross and the special stages where both drivers directly compete. Real cars, real drivers, real action. I’m off to get my 1970’s retro Castrol jacket, a flask of tea and sit out at some remote spot in the Black Mountains now.