Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ogier vs Tänak

Here is something that happens rarely...We are lucky to have easy access to the in-car footage of a full stage (SS12) of the same rally (Argentina 2015) and 2 different drivers of repute!

The stage in question is a "power stage" which means the fastest drivers will earn extra points from it.

I had a look at both videos and now it's your turn, if you haven't already! Take a moment to watch for general differences in the way these two drivers tackle the same road. Listen for throttle sound and watch for racing lines, sideways behavior, corner cutting...



I have tackled this road a number of times a few years ago and these are the first things I noticed and remember:

- It is bloody narrow (doesn't render on video)
- The road digs up quite a bit and the surface is almost sandy; ruts appear easily and stones get dug up.
- It is sometimes very, very twisty.
- It's downhill almost all the way.
- The stage is exceptionally technical, driving wise.
- It is very tricky and dangerously easy to hit something.
- I still hate it.

Why do I hate it?

Because I am an aficionado of fast, foot down and balls out stages... As far as I am concerned this stage is very unpleasant to drive, except the last bit. But hey, at least the scenery is nice and the bridges look like they lead to the Temple of Doom.

Now to our two protagonists, can you take a wild guess as to whom was fastest? If I did that I would say Tänak... He also had a number of close encounters where he missed on hitting rock faces with the back of his car etc. he must have been super fast, right? How could anybody beat that, right?

Tänak drove very well but the fact is Ogier beat him by 11,2 seconds over a distance of 16,32km. At the top level of rally sport it's a pretty big difference! I think Tänak was going for it too!

I know it're gonna say:

"Hey Antony, you nimrod, why would he risk it on the last stage? For sure he was cruising..."

And that's when I'll remind you that:

1. There are points to be won and it's his job to get them!
2. He had little to show for during the whole rally (hit a rock but not his fault) and he needs to show his boss that he is worth the investment!

I'm glad we cleared that up.

Back to our stage, there's a number of things coming into play here: First of all, contrary to popular belief, slow twisty stages have the potential to create bigger differences in terms of seconds per kilometer lost or gained. Simply because there are more corners and hence more braking actions, accelerations...Therefore more opportunities for cars and drivers to make the difference. This is accentuated even more on loose surfaces.


I read an article in AutoHebdo (France) where the Ford head engineer declared the POLO engine to be on top in terms of performance. The POLO's 0-100km/h acceleration on tarmac is ~ 3.9 sec for 1200 kg (POLO WRC spec). I agree with you if you're thinking it would be stupid of VW to advertise their real performances to the competition but for the sake of this example let's just accept those as facts. Besides, knowing how the German mentality is, this is surely a deflated number. Italians would inflate it and French would be comfortable with neither and therefore disclose nothing... I sound too sure of myself? Case and point: DS3 WRC spec

Anyway, when I run these POLO specs through a calculator I get 320 hp. On tarmac, for example, a small 10 hp deficit will translate to ~ 0.1 sec lost when doing a 0-100 km/h run and that is when you compare 2 cars that weigh 1200 kg and have 310 ~ 320 hp . It will take them only ~54 meters to reach that speed. In this stage we have no precise numbers to calculate in context but these numbers can help keep a perspective of what the possibilities could be.

My personal opinion:

Various sources have led me to conclude that the POLO has some 15 hp more than the FIESTA. I think a difference of ~ 0,2 sec/km on a typical gravel road would be logical and I would say that a 4~5 seconds loss would be fair on this stage. Where does the rest come from?


It appears that Ogier is approaching some 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear tight and/or hairpin types of corners in a more committed way than Tänak. He also clearly had some better lines than Tänak in the fast stuff near the end. I put this down to Ogier's note quality, experience, and confidence. Given this stage has 150+ corners, the seven seconds remaining will turn up quickly.

Overall I can also say that Ogier's drive was clean and he had zero close calls (as far as I can tell). I counted at least 3 for Tänak. My point is that Tänak could not keep this driving up for a whole event without running into trouble. The odds of a mishap are just too high when you drive like that.

The strength of Ogier + VW is the ability he has to keep a very high speed with minimal risk taking thanks to his sheer confidence. At this level of driving, high(er) confidence is attained when you feel perfectly comfortable with how your car behaves; when you know that no matter how hard you drive, your car will take it; when you know your boss won't kill you if you have a shunt, or two; when you know exactly where the road goes thanks to very precise notes.

Edit: It seems Tänak's video has been removed from Youtube. I am looking for it elsewhere...
Edit 2: It appears this video is now only available to WRC+ subscribers

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Comparing differentials

I have received an email from a fellow motorsport enthusiast from USA and he asked many questions!

Ok here we go:

"Would it be possible for you to compare the differentials from the current WRC cars to those active differentials used previously?"

It’s visible that today's cars behave differently than the fully active cars of 2005. As I understand the current cars have no CD (center differential) at all. The gear box splits the torque front to rear by 50:50. Torque goes via an output shaft towards the RD (rear differential). There is a FD (front differential) as well and I understand it’s located inside the gearbox or right next to it. Both diffs are mechanical, plate systems. You also refer to the viscous limited slip differential system in your e-mail. As far as I remember some of the old group A cars like the Celica st205 or the Mazda 323 had viscous CDs.

Concerning current machines I can give you my opinion based on my experience and knowledge of the various Gr.A and WRC cars I have driven:

The behaviors of today's FD and RD are as close as mechanically possible to what the active diff philosophy was in 2005 (see differential extravaganza). However, the understeer effect created by the front/rear lock is dealt with a combination of suspension, geometry and weight distribution adjustments. In my opinion you'd basically want to have a looser rear end.

Engineers have set-up the car’s suspension, geometry and weight distribution to have more pronounced weight transfer towards front and outside wheels upon braking and cornering, allowing the rear inside wheel to lift its weight as much as possible off the ground. This would help the inside wheel spin easily and relieve from some of the push effect. 

Anyway, the understeer will be pretty apparent in tight corners. The driver will end up driving more sideways than it used to be with activ diffs, to get the car to turn. 

In my opinion the shorter wheel base of these cars makes it easier to deal with this issue. 

“Has this aided some driver technique at the expense of other drivers?”

Surely. Also I am confident that my driving style would have been more suited for passive cars, for example. The driving style required for these cars also augments the danger of hitting objects with the rear end. Drivers with inaccurate note systems who rely a lot on last moment corrections, are more prone to accidents. On snow the sideways, balls-out, drivers will excel as the risks are diminished by aiding snow walls.  

“How does one drive these new cars on tarmac and loose compared to the cars fitted with active differentials?”

Nowadays on gravel you need to be aggressive with your driving style. That means really come into corners with speed and throw the car sideways into them. On snow, with spikes, it’s even more primordial. Active cars (when adjusted right) allowed smoother driving, steering rather than sliding into corners, and powering out effectively with straight pointing wheels. I believe Loeb really understood this principle and that’s why he drove the Xsara WRC faster than anybody else. Sainz, McRae and Duval were all trying to drive the Xsara like it had been for them with passive cars (Gr.A cars). It was their nature and they could not adjust to this “let the car do the work” philosophy as well as Loeb; who was really lucky in that respect because he was nurtured by Citroën into the FWD Saxo and Xsara kit cars which were the perfect learning tools for stepping into a 4WD WRC fully active machine. Markko Märtin had also understood that less is more with the 03 spec Focus.

“I expect on the loose, this differential was always locked”

It was hardly always locked. The CD adjustment was enormously important and absolutely crucial to get right. It took thousands of kilometers of testing and development to get this diff to behave in the optimal fashion. I described it in differential extravaganza. Going through a Corsican stage with a locked center diff would have meant a loss of 2 sec/km or more.  

“For Tarmac has the lack of an active diff been much of a reduction in performance?”

Yes, absolutely. But the newer cars have gained performance elsewhere to compensate.

“What has become the most preferred passive differential used front and rear on the WRC and R5 rally cars? Have these returned to mechanical design, plates or viscous designs? If you are not aware of the choice at the WRC level, which would be your theoretical choice for your driving style?”

Plate mechanical systems are used nowadays for the FD and RD. I am unaware of details used by current teams. For my RD on a Finnish type gravel stage (for example) I would start out with 75% diff lock, aggressive ramps and a slight amount of pre-load. For the FD maybe 45% diff lock with semi aggressive ramps and a slight amount of pre-load. It’s difficult for me to quantify because the numbers I am used to speak about are completely different from today’s, nevertheless I would be able to answer this question upon testing any car in real life.

Rally sport consultant & driving coach

My experience taught me that discovering the depth and secrets of rally sport as a non-works driver is hard and time consuming. I want to help people because I believe in challenging the status quo. For me life is about passing knowledge and skills down the line.

I make myself available, anytime and anywhere, to anybody. From competitors to private thrill seekers.

I consult for those who wish to better their performances and skills and I offer help in domains such as:

  • Car setup and tire strategy
  • Reconnaissance and pace notes
  • Special stage driving technique with 4WD, FWD or RWD cars on all surfaces
  • The psychology of competition


An ex WRC driver who drove 3 full World Rally Championships with M-Sport and BP Ford World Rally Team, including:

  • 43 World Championship starts
  • 77% finishing record
  • 13 top ten finishes among fierce works competition
  • 6 times in the points

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Finnish special: Antonyn haastattelu Rallirinki.netissä

”Haluaisin tarjota tavalliselle rallifanille mahdollisuuden päästä osallistumaan kilpailemiseen. Sellaiselle fanille, joka seuraa lajia netistä tai telkkarista ja haluaisi kokea, miltä tuntuisi olla kyydissä erikoiskokeella.”
Näin selittää Antony Warmbold, joka muistetaan yksityiskuljettajana rallin MM-sarjasta 2000-luvun alkupuolelta. Warmbold ei ole kilpaillut enää vuosikymmeneen, mutta ralli lajina on hänen elämässään läsnä jo verenperintönä ja hän haluaa vielä olla aktiivinen toimija ralliyhteisössä.
Yhden fanin unelman toteuttamiseksi Warmbold on tehnyt kunnianhimoisen suunnitelman: hän yrittää yhteisörahoituksen avulla kerätä kokoon tarvittavan budjetin, jolla hän pystyisi järjestämään kilpailun, joka huipentuisi siihen, että Warmbold ja valikoitunut rallifani osallistuisivat kesäkuussa järjestettävään SM-Itäralliin Joensuussa. Auto olisi F-ryhmän BMW 325i."

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ralli Heart news site on the fan co-driver selection program

"This opportunity is for those 'Been a rally fan for long & always wanted to get inside the Rally Car', who could only have dreamt or still dream to be a co-driver for a WRC grade driver, (who drove a Ford Focus WRC prepared by M-Sport, roughly about a decade back). And the driver's name is Antony Warmbold!

To put things clear & straight, you don't get to co-drive in a REAL-rally-event, just with the title of being a 'Rally FAN' or even a 'Rookie Codriver', let alone for a WRC-cadre pilot!"

Monday, January 12, 2015

A rally co-driver's job

At least some of it !

World Rally Blog on the "fan co-driver selection program"

"To stop being (just) a spectator and become a real co-driver, if only for one event, is and would be a dream come true for so many people. Maybe you were allowed to sit in a stationary rally car at some car show. If you got really lucky, you managed to elbow your way into a car doing shakedown runs at some national event. Perhaps your friends knows a guy whose friend is a rally driver, so you can, occassionally, enjoy a ride or two around the parking lot. But nothing really compares to the real thing, nothing. When you’re actually competing, no matter how small an event might be, it’s your turn to experience this rallying stuff firsthand. The responsibility, the adrenaline, the sheer pace of things happening around you… let’s just say it’s a unique experience, through and through. Many people say they would “pay to get into a rally car, even only for one event”. Well, here’s your chance now."

continue reading

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Happy new year! 

I have a special treat for rally fans as I have started a project that you can be part of: