IT’S SEB’S WORLD. WE JUST LIVE IN IT
NHRA’S FAST FEMALES ARE
GOING THE DISTANCE
As RACER headed to the printers, it was
business as usual for France’s Sebastien
Ogier (ABOVE). Two 2016 FIA World Rally
Championship events in the books, and two
more victories for Volkswagen’s serial
champion – the first on the patchy ice and
snow of the Monte Carlo Rally; the second
on the even patchier ice and snow of a
thaw-afflicted Rally Sweden.
And that could be the norm again unless
Ogier’s teammates, Jari-Matti Latvala and
Andreas Mikkelsen, step up to the plate in a
way we’ve rarely glimpsed before.
NHRA drag racing has long been at the
leading edge of gender equality in racing,
dating back to Shirley Muldowney’s
stereotype shattering career in the
1970s, but 2016 could be the biggest
breakout season yet for women racers.
Phoenix featured an all-female
showdown in Top Fuel, as Leah Pritchett
raced to her first win by beating Brittany
Force in the final. It was only the fourth
time two women have decided a pro class
victory, but with the Force sisters –
Brittany in Top Fuel and Courtney in
Funny Cars – and Alexis DeJoria (FC) all
showing strong potential, it looks to be
getting more common.
There’s still a long way to go before
champions are crowned, but after beating
J.R. Todd, Clay Millican and Antron Brown
en route to the finals in Arizona, Pritchett
showed her pace to be anything but a
fluke. The guys have been warned.
In Latvala’s case, that would mean
adding season-long consistency to his
often astonishing speed; for Mikkelsen, it’s
another layer of speed to go with his
consistency. But recent evidence suggests
that neither scenario is likely to happen. It’s
a pity they couldn’t merge into a hybrid...
So, with Citroen only fielding Kris
Meeke on selected rounds as it regroups
for 2017, Ford at the mercy of a relatively
unproven driver lineup and a Fiesta that
lacks the developmental firepower of
VW’s Polo, and Hyundai still ironing out
the creases in its latest i20 WRC, the
worst-case scenario is to sit back and
enjoy a driver at the peak of his powers
run rampant across the 14 rounds and
five continents that the WRC takes in.
Having said all that, expect Latvala to
give him a run for his money in Finland,
and Meeke to bring the heat to Rally GB.
Brittany Force is the first of John’s daughters
to go Top Fuel over Funny Car. Her sisters,
Courtney and the retired Ashley, have seven and
four FC wins, respectively. It only seems a matter
of time before Britanny adds a TF win to the list.
VW’s WRC force of nature, Sebastien Ogier, will be going for a fourth-straight title.
Early all-woman final in Top Fuel tips
2016 to be their biggest year yet.
...is the number of WRC events Sebastien Ogier didn’t
win in a three-time (and counting) title-winning spree
between 2013-’ 15. The number that he did win? 25!
WRC’S NEXT BIG THING?
Hayden Paddon, an understated,
28-year-old Kiwi, is the guy
Hyundai is pinning its hopes on
to give Seb Ogier a run for his
money when its latest-spec
i20 WRC begins to deliver.
His impressive second-place
in Sweden shows he has the
chops if he’s given a car
that comes close to VW’s
dominating Polo R WRC. The
WRC needs a genuine rivalry,
so here’s hoping he does...