THE HARDEST-FOUGHT RALLIES OF ALL TIME, AND BRAKE USE

5/31/2021

 The motor racing world is full of winners and losers. However, sometimes the difference between victory and a disappointing second place is a minimal, just like the difference between perfect and incorrect braking.

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The motor racing world is full of winners and losers. However, sometimes the difference between victory and a disappointing second place is a minimal, almost insignificant gap, just like the difference between perfect and incorrect braking. 


The world of rallying is no exception, as we saw at this year's Croatia Rally, the third round of the World Championship, decided by a hair's breadth after a three-day battle. The race covered 1,270.59 km, including all the driven sections or four hours and fifty-one minutes, only counting the Special Stages.



 

​In World Rally Championship history, the gap between winner and runner-up has been less than two and a half seconds in ten races. In half of these, the margin was actually less than a second. A mere trifle for a race of over 300 km of special stages and at least as many transfers. 


A list of the Top 10 rallies decided by sprints. 


10th Argentina Rally 2011 


Sebastian Loeb (Citroën DS3 WRC) got the better of Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) by 2.4 seconds after a four-hour, four-minute battle covering 378.15km and 19 special stages. In front with a stage to go, Sebastien Ogier had to settle for third place with the other DS3, 7.3 seconds behind the winner. 


9th New Zealand Rally 2010 


This race was even more dramatic, with five drivers sharing the lead. In the end, Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford Focus RS WRC 09) took top spot after the seventh stage, 2.4 tenths ahead of Ogier (Citroën C4 WRC), who had led for 12 special stages. 


8th Argentina Rally 1999 


This rally also hinged on a passing move in the final stage, the 21.33 km Amboy-Santa Rosa de Calamuchita. Juha Kankkunen (Subaru Impreza WRC99) triumphed, 2.4 seconds ahead of teammate Richard Burns. The Finn won eight special stages, with the Briton one behind. 


7th Rally Monte Carlo 2019 


Not all comebacks are successful. Belgian driver Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) is well aware of this. He won the penultimate stage but was still four-tenths behind Sébastien Ogier (Citroën C3 WRC). However, the Frenchman fought tooth and nail down to the flag, finishing 2.2 seconds ahead of his rival.



 

6th Portugal Rally 1998 


Anyone may feel a little discouraged if they are one minute, 21-seconds behind after 13 out of 28 special stages, but not Carlos Sainz (Toyota Corolla WRC). With four special stages to go, the Spaniard was still 30 seconds behind Colin McRae (Subaru Impreza WRC98). He made up all but 2.1 seconds, with the British driver taking the win. 


5th Sardinia Rally 2018 


With six special stages to go, Sebastien Ogier (Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2017) was just 6.8 seconds ahead of Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC). The Belgian won one, then a second, then a third, fourth and fifth, cutting the gap to eight tenths. Neuville scored his sixth victory in the final special stage to win by seven-tenths. 


4th Argentina Rally 2017 


Seven-tenths also separated the top two in this rally, but over a longer distance. Elfyn Evans (2017 Ford Fiesta RS WRC) took command as early as the second stage and held a comfortable margin until the fifth-last one. Then Neuville (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) passed him to lead by seven tenths. 


3rd Croatia Rally 2021 


When Sebastien Ogier (Toyota Yaris WRC) lost his lead in the third last stage to the twin car of Elfyn Evans, he thought victory had slipped from his grasp. A belief that only grew after the penultimate stage when there were 3.10 seconds between them. However, the British driver misjudged the racing line in the last one and lost by six tenths. 


2nd New Zealand Rally 2007 


Eighteen special stages, nine won by Sebastien Loeb (Citroën C4 WRC), eight by Marcus Grönholm (Ford Focus RS WRC 07). A spectacular duel at the season's climax. After 12 special stages, just one-tenth separated them; after 16, it was two tenths. They shared the last two, but the Finn won by three tenths. 


1st Jordan Rally 2011 


An incomplete rally due to logistical problems and bad weather. Ogier (Citroën DS3 WRC) led for 10 special stages, but in the penultimate one Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) gained 5.8 seconds on him. In the Power Stage, the Frenchman gifted him seven-tenths but still edged the win by two tenths. 


In rallying, every factor can make a difference, with brakes playing an extremely significant role. ​



 

As you may have noticed, some of these races took place on asphalt, others on unpaved surfaces, while the Monte Carlo Rally was run in mixed conditions, partly on clean asphalt, partly on snow and ice. 


As surfaces and temperatures vary, so do car set-ups, tyre choices and even braking systems. Indeed, the grip, the twistiness of the track and the presence of descents affect the latter. 


The driving style also changes, including braking. On unpaved roads, drivers need to use the brakes to correct the line of the car continuously. This does not allow the braking system to ‘cycle’ as it is constantly under pressure, so there is not enough time to cool it down. ​



 

On unpaved roads, large discs aren't necessary because generally, there are no abrupt stops. This is why the diameter of the Brembo discs used by WRC cars in 2021 is 300 mm, and the thickness ranges between 25.4 mm and 28 mm. 


In less challenging races, we use superlight Brembo discs because we don't need the same amount of material as in races where the brakes are under more stress. The ceramic-based Brembo pads are also softer than those used on asphalt to prevent the wheels from locking. These pads are made of RB330. 


In asphalt rallies, you need a very clean driving style to be fast, making the fewest adjustments possible. In these races, the tracks also include some very intense hard braking. Hence the use of a very high braking torque. 


This is why Brembo brake discs with cast iron brake discs are larger than those used in asphalt races: the diameter is 370 mm, and the thickness ranges from a minimum of 30 mm to a maximum of 32 mm. 


The 370 mm pads are necessary for the front, while some manufacturers have also approved 355 mm and 320 mm discs for the rear. The pads are still ceramic-based but more aggressive than those used on unpaved roads. The greater bite is due to the Brembo RB350 compound.



 

 
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