Belgian GP flashback: Start chaos and Jordan’s shock 1-2 in 1998

3 Comments

Finding a suitable video clip of the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix to make for a memorable post is a bit of a challenge. Many clips are blocked per rights restrictions as held by Formula One Management. This one works to capture the drama from a video standpoint, but has a music overlay of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony.” Mute at your own discretion.

The reason, of course, is that the 1998 Belgian GP was one of the more dramatic, surprising and bizarre races in recent memory, and next week’s Belgian Grand Prix marks 15 years since it happened. It all started with a massive crash out of La Source hairpin on the run down to Eau Rouge, where half the 22-car field basically pile-drove into each other in tricky, wet conditions.

Only four cars failed to restart after the chaos, Rubens Barrichello (Stewart), Olivier Panis (Prost), Mika Salo (Arrows) and Ricardo Rosset (Tyrrell). Later in the race as the retirements kept in coming, Michael Schumacher ran into the back of David Coulthard, the German unable to avoid the slowing Coulthard. Schumacher stormed from his Ferrari garage into the McLaren one to hunt down the Scot thereafter.

When the dust was settled the main beneficiary was Jordan Grand Prix, which took an upset first victory in Formula One in its seventh season. Eddie Jordan and crew watched from the pit wall as Damon Hill, the 1996 World Champion for Williams, took his 22nd and last Grand Prix victory ahead of Ralf Schumacher and Sauber’s Jean Alesi in a podium you couldn’t script.

Fifteen years later, Jordan is now Force India (but the team have put up some similar giant-killing acts at Spa), Sauber’s gone through two ownership changes, and every driver in the field is either retired or in another form of motorsport.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”