Howard kept his nose clean in the sweltering heat of the Greek mountains, despite a punctured shoe dropping him outside the top 1000 places that his driver had craved.
Who’s Howard? DirtFish instructor Jack Harrison’s ride as he takes on the Solberg World Cup, that’s who. Just a few weeks ago Harrison had been tempted by Škoda’s Fabia R5, but in testing he found he had greater affinity with the Ford Fiesta R5. And now it has a name.
“It came from one of the guys in the [Twitch] chat making a Top Gear reference saying: ‘how hard can it be?’ and Howard has kind of stuck,” Harrison explains.
“It was kind of endearing. We were joking about it in the chat and then before one of the stages I was like ‘alright Howard let’s do this’ and was like ‘oh god I’ve named the car now.'”
Harrison’s Twitch stream on the official DirtFish channel has changed the way he approaches the virtual stages. It’s a far cry from driving a stage in real-life with just the road ahead and the co-driver’s calls to worry about. There’s a pressure to entertain on Twitch.
“It’s been a very different mindset doing it on the stream because you’re aware of having an audience,” Harrison says.
“It’s a little more involving than I initially thought it would be but in a really positive way. Being able to interact with people while I’m driving and being aware that people are watching while I’m driving makes me more aware of making sure I’m hitting clean lines but when the red mist starts to show itself and you’re starting to feel a little bit confident, the moment you do make a little mistake becomes very embarrassing very quickly.”
The Solberg World Cup has now passed its halfway stage with round three of six completed. Argolis Rally Greece is now ticked off the list but is best forgotten for Sam Albert, who suffered his first DNF of the season.
Albert was caught out on the treacherous mountain passes which has somewhat destabilized his early season form, but up next it’s the big one. The home event. The OMP Racing New England Rally.
We should use that phrase ‘home’ in jest. As Harrison rightly points out, New England is over 3000 miles away from where he resides. But the condition and characteristics are at least more familiar for our instructors who are used to taking on the US forests for real.
“For me it’s sort of just like any other rally in the game,” Harrison adds.
“It’s always nice to be able to drive on some American stages especially because there are so many similarities [with what I’m used to in real life]. The road’s a little bit wider, the material is a lot more like what we’re used to seeing with some loose gravel.
“The thing with New England is it’s deceptive,” Harrison warns. “It is faster and more forgiving than you initially think yet it really isn’t forgiving. The moment you get a line wrong you’re hitting a hidden rock in the inside of a bush.”
The target is simple though. Harrison has managed to creep up the championship standings but that top 1000 finish on an event is still haunting him and he’s determined to nail it. As for Albert, a performance like Monte Carlo and Sweden wouldn’t go amiss. But he’s in good company. Oliver Solberg didn’t finish in Greece either.
One man who did finish in Greece was Lukáš Matêja. The Czech driver recorded his second win of the season to put pressure on championship leader Robin who finished 26.7 seconds behind in second last week.