By Richard Rodgers, Crain News Service
ROME (Jan. 21, 2014) — The World Rally Championship (WRC) has a growing fan base all over the world, including the Vatican.
Pope Francis I, who was elected pope of the Catholic Church last year, is one of the latest enthusiasts to embrace the sport—even though his own “popemobile” is considerably slower than all the cars at the forefront of the WRC.
Italian driver Max Rendina, who won Group N in 26th overall at this year’s Monte Carlo Rally, had his driver’s suit blessed by the Pope before coming to the event, and Mr. Rendina said that Pope Francis even asked him about his prospects this year.
“He asked me if I would be driving in Argentina this year and said that he would look for news of me,” said Mr. Rendina, who drives a Group N Mitsubishi. “He blessed my overalls, which was an extraordinary privilege. It was incredible to meet him.”
Mr. Rendina was not the only driver competing in Monte Carlo with a special devotion to the Papacy. Polish driver Robert Kubica, who led the rally after the opening two stages, has also spoken highly of his compatriot Pope John Paul II, who occupied the Vatican between 1978 and 2005.
“I don’t have heroes, but Pope John Paul II did amazing things for our country,” Mr. Kubica said. “I think Poles can be proud of the pope we had.”
This report appeared on the website of Crain’s Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.