Coming from a country with, to put it mildly, barely a presence in top levels of motor sports, I am naturally inclined to look beyond nationalities when I pick my favourite teams and/or drivers in any kind of motor sport. Sometimes I go by character, sometimes I go by the driver’s skills, is he fair in close fights or is he all about taking no prisoners. I find it much easier to pick favourites in circuit racing and Formula 1 as opposed to rallying, mostly because in rallying you get this prevailing sense of camaraderie and it’s not always easy to put one a team or crew ahead of the others. You just want them all to make it to the finish! In some cases, it helps to know the driver well, and by “know” I mean to follow his career from lower categories all the way to the top levels. It makes it easier to understand the level of work and commitment needed to reach the elite categories and you naturally feel this or that driver deserves some support and encouragement, for all the work he or she has put in over the years.
Personally, I like underdogs, drivers and teams which defy the odds and refuse to give up, opting for work and dedication instead of simply throwing in the towel. There is one important thing to note here, though. Underdogs often have it hard and they’re sometimes not really presented in a very objective light, but in many cases they’re the ones to be blamed for that. You see, some people never put enough work into things, they never go beyond 100% so to speak, never truly show they’re serious about their work even though every single thing is against them at that particular moment. That’s how I separate underdogs from could-have-beens, real talents with huge promise from those who were never meant to go the extra mile, for whatever reason. Not everyone was meant to be the best in the world; even if systems of points and events were fully fair to everyone, some would be better than the others, but it’s the will to push and try as opposed to give up and settle for the silver that separates the two extremes, in my opinion at least. I must also mention the per-event favourites, which I sometimes do in a single rally, if one driver just goes well beyond of what everyone else thinks is possible and doable.
I know most British fans will naturally side with Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans next year, French will cheer for Sebastien Ogier and Germans will support the two times World Champions, Volkswagen, but what I find interesting about rally fans is they are not shy of going against the expected national pride ideas. If you, as a driver, crash too much or don’t push at all times, you can be sure fans will come at you, compatriots or not. Because in rallying, even though we all want them to make it through the stages, we can tell when someone is faking and that, in motor sports, is the worst. I know it’s kind of ridiculous to even ask about your favourites for next year, but I have a feeling 2015 is going to be one heck of a year and we could, after all, see a couple of drivers improving their pace and consistency considerably. Perhaps in 2015 it will be easier to pick a favourite newcomer, or side with a champion just because he is so good. The best thing about it is, the wait will be over in just a couple of weeks from now.