Although, as of late, I dread using the “luck” argument when talking about WRC teams and drivers, and their chances in this year’s championship season, sometimes there simply isn’t a better word to describe the events happening on stages.
Because, you can do everything right as a driver. You can have a strong qualifying stage run, pick a favourable starting position, and then drive a wise and controlled rally, looking to push when and where it’s optimal to do so, while also taking care about the tyres and the car. Yep, it sounds boring as hell when you say it like that – but ultimately that’s what leads to victories. And it would be even more important in a more crowded championship, with more teams and drivers. Mistakes would be even costlier then.
Even if you manage to do all the things listed in previous paragraph, the reality can be harsh if the last element of your race for success fails. As reliable and robust as modern rally cars are, they are still just piles of mechanical bits and pieces, prone to failure. Especially if driven over rough terrain and in searing heat. If you wish a more direct comparison of what modern WRC machines are able to endure, take your daily driver on the nearest gravel road and go flat out (actually don’t, but I hope you get that bit).
When these piles of mechanical bits and pieces go tired, there is, usually, not much driver and co-driver can do. Unless it’s something they can fix on their own, when the cars go bad, it’s usually game over. Now, I am not a rally driver, so I cannot say whether it’s worse to be out of the event due to your own mistake, or to be forced to retire because of the mechanical failure. Especially if the failure does not look like it’s been caused by too reckless of a driving. But to be able to bounce back from bitter defeats such as these, is what separate the best of them from the rest of them.
Fact is, rally is a team effort, and it means a lot more then for some other forms of motorsport. From mechanics and engineers, to driver and co-driver to, ultimately, the car – everything must work. And when the latter fails, there is, basically, nothing else to say but call for some luck next time. That and buy a beer or two for the guys back in the factory, of course. Which you, as a good rally driver, already do, right?