Sorry about the clever title, I just had to. Evgeny Novikov will not take part in WRC events next year, at least not on regular basis. Some will say it’s only normal, given the amount of issues and disappointments Russian driver endured this year, while others will be at least a bit sad over the departure of a driver who I believe is talented and fast enough for the WRC, but these two qualities are not nearly enough for success. And they should never be.
Novikov is still quite young. He’s two years younger than the reigning WRC3 champion, Frenchman Sebastien Chardonnet, for example. He does not lack raw speed and when things align he can set some serious times on stages, but that was not good enough. Because if he wasn’t seriously quick, he was either off the road or painfully slow because he wanted to avoid running off the road. Ever since he joined WRC he earned himself a reputation of a fast but more or less out of control driver. He paused for one year in 2010 and when he returned things looked a wee bit better. He was more serious in the approach to driving and competing, but even though things looked promising, it wasn’t meant to be. Crashes, retirements and mistakes plagued his return and even though Evgeny invested a lot of effort (and not only that, as his sponsors obviously think) in improving his abilities, things never really clicked for him during 2013.
In the end, Novikov was not able to secure a solid WRC programme for next year. He might do a rally here and there in 2014, but it seems that a more serious project is not an option.
When he was able to harness the speed and focus on the job at hand, Evgeny was quick and effective. Too bad these instances got lost in all the bad stuff. Yet, he’s still young, perhaps it’s time for him to do another year off and grow even more serious.
Maybe even consider a Russian speaking co-driver. I don’t know if it makes any sense, but somehow it seems to me that young drivers would do better to focus on driving and not on decoding and translating co-driver’s instructions. Why not go with the language you know and are comfortable with at first, until you gather enough experience. I don’t know if this makes any sense, again, just sounds like a better option to me. Ilka Minor is one hell of a co-driver and a very experienced competitor, but what if some crashes happened because some crucial pace note did not get interpreted by the driver fast enough? And once something like that happens, confidence suffers. I’m not saying that was the case, and I’m not exactly a WRC driver, so these opinions may or may not bear any weight whatsoever.
Get you shit together, Evgeny! And come back when you’re ready to deliver.