Sunday in Portugal – not enough or just enough kilometers?

Three stages remain tomorrow, a bit more than 40 kilometers to go. Not enough to mount a solid attack, but plenty to make that single yet crucial mistake. So, what will it be? Do you decide to hold on to what you have at the moment, or do you dive in, recklessly, all or nothing, even though you’re quite sure it’s going to be a big fat nothing? Answer is simple enough, but often in rallying you pick one answer only to end up looking like you’ve picked the other. As Robert Kubica said yesterday, you can be relaxed and cautious, but as soon as you start studying lines too much and forget about your idea of careful approach, the trees start walking across the road and you crash. OK, maybe that wasn’t exactly what he said, but it’s close. You never ever can let your shields down in this sport. Ever. Even after you cross the finish line of the final stage, you’d be a fool to laugh and celebrate. Instead, as Thierry Neuville learned in Mexico, you should pop the hood up and check the vitals.

So the 40-ish kilometers tomorrow is more than enough for disappointments, if any of the drivers, especially those locked in the battle for podium and points, decide to go for extras. Luckily for them, the final stage of the event is also a power stage, so in case they weren’t motivated enough to perhaps try and squeeze something out of those kilometers by then, the prospect of few extra points might push them over the edge (of the road).

We all like to judge rally drivers and their jobs by single stage or single event performances, but it’s not that simple. It’s a complex world in those cockpits and the quest for points is more than just pushing the pedals and rushing from point A to point B. Speaking of points, sometimes they become just an abstract thing, especially if win is within your reach. Yet, wins only count if you actually, well, win. And most of the time, if you fail to do that, you also fail to score any points, so what’s your excuse then?

What I’m trying to say is I need a cup of tea. Also, I’m trying to say it will be interesting to see how some drivers will cope with tomorrow’s kilometers. Sure, for most it’s a done deal and points are worth more than anything else at this point, but will there be a one or two ready to say “to hell with safe finishes”?