Rally drivers are known to be extremely creative and versatile people, which comes handy when you need to improvise while driving or fixing a broken car in the middle of nowhere during an event. It also helps to be creative in explaining certain tricky situations, offs and retirements, but today this fine are of storytelling is quickly losing its charm because of all the cameras – they’re everywhere. They look over your shoulder as you drive, they stare in your face and then there are thousands of them spread all over the stages, watching your every move. Ages ago, you could have blamed elephants or huge rocks for destroying your suspension or puncturing all of your tyres (including the spare) because incident might have happened in a spot not covered by spectators or marshalls. But today, well, it’s a different story.
Let’s take this video, for example. I, as a fanboy, am not going to sway in either direction here, but I am really curious about the incident filmed at the end of stage 14. This was the incident that marked the end for Robert Kubica – he smashed into that wall on the left hand side and destroyed both left side wheels on Fiesta. We’ve heard the official story of malfunctioning brakes as the main cause of this incident. Furthermore, Robert supposedly tried to slow the car by downshifting and pulling the handbrake to throw the car sideways.
I have heard countless rally driver stories and I have a few of my own too, because sometimes what you say (or not say) will not change absolutely anything in relations to fans, other drivers, organizers or your sponsors. Ultimately, you’ll be the only one knowing the real truth. In most cases, things move on, rally stories come and go, but sometimes that truth can come back and haunt you.
Again, I am not going to sway in either direction here, because I still have the utmost admiration and respect for Robert’s WRC efforts. Name me one driver in current WRC lineup with 3 years of rallying experience, showing the same pace but being less prone to errors and I’ll surrender. Yes, Robert probably rushed too fast into top category, but that’s where he feels he belongs. The competition is fierce, with fastest cars, but that also leads to big mistakes and expensive retirements. Instead of blaming Robert for this incident, I am going to, once again, reiterate the fact that he barely had time to put the team together and get to the start of the event. Instead of just focusing on driving and pace notes, he had to worry about finding team members, organizing things, he even helped around the car during service breaks. This SS14 incident wasn’t his first mistake in Monte, but I can picture how you can easily overlook this bloody righthander during recce, especially if it’s positioned behind the finish line, if at the same time you are worrying whether you’ll have enough mechanics to even start the event. Maybe he might have ditched all this and go to some tropical island instead, but he didn’t. I dislike, deeply, his reluctance to admit to another fuck up, if indeed this was one, but I respect his courage and persistence in “putting his plan to work” in the WRC.
Oh, by the way, while you’re naming drivers with equally short rallying careers, please also find me one driver who never ever told A Story at the stage end or in interviews. ;)
EDIT to add after several discussions: I’m not actually saying he is lying, because there is also another option here – he could have been pushing very hard, started braking for the corner, brakes caught on and then failed which resulted in a crash. It just seems to me that the thickest tyre marks on the road belong to front wheels, and also the angle of the car and trails suggest fronts were locked too so brakes probably worked at least for a second or two. I don’t think he would be pushing like that if the brakes broke earlier, so it had to happen at this particular corner.