Of Kubica and Ostberg, Mikkelsen and Ogier

Sometimes I hear complaints about my overly obvious tendency to praise anything and everything Robert Kubica does, on this site and in my tweets. Critics say I only see good sides and never ever bend to accept that Kubica is far from perfect. To those who share those thoughts about me I say, you are wrong. It is completely and naturally possible to be a dedicated fan(boy) and a realist – in my opinion Kubica’s fans are both. Those who think Polish fans are blindly devoted to Kubica are also wrong, because you only need to visit few forums or have few Polish contacts on Twitter and you will realize that it is possible for support and criticism to co-exist. Kubica often say that he is his own worst critic and I would imagine his fans come close second. They will root for their hero when he needs their support but they won’t turn a blind eye on the bad moments either. If anything, it’s quite the opposite – those who believe they’re being objective often see only the negatives while intentionally ignoring the many positives about Robert’s career in rallying. It is too easy to join a Kubica-bashing game, I mean, he almost asks for it, but criticizing a rally driver is a very, very tricky thing to do. Among many mistakes, disappointments and missed opportunities lies a wealth of knowledge, passion and determination. If you look past bad stuff, you will find genuine progress. Only when such progress does not exist and crashes keep piling up it is, maybe, allowed to throw a poisoned arrow or five at a driver.

Let me give you another example. Mads Ostberg and Andreas Mikkelsen. Both drivers are held in high regard, they have manufacturer teams’ contracts and pilot the best rally cars in the world. OK, Andreas technically isn’t because Volkswagen still did not prepare 3rd 2015 spec car for him, but I digress. How many missed opportunities, seemingly poor results and bitter disappointment these two drivers have collected over the years. Even if we take this year, or just Rally Mexico, it would be so easy to get into name-bashing game early in the event. If you have been listening to WRC Live coverage of Mexican stages, you will remember how dejected and beaten Mads sounded early on. His confidence was low, his car was acting up and he genuinely sounded like someone who would rather be home watching TV instead of fighting the odds in Mexican dust. But Mads and Andreas persevered. I am not sure which one I would praise more, but let’s say I am particularly happy for Ostberg and his team. They needed this result, Mads needed a solid finish especially after working so hard to overcome the initial crisis. Combined with Mikkelsen’s brilliant return after disappointment in Sweden, these two drivers enjoyed a big character building lesson in Mexico. Mikkelsen scored a huge victory for himself, beating Jari-Matti Latvala on power stage, even though Finn had little to lose and bonus points to gain. Pressure, however, is on Mads now – he needs to show that Mexico was not a positive accident or a lucky incident. It’s the progress that matters.

In fact, I wanted to have a brief intro about Kubica and then I wanted to talk about Sebastien Ogier, but as usual my chronically short attention span derailed my intentions and here we are. Ogier will still get a praise from World Rally Blog, for beating not only his rivals but also the rules, which were custom-built just to hurt him. No doubt he pissed off so many people by being fastest and winning the event even though he had to sweep the stages for two days. His lead was big enough to allow him to relax a bit, but if Sebastien Loeb taught his younger compatriot anything, it’s never let your guard down. They’re more likely to crash when driving at 80% than 110%. Ogier also had to keep pushing because in gravel events punctures are common thing and what looks like a solid 1 minute lead can turn into frustration, just like that. Perhaps Ogier pushed simply because he wanted to make a mess out of road position rules. Then he wrapped it all up in a shiny total pwnage package by winning the power stage by 5 seconds. Sport should be very careful about its rules, especially if we’re talking about rules aimed at one driver or team. On the other hand, rally is not and never will be a sport based on equal chances – you will either sweep the road or dodge the rocks as a front- or laterunner. Ogier won the first round against Rules, and if he keeps doing that in other gravel events I sincerely hope FIA will just let him be.

If not, allow me to present a brief list of suggestions on how to alter the rules further (Click here to read them all, they’re fantastic, all of them!):