When number one becomes number one (of)

2015 World Rally Championship / Round 10 / Rally Australia // 10th - 13th September, 2015 // Worldwide Copyright: Hyundai Motorsport

Two drivers are in a team. One of them is slightly faster and is also a better all arounder, which gives him the advantage; he gets the number one status and his spot in team’s roster is guaranteed. It also helps that there is actually no number 2 driver, because that spot is not permanently occupied. This team also has a B squad, with various drivers of limited WRC experience. All is fine and well until one day one of those drivers, with what little WRC experience he has, beats our number one guy, then beats him again and then one more time, just to make sure that previous beatings weren’t just down to good luck. For the team, which is still growing and is not yet even in full swing (or so they say, not about the swing, but about growth), this is great news; maybe finally they’ll be able to fill that second spot?

Around that time, and possibly completely unrelated to this, our number one guy gets into trouble, then gets into trouble again and then one more time, for a good measure. Being a number one driver in this team was never easy, because car was not competitive and you had to really push beyond the limit to get some pace out of it. At the same time, people kept calling our guy the-next-big-thing-in-WRC. Those are big expectations, very difficult to meet in that car. Add to that some expectations from the team and fans (let’s not even mention media, they’re the worst) – it’s just not easy. Then suddenly this other guy comes along and starts beating our guy. Same or even less developed car, much less experience, better results. To our numero uno driver’s dismay, not many will mention that this suddenly-very-fast guy had very little pressure on his shoulders, but our number one guy will also forget that Teh New Guy is not spared from his own set of pressures. Those that can decide your entire career – he has to prove his worth in couple of outings – it may well be the only chance he’ll ever get again at this level. But is this pressure worth more compared to what our no. 1 guy is going through? No, I don’t think it is. I think both of them are going through normal phases in rally driver’s career – this is a sport where highs are very high but lows can be devastatingly low. Rallying is much more than pure speed, and dealing with said pressures also separates boys from men, Really Good Drivers from Permanent Consolation Points Winners. After all, we’re talking World Championship here; it’s big money, bit investments and big expectations – as it should be. Only those who can perform should get a chance to do it, ideally. And when those, who are able to endure all of this, inevitably hit their lows, they should be able to recover quickly, patch that mental or confidence puncture and rejoin the stage, before others get to them. Because if you rejoin too late, you can end up being stuck behind a lucky driver, eating his dust just long enough to drop below everyone’s radar, even if that driver in front of you just happened to have a lucky streak of good results.

I am really looking forward to more news from this team in coming months, and I am also patiently waiting for number 1 driver to regain his speed. While this new guy gets more and more experience and either proves he’s got what it takes or not.

C’mon unnamed guys, you.