New threat looms over the WRC

A new threat looms over us all, a threat we’ve all been waiting for. Young drivers, fierce and brave, with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Okay, maybe they’re not that safe from losing something, as this is a mighty expensive sport, but they have a point to prove and to do that they will happily push themselves to the limit, and then some. Every single one of them is competing against an army of opponents, all of them determined to get their hands on that elusive WRC cake. It’s not just a fight against the elements, mechanical and physical endurance, it’s a fight against dozens of skilled newcomers. In such circumstances, it is sometimes better to simply be young – flamboyant, daring, reckless – to go over the edge and show the rawness of one’s talent, than to play it safe, bring it home and obey to often strict and dry team tactics.

For young drivers, the deal (in good part) comes down to their “hidden” potential rather than maturity and finesse alone. They need to show what they are capable of, even if only for a stage or two. Against everything their team principals have told them to do and against everything they’ve learned about this sport over the years. Sometimes you just need to get your name out, to be heard of and to demonstrate your skill, no matter how unpolished it may still be. To grab people’s attention one should know how to step out of the box and take risks because risk-taking is what they’ll be doing for the rest of their careers.

On the other hand, being able to fly on a handful of stages can get you noticed, you may even become a short-lived sensation on Youtube, but that speed and bravery will need polishing before they become a diamond. Many talented drivers came and went, the promise of their imminent success never materializing into anything more than worn-out nicknames, such as flying -insert-driver’s-nationality-here. To be noticed by fans, one can simply drive fast. To be noticed by teams and sponsors, one should also know how to be calm and consistent, completely in control of one’s own pace and emotions. Not an easy thing to do, even for the most experienced drivers out there. So, what happens when a driver comes along – he is young, brave, a risk-taker. Nothing much, aren’t they all hungry for success and podiums and wins. But if that same guy is also calm and collected and consistent, as well as fast? And did I say young? This is when literally everyone will start taking notice. This is what champions are made of, this synergy of grit and willpower combined with wisdom and mental strength.

Okay, maybe I am pushing it too far with this one, coining new champions based on a couple of stages. Surely, upcoming new talents made their points in Sweden this past week, but this is a tricky, slippery and twisty sport, and many came into it shining and came out… well, shining a bit less, dragging their potentials behind them like a slow puncture. We could be looking at the new era for our sport, with teenagers claiming podium positions and even victories, but it is just too early to tell. Mr. Kalle Rovanpera certainly left his mark on WRC but it is up to him to take it from there and turn it into something truly amazing. Because, if he won’t do it, someone else will.