Hold it flat and hope for the best

The journey down the path of a young rally driver is never an easy road, and it’s likely there’ll be just as many lows as there will be highs in those formative years.

That was perhaps never more obvious than in the WRC’s Ypres Rally last weekend, when the championship’s next wave of young talent all pushed just that little bit too hard.

Takamoto Katsuta, Adrien Fourmaux, Gus Greensmith and Pierre-Louis Loubet are all in factory-prepared World Rally Cars, and are all seen as stars of the future.

Maybe they aren’t all World Rally Champions in the making, but certainly podium finishers in the right machinery.

Of the four drivers, Katsuta and Fourmaux have been the most widely lauded for their natural talent, and their progression this year has been nothing short of phenomenal.

It all came unstuck quickly last weekend though.

M-Sport’s Fourmaux got a pacenote wrong, put his rear wheel on the grass at 170km/h and was a passenger as his Fiesta WRC was thrown into a bone-jarring series of rolls.

Adrien Fourmaux crashes out – Ypres Rally Belgium 2021

Katsuta had his Toyota land awkwardly after a slight left/right junction. The Yaris was in a ditch before he could react and the car was catapulted down the stage, narrowly missing a number of spectators.

Both Greensmith and Loubet had low speed excursions into deep ditches, and while neither seriously damaged their cars, it was proof that to get results you need to push the limits.

They’re situations that have been repeated throughout rallying for decades, and some of the WRC’s current stars have all ‘been there and done that’.

Kalle Rovanpera was leading the championship after two rounds this year, but on the first stage of the very next rally his car was off a Corsican mountain and on its roof .

Teemu Suninen has led rallies for Ford, but accidents have put paid to any real results for the speedy Finn – something that also plagued his fellow countrymen Ari Vatanen and Jari-Matti Latvala.

It’s not an easy gig though. Not everyone is going to be as consistent as Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier, and driving at the level to win in the WRC is akin to standing on a knife’s edge. The difference between success and disaster is THAT small.

Back home, New Zealand’s young guns have all face similar challenges. Hayden Paddon has written off his share of Lancers (and Hyundais and Fords!), and the likes of Jack Hawkeswood and Robbie Stokes have also become friendlier than they’d like to be with their panel beaters.

Fortunately though, advances in the safety of rally cars – from roll cages to frontal head restraints – means that pushing your car and yourself to the limit is perhaps not as fraught with the risk of injury as it once was.

That’s no reason to become complacent though, but when you’re young, brave and have little concern for the consequences, our future heroes will always push the limit.

It won’t always end well, but when it does, it will be spectacularly exciting to watch.

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

http://rallysportmag.com

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