Even when things go wrong for Nil Solans, things go right for Nil Solans.
Winding the clock back to a slow right after a long flat out section on the roads of Päijälä in Central Finland, Solans shot off the road into a deforested field at speed. Three minutes later, his car recovered to the roads by the enthusiastic local spectators, Emil Lindholm arrived on the scene and pushed him into a ditch only a few hundred metres after getting back underway.
It was a bizarre way to drop nearly four minutes in the space of 23 kilometres. Solans though would get the last laugh; Lindholm crashed out of second on the final day, while mistakes from Julius Tannert and Dennis Rådström allowed Solans to catch and pass the pair on the very last stage. He took second place and snatched away two precious prize drives from Nicolas Ciamin in the final 10 kilometres of Rally Finland.
One event later, Solans decided to give the rest of the field a chance by planting his Fiesta into a wall in the vineyards of southwestern Germany. He retired from the opening day, coming back on Saturday in last place with fourteen minutes worth of penalties to his name.
By lunchtime the same day, he had already moved back into second place. Terry Folb somehow missed every hinkelstein lining the Panzerplatte roads and hit a tree instead, while Ciamin broke his suspension and racked up some time penalties of his own for being late to three time controls in a row.
It seems no matter what he does, the stars always align for Solans, and his list of objectives for this weekend suggest he knows it. Though the gap is 23 points with 44 still on the table, simply coming home safely in last place while Ciamin wins 8 or less of the 19 stages would put enough points in his account to seal the title. Slow and steady is not on the agenda however, as there’s more than just the title on the line.
“Firstly we are focused to fight to secure the Junior WRC title, and secondly our aim is to try and take the last set of prize drives in WRC2 – there is a lot still to be decided and everyone is close,” said Solans.
Ciamin though is not willing to back down on either point. Having lost two prize drives in Finland by the narrowest of margins, he wants to take revenge in Solans’ back yard, and hasn’t given up on the idea that the Spaniard may not finish at all.
“It will be tough to win the championship but I will try,” he said. “At the very least we will push to win the rally and the prize drives – this is still very possible.”
Ciamin will need help. Those prize drives and the results required by Solans to get them are the only pressure he can exert on him, and he could do with some backup. This would preferably come from someone that isn’t Tannert, who currently sits pretty with 25 points towards the DMACK-backed WRC2 prize drives for next year. He needs Rådström and the perennially unlucky Folb to intervene, though the former may well be too busy simply getting his bearings to come to Ciamin’s rescue.
“The big challenge for us in Spain is to be closer to the pace on tarmac, but this is a challenge I like as I need to develop my tarmac driving,” he said. “We’ve been looking through the videos to get more information on the roads.”
Ciamin needs a miracle to overcome Solans for the junior title this weekend, but much like the prize drives handed out twice already this season, the Spaniard is hogging all of those too.