When the European Rally Championship rolls up to Ilha de São Miguel for the second round of the season, Rally Azores, it will do so without its championship leader arriving on the ferry.
It was always a possibility. Georg Linnamäe and Erik Cais potentially had the pace to show up, win, then disappear, as they’d planned. They were in Fafe to prepare for Portugal’s WRC round in May.
Not Nil Solans. He wants to be champion of Europe. And based on his win on the season opener, Rally Serras de Fafe, that’s a very real prospect.
We knew he had budget issues. But coming to the stop line of a sodden Lameirinha, Solans indicated an entry to Azores might be in the offing. He still needed the money to get there but the paperwork was done. The boat to Azores awaited.
Or so we thought.
When the entry list was unveiled, there was no sign of Solans. Co-driver Marc Martí was aghast, tweeting “no comment” after their absence had become public.
“We had the entry prepared to pass it but we had no support and in the end we didn’t pay and we are not on the rally because we have no money, no budget,” Solans told DirtFish.
Even if that win had got them the attention they needed to secure budget for Azores, it’s too late now. There will be no last-minute bid to make the ferry.
“This is not the way to do things. I don’t think the FIA will be happy to make things like that,” Solans astutely points out.
I know that people are a bit angry about this situation because they want me to continue in the championshipNil Solans
So, Canary Islands it is. Solans has got over a month to find the money to make round three and get his name on that entry list.
Wherever it comes from, it won’t be from the RFEDA, the Spanish motorsport federation. It was a key backer in his Hyundai WRC opportunity late last year, under its Rallye Team Spain moniker. But that support has now vanished for 2022.
“I have spoken with them in the last days,” said Solans. “In the end they said that the decision is from Consejo Superior de Deportes, the Spanish government department taking care of sport. They said it’s their decision, not the decision of the Spanish federation.
“But in the end, they get support from them and they can decide where to put it. So I don’t know. I cannot understand but in the end it’s their decision and we have to respect it.”
He respects it. But his fans? Some are a bit confused – a crowdfunding campaign has even been launched.
“I know that people are a bit angry about this situation because they want me to continue in the championship because I am leading,” he said.
“On social media they are pushing a lot, everyone, fans let’s say. I am happy for that because I feel so comfortable with the support of the people.
“In the end we need to find support from the Spanish federation and more sponsors. And that’s the job right now: to continue the championship in Canarias until the end.
“But right now it’s impossible to do anything.”