When you’ve worked so long to achieve something, you never quite know how it will feel. When you’ve wanted to achieve it so badly and for so long, you daren’t build the moment up in your mind in case reality doesn’t live up to your dreams.
Nobody has the same reaction – all kinds of emotions take over.
For Osian Pryce, it was tears, it was smiles, but above all, it was relief.
The Welshman had worked so hard (and missed out too many times) to become British Rally champion, that he could scarcely believe he had actually done it.
“Nobody remembers how many times you finish second,” Pryce told me just days after lifting a championship trophy containing all the names of his childhood heroes, “but even if you have one title people remember it and nobody can ever take that away.
“If I won it seven times, I probably wouldn’t appreciate it as much as my first time as that’s the one that you want.”
For weeks, you couldn’t wipe the grin from Osian’s face.
The random moments where he remembered he’d done it, the family meals, the celebration parties with the team and his supporters, the times he watched back the onboards… As he said himself, his place in history was secured and nobody, nor nothing, could steal that moment from him.
But the trouble is, unless you’re Nico Rosberg – who broke the mould in retiring from Formula 1 days after clinching his first world title – life doesn’t stand still; particularly a life in motorsport.
Soon 2022 becomes irrelevant, and 2023 is the focus.
That meant a step forward to Europe, and a partial season in the European Rally Championship – which Pryce is the first to admit didn’t quite work out.
But looking up another of his answers from 12 months ago is fascinating with the benefit of hindsight: “I don’t know where I go from here now,” Pryce said, “because I’ve been in that mindset [of trying to win the BRC] now for so many years and it’s done.
“I’ve got what I wanted and it’s time to think about what’s next.”
From the outside, progression from the British to the European championship would be perceived as just that – progress. And for the 30-year-old’s career and profile, of course it was – even if his results in Poland and Latvia (16th and 14th) didn’t reflect the best of what he can do.
But he wasn’t able to fully enjoy it. He wasn’t in the right headspace. To say it wasn’t something he wanted wouldn’t be fair, but the hangover from achieving something that meant so much to him was taking its toll.
“I think my perception or my mindset is a little bit different now to what it was at the end of 2022/start of this year,” Pryce tells DirtFish.
“Having spoken to, and read up on, what a lot of other athletes have done when they’ve achieved something that they’ve always worked towards in life, they’re completely lost.
“And I think that’s what happened to me.”
Winning the BRC became such an obsession almost for Pryce that winning it was amazing, and felt amazing. But then what?
“And that’s the thing,” he says. “I’ve seen it in mountain biking where bikers want to win a world cup or something like that, and they do it and even though it’s the best feeling on earth the bit after it’s all sank in is actually the worst feeling on earth because it’s like ‘s***, what the hell do I do now?’
“And I think that was me. I was very, very lost and I was going with what I want to do, which is obviously Europe, and I was led down a path with the ERC and got so invested in it – I was just trying to do something because I put so much effort into it, and I think everything for that went wrong.
“Wrong timing, wrong place, wrong team, wrong car – just everything went wrong, because if you look at this weekend just gone [on Rally Terra Sarda in Italy, which Pryce won] the only thing that was familiar really was the guy sat next to me [Stéphane Prévot].
“Everything else – the team, the rally, the tires, the car – everything was different, which is not really different to [how it was in] the ERC. But it’s all in the mind really.
“For the first five, six months of the year I was trying to do something and I was feeling lost thinking, ‘Where am I going with this? What is my next goal?’
“And it’s taken like six to eight months to work that out. I think I’d know where I’d like to go [now] and it’s [to] please myself really, and as long as I get sponsors onboard that want to be a part of it I’ll be able to keep going.”
He called it the wrong time, wrong place, wrong team and the wrong car – so was that ERC program a mistake? Particularly now he’s realized he was struggling to move on from an all-time high.
“No, I wouldn’t say it’s a mistake,” Pryce responds. “Put it like this: if I’d have had the car that I had at the weekend at the beginning of ERC, I think I would have probably done better.
“Stéphane and I were talking at the weekend, the team I had [Hyundai Rally Team Friulmotor] were probably the best team I’ve ever worked with.
“ERC didn’t go to plan, it was a bit of a shambles really – and that’s probably putting it politely – but I wouldn’t say it was a regret. At the end of the day I did two ERC events more than somebody sat at home – that’s the way I look at it.”
But the frustrating thing is, for a multitude of reasons, Pryce didn’t put his best foot forward.
“If I drove the best that I could and it felt good and I still had my pants pulled down, I’d go, ‘Do you know what? Fair play, we’ll park that one up because there’s no point.’ But it wasn’t that,” he says.
“Even the mindset coming into it of money’s a bit tight, things like that make a big difference on how you drive. You’re all tense, you’re worried about this, worried about that – plus the car was not the best.
“[With a different car and team] I wouldn’t say we would be winning rallies but we would have been in the mix. We wouldn’t have been struggling to get into the top 10.
“When I represent myself I want to make sure the outcome is a true reflection of my performance and what I’m capable of. I suppose the start of this year was just, yeah, what I put in I didn’t get out.
“These last two rallies [after the ERC], what I put in I did get out and probably even more so the other way for this one recently. Some things just click sometimes and it just works.”
The difference in Pryce since he’s refound his motivation is certainly clear. Granted, TER Series isn’t as competitive as ERC, but two victories on the bounce on Rali Ceredigion and a surprise chance to take on Rally Terra Sarda last weekend speak volumes.
And, incredibly, with Hayden Paddon unable to make it to Sardinia and seemingly inevitable champion Andrea Crugnola breaking his wrist in the lead-up which ruled him out too, a win on the rally and the powerstage ended up earning Pryce a second championship title in as many years!
“I won it by one point,” Pryce explains, “but I don’t want to make too big a thing of it because we were lucky really with Hayden and Andrea not making it.
“But it is still great to win. It’s a European title and it’s recognized by the FIA, and that’s that really. It doesn’t do me any harm, and it’s something that maybe somebody else hasn’t got.”
The title that meant more to Pryce left him feeling lost; this one has him rejuvenated. The mental side of elite competition really is everything.