Motivation is everything in elite-level sport. Without the will and desire to achieve, there’s next-to-no chance of success.
For drivers in the World Rally Championship, the ultimate goal is to become World Rally champion. That’s all that consumes their being. Every single thing they do at the rallies, and even away from the rallies, is done in pursuit of that ultimate realization.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz has probably accepted that this won’t be him. At 43 years old and without a top-line start to his name, he’s not got teams queuing round the block to sign him.
That’s not to say he’s a bad driver. In fact Kajetanowicz can be extremely proud of his lot – four Polish national titles and three consecutive European Rally Championships don’t exactly represent a bad CV. He also of course now leads WRC2 ahead of ex-factory and World Rally winners.
But what Kajetanowicz had never done was compete in Africa on the legendary Safari Rally Kenya. What he wanted to do more than anything this season was take this event on, and win it.
Who wouldn’t? But for Kajetanowicz there was extra motivation to finish the job his Polish compatriot had started last year.
Remember Sobiesław Zasada? The 91-year-old – himself a three-time European champion – who broke the record for being the oldest driver to compete in the WRC on last year’s Safari behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta Rally3.
Cruelly, Zasada retired from the rally with suspension damage on the very last stage. So after this heartbreak, Kajetanowicz made him a promise: to finish the Safari Rally for him.
“This victory is for my family, our supporters and Sobiesław Zasada,” said Kajetanowicz.
“I am glad to be able to say: Mr Sobiesław, I kept my word, mission accomplished!”
He absolutely did. The cherry on top was the ninth place finish overall and the three-point lead he has now opened up in WRC2.
It’s been a deceptively strong season from Kajetanowicz so far – second in Croatia, second in Portugal and now first on the Safari. Last weekend just thrust him into the spotlight and made us all pay attention.
The only slip up came after it had all finished. Kajetanowicz’s sentiment was cute, looking down the live TV camera and sending a message to his partner: “Honey, I love you, I will be back in one day, something like that.”
But the look of stewards document no.8 proved he was perhaps a bit too keen to get away as Kajetanowicz missed the press conference he was bound to attend as per the WRC’s sporting regulations as he was catching his flight home.
He was let off with effectively just a slap on the wrist, but for helping make a 92-year-old’s dream come true Kajetanowicz more than makes up for any wrongdoing.
“It’s like a dream,” he said, “and I don’t want to wake up.”