Mayors wield a lot of power in the towns that they govern. But few can claim to have inspired an athlete to victory at the top of their chosen sport like the mayor of El Montmell, José María Roldán Lirola, can.
Dani Sordo hasn’t hogged the headlines on this year’s Rally Spain. By no means has he been slow, but he hasn’t quite been able to set the scorching times that he – and his adoring fans – had longed for.
As a result of this, and a puncture on Friday afternoon, his Hyundai has been situated in an unspectacular sixth or fifth position throughout the entire weekend – a weekend that’s very possibly his last World Rally Championship rally in his home nation.
But something changed on Saturday’s final full-length stage: El Montmell. Sordo came alive – not just beating but battering his opposition to the tune of five seconds over the 15 miles.
It was quite simply stunning. And rather unexpected. Caution had been tossed into the wind and he just went for it, but why? How on this stage, but not particularly on any of the others?
It turns out Sordo has a friend in a high place who had spurred him on to produce something magical.
“I like this stage,” Sordo told DirtFish.
“I know the mayor of the village, he’s always waiting for me there when we are doing the recce, we talk, and after the stages he sent me a message to say ‘hey, amazing in this stage!’
“It was nice.”
There was plenty on the line for Sordo, who had far more than just the mayor to impress. He had made a promise to his friends that he would win at least one stage on Saturday – and boy did he achieve that; producing a performance akin to that of this year’s Rally Portugal powerstage where Sordo stole third from Takamoto Katsuta.
Just like Fafe, El Montmell’s a stage Sordo clearly enjoys, although he hadn’t won it since 2007 before his epic run this weekend.
“It’s a little bit more like a normal stage, a cleaner stage and I just did my best,” he explained.
I didn't know if somebody could be faster but it was a really nice feeling because I give my all in this stage, I just pushed like hell and it was really, really niceDani Sordo
“I enjoyed it, but I give all. I just gave everything.
“I stopped after the stage, I stopped there with my co-driver and told him I was really happy. I just give all from my body.
“I didn’t know if somebody could be faster but it was a really nice feeling because I give my all in this stage, I just pushed like hell and it was really, really nice.
“Honestly in this rally I’m a little bit frustrated because I would like to be more,” he added.
“And after this stage I was really like proud of myself because I give my all and the time was nice and honestly I was looking for this all weekend, and I was thinking I was not doing really bad but the times were not there.
“After we changed some setup in the car, the car was much better and we are coming step by step.”
The hope now has to be that Sordo can replicate that blistering turn of speed on Sunday.
“Tomorrow, honestly, I like the type of stages and I will try to have this feeling also tomorrow, it’s amazing.
“And also I was enjoying with the fans, the people are totally crazy in this stage, it was nice.”
From there, Sordo will make the trip to Japan before ultimately deciding on his WRC future.
But if 2022 does prove to be his last, Sordo at least has an ally in local Catalan politics should he ever need to use him.