Coming into Rally Japan Emil Lindholm knew what he needed to do to win this year’s WRC2 title.
With Andreas Mikkelsen not making the trip to the Far East, Toksport’s Lindholm knew that a fifth-place finish would be sufficient to swipe the title away from Mikkelsen’s grasp and hand him a second championship victory of the year after he took the WRC2 Junior title in Spain.
And by the end of the second day of running, everything was going according to plan.
Lindholm was in total control, leading WRC2 with a 47.6-second advantage over Sami Pajari, but as Sunday progressed, that control dissipated fast.
As you’d expect for a driver in Lindholm’s position, he took the opening two stages easy, knowing that his advantage was such that he didn’t need to worry about ensuring he was fastest.
But when rain arrived for the penultimate stage, an incorrect tire call threatened to ruin all of his hard work.
“We knew we had to get 10 points so that means P5 and on these roads you need anyhow to do some proper driving in this class to finish among the five first ones,” Lindholm explained to DirtFish.
“So OK, we tried to keep cool, but obviously it was best to just keep somehow in a normal rhythm and the rally was going quite well until this afternoon I think.
“My fault, we took the wrong tires. We expected the rain to start only for the last stage and, yeah, we got it earlier.”
Lindholm lost 1m17s to stage-winner Gregoire Munster on that stage, demoting him to second in class and with the rain worsening on the powerstage, there was no guarantee that the title would be his until he crossed the finish line.
In the end, the Toksport driver did enough. He lost another half a minute on Rally Japan’s final test, but finished third, enough for him to claim his second championship in two rounds.
It was a mature drive from a fairly inexperienced driver, and with two championship victories now on his CV, he will no doubt attract the attention of several teams.
But despite his success, his future is still yet to be decided.
“It’s a good question,” was Lindholm’s response when asked what’s next for him.
“I mean something I need to spend some time thinking on now.
“There’s some plans in place for next year, but it is still unclear what I will do. I hope this will at least help us to get the plans we have. But there is still some decisions to be made.
“We need to take one step at a time. This is only my second year in WRC2, so obviously I don’t have a lot of experience from the championship.
“There’s a lot of events I’ve never done. So in one way it would be good to get the experience before thinking about stepping up.”