Everybody downs tools when Pirelli releases its graphic displaying the tire choices each P1 driver has taken.
Who’s been brave? Who’s been cautious? Has anybody gone against the mould?
Safari Rally Kenya isn’t usually an event where tire choice plays a decisive factor. As Thierry Neuville grinned ahead of the event: “We will all be on full softs for the whole event and it’s not a secret.”
The Hyundai driver wasn’t wrong. Heading out for the second loop of Friday, each Rally1 driver had indeed ignored Pirelli’s hard compound option.
But one man had gone against the grain: Sébastien Ogier.
Instead of taking six tires (and therefore two spares), the rally leader had plumped for just five.
Eyebrows were collectively raised. A pretty ballsy manoeuvre on stages as rough as Kenya’s, we all thought.
Even Ogier’s Toyota team wasn’t fully convinced the eight-time champion’s strategy was a winner.
But Ogier’s call was inspired; genius even.
Bolstering his lead from 2.5 seconds to 17.8s in just one stage, Ogier made full use of his lighter car (without the added weight of a second tire in the trunk) and won all three stages of the afternoon to build a 22.8s advantage over Kalle Rovanperä.
It was Ogier at his cunning best, and now he’s let DirtFish in on the secret behind his thinking.
“I don’t think it was a gamble at all,” Ogier said, almost surprised that that would even be a question.
“Basically my reflection was ‘why take two spares and think that you can push harder and puncture’ because if you puncture then you will anyway lose time.
“So my idea was these two first stages are not that rough, they have some pretty hard base so not so much loose rocks coming from the ground which can be a surprise and risk of puncture, so I thought I should manage those ones by driving clean and not hitting too much into my tires, and having the chance to be lighter I will be faster anyway.
“And yeah, it paid off.
“For sure the team was maybe not super comfortable when I made this decision but I’m glad they let me trust my feeling.”
It’s a fairly safe bet to say Toyota will be glad it did, too.
But Ogier is aware that the job is far from done, with two demanding legs of the rally still to go.
“Tomorrow will be even harder on that topic,” Ogier cautioned.
“There will be much rougher sections to go through, so we know that it’s only a very small step towards a good result we have done today and tomorrow is the big day.
“For sure there will be some sections where we will definitely have to slow down and calm down the rhythm tomorrow, but it’s never a guarantee that you will go through without issue.
“That will be our target obviously, being where we are now, to keep driving fast but even more with our head.
“Sometimes here it’s not enough so we need the Kenyan gods like they say here, so hopefully they will remain with me a bit longer this weekend.”
From here Ogier may well need to count on some fortune from above to emerge victorious on Sunday, but there was nothing lucky about his masterstroke on Friday afternoon.