Addressing Takamoto Katsuta in the Passau service park last Friday, microphone in-hand, Colin Clark made a very good point.
We haven’t talked much about you today, but in some ways that’s no bad thing!
“Yeah, that’s true!” Katsuta laughed.
But it’s a point that could equally have been made about Grégoire Munster.
In such treacherous and filthy conditions, surviving was key. On an event as tricky as Central European Rally, if you were being talked about you had probably gone off.
In need of a simpler run following a dramatic Rally Chile, the Rally1 newbie had plenty to learn about his hybrid-powered Ford Puma as he nosed it towards competitive Tarmac stages for the first time.
But he coped admirably.
Granted, dirty asphalt isn’t the most unfamiliar to Munster given he grew up on Belgian roads – and after his one and only WRC2 win to-date was claimed on the final day in Japan when a deluge fell – but this was a supremely accomplished performance that, amidst the madness of the title permutations and various offs last weekend, completely flew under the radar.
Mistakes were hard to pick out. There was one corner on Saturday which Munster misjudged, missing the cut which put him off-line and forced him to overshoot the corner before recovering. But no damage was done, and he maturely continued on his way.
He didn’t set the world alight with his speed (although there was an impressive fourth-fastest stage time, again on Saturday, achieved despite a stall) but nor should he have been expected to.
Seventh overall is as good as anybody could have expected, as ultimately CER was yet another exercise in learning the nuances of Rally1. And Munster managed that by completing every single stage mile – allowing him to try different setups and tire combinations.
“The rally felt like a big test for me,” he admitted.
“We drove in wet conditions, mixed conditions with mixed tire packages and then we drove on dry on the last day with a mixed tire package, even using the hard tires at a certain point.
“We did some good stage times I think, so that was a bit like the cherry on the cake.”
The immediate future for Munster is a return to the more familiar Fiesta Rally2 for Rally Japan in two weeks’ time. But if he were to step back up to Rally1 in the future, it wouldn’t seem unjustified.
It wouldn’t feel that he’s simply benefiting from the support of a handy benefactor, Jourdan Serderidis. It would feel like he had earned another go.
Sometimes, at least for a young driver, a weekend where you’re not talked about is far better than one where you are. Because look at us now, talking about him – and for all the right reasons.