Left to lick his wounds after crashing out of the lead on Croatia Rally, Junior WRC driver William Creighton had accepted his fate.
His accident gave chief rival Laurent Pellier a comfortable three-minute lead, and the Frenchman was odds-on to scoop even more championship points by winning stages given Creighton and Pellier’s superiority over the rest of the field.
The 10-point lead Creighton had constructed after a showdown finish in Sweden was about to be a distant memory.
Yet, somehow, the Northern Irishman boarded the flight home from Zagreb to Dublin via London Stansted with an even bigger championship lead than when he made the reverse journey.
Engine issues on Saturday afternoon restricted Pellier’s pace, and eventually forced him out of the rally two stages from home on Sunday.
Creighton meanwhile returned on Sunday to win all four stages and finish seventh overall, boosting his championship lead up to 21 points.
Quite the scenario for a driver who had seemingly thrown it all away.
“In a way it’s very fortunate and it’s extremely unfortunate for Laurent because he didn’t make any mistake,” Creighton told DirtFish.
“He was driving a clean rally and I’ve been in those situations where he was working on the car all day Saturday to get it through and then to not be able to get to the finish after doing his best on Sunday takes a lot out of you.
“It’s hard work, but in terms of the championship for me I was lucky in a way.
“On Saturday, after we had crashed, we were thinking that Laurent was going to get a lot of stage-win points and first-place points if he could have got to the finish, and that’s just not the way it panned out.
“So you never know what’s going to happen. Especially in the Juniors, a lot can happen in that last day of rallying like we saw in Sweden too! It’s lucky really to come away with a championship lead extension considering where we were sitting on Saturday.”
Creighton lost it in a fast left-right sequence as he reckoned he was “not deep enough into the cut and carrying slightly too much speed”, causing the rear of his Ford Fiesta Rally3 to swing away from him and pitch him and co-driver Liam Regan into a roll down a bank.
But he’s not interested in dwelling on his mistake, instead seeking to ensure he doesn’t do it again.
“There’s no point thinking about what if because that’s what happened but it’s just unfortunate where it happened,” he said.
“We had gravel in the notes for that corner. Maybe being a bit more cautious on the gravel, of course that would have maybe stopped the accident, but hindsight’s a wonderful thing.
“We can see what happened, what went wrong and I don’t think we need to dwell on the fact that it’s happened. It’s more trying to learn and figuring out why it happened and how we can stop something like that happening in the future.”
The other added bonus from the weekend was seeing fellow Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Eamonn Kelly take victory. Creighton desperately wanted to win not just for his own championship bid but also for Ireland after Craig Breen’s passing, so was delighted to see Kelly bring it home.
“For me personally I would have loved to have tried to have won the rally with everything that had happened and we were in a nice position come Saturday for that. And to roll out we were gutted for the championship, but also in my head I was trying to get a good result for everybody,” the 25-year-old said.
“So for Eamonn to get the result I was delighted. I was so happy to see an Academy member and Irish driver stand on the top step of the podium. Liam and I were definitely delighted for them.
“The weekend, with everything that happened before, I mean it was so tough for everyone,” Creighton added.
“In a way, when we were actually doing the rally we were focused on the event and it took your mind off things and that was a good thing.
“But before the rally, especially on Thursday when we had all the activities for Craig, that was extremely difficult for everybody and seeing Fuzzy [James Fulton] and all the guys that were close to them.
“And then after the event obviously you’re straight back to thinking about that. So in a way it puts things in perspective and we sat on the startline of each stage and went into it to have fun, and to be honest I think we did that.
“I’m a little surprised how much we enjoyed the weekend considering we rolled on Saturday. I’ve never come back from an event and said ‘I actually enjoyed that’ after crashing. That was the aim and we did that as best as we could.
“I think everybody tried to do their best to do him proud at the weekend and going rallying was definitely the right thing to do even though it felt strange.”