Of the 12 Rally1 starters last weekend, how many produced a result that matched their pre-event brief and expectations?
Kalle Rovanperä certainly did. In fact, he surpassed what anybody could have expected from him – winning from first on the road on Friday.
Dani Sordo did too. He’s long been Hyundai’s insurance policy and he once again ensured the brand was represented on the podium after a final stage push.
You could make a strong case to argue Takamoto Katsuta met his targets as well with what was a fine fourth place, but that’s of course tinged by the fact he was overhauled by Sordo on the powerstage which cost Toyota a dream 1-2-3 formation finish.
But they’re not the only ones, even if they’re the obvious examples that spring to mind.
A muted ninth place, over eight minutes adrift of the rally winner, will hardly go down in history as one of the great Adrien Fourmaux WRC drives, but it could well be reflected on as one of his most important.
Because after the rough and tumble nature of his 2022 campaign leading up to Portugal, that’s exactly what Fourmaux needed.
M-Sport didn’t want to see how fast Fourmaux could thread a Puma Rally1 through the Portuguese countryside. Instead, it wanted to see that he was capable of guiding the car through the rally without a scratch.
The team’s patience had been wearing thin with its latest protégé after Croatia. Quite how close it ever was to benching him for Portugal remains unknown, but M-Sport was at least serious enough about it to give DirtFish the exclusive.
And you couldn’t really blame the team. The statistics work against Fourmaux in the sense that his Rally Sweden performance was akin to what he managed in Portugal – utterly unremarkable, barely even memorable. But his Puma let him down and led to his retirement.
However, that monster shunt on the Monte, just when he had worked himself into a strong position, and then that trip into Martin the Croatian farmer’s front garden last month were problematic to say the least.
Fourmaux was displaying a huge amount of impatience; he was pushing things too hard, too soon – potentially a symptom of his rapid rise from rallying rookie to factory WRC driver in just five years.
But in Portugal, he got the memo. That impatience had been totally flipped on its head to loads of patience and Fourmaux drove completely within himself to give himself a solid base to build from, and perhaps more importantly, some championship points.
“I just worked on myself and tried to work hard to forget this [pressure] and be focused on doing what I’m doing quite good sometimes,” Fourmaux told DirtFish.
“For sure [I was] not on my level but for sure it’s good to get the confidence back.
“It’s just [about] driving and doing no mistakes, staying focused and just increasing to be more confident in your driving,” he added.
“It’s all about experience, so I think it will come, I just need time.”
Fourmaux’s Portugal ran basically without a hitch. There was a disappointing puncture on the first stage on Friday afternoon and then another on the daunting Amarante test, but other than that he stayed out the wars.
It no doubt hurts him inside to have had to have made such a poor account of himself in terms of speed, but there’s a bigger picture in view for Fourmaux. He must take one step at a time and build up the momentum, rather than taking two giant leaps forward and then consequently one huge, and expensive, step back again.
And on the evidence of Rally Portugal, he gets that now.
“It’s just in the head where you need to be strong,” he said.
“I think this is where you can see where guys like Ott [Tänak] have been world champion after [his troubles that he bounced back from].
“I think every career, it cannot be at the top all the time. There are some ups and downs, just like Oliver Solberg.”
Fourmaux’s trajectory has taken its first up in a good while. It’s important now that he doesn’t let it slip down again in Sardinia.