Emil Lindholm’s always been one to think about things tactically.
Remember that cunning gambit where he listed co-driver Reeta Hämäläinen as the driver for Rally Spain in 2021, because that prevented him from running at the very back of the field?
Even in the way last year’s WRC2 title fight shaped out, Lindholm weighed up the situation and drove to plan.
This year is no different.
It would be wrong to say it’s a surprise to see Lindholm’s name on the entry list for this weekend’s Rally México, but it wasn’t entirely expected either.
In a championship that only allows competitors to nominate seven rallies to score points on (with the best six scores from those seven comprising a driver’s final points tally), the accepted thinking is it’s always best to put your best foot forward and select the rallies you’re most comfortable, and fast, on.
Lindholm has never been to México before, let alone contested the rally, so it’s hardly the safest of bets of big championship points.
But the reigning WRC2 champion’s got two objectives this season. One is, of course, to retain his world title, but the other is to build up his experience on rallies he hasn’t done before so that he’ll be better placed if and when he contests a full season in a Rally1 car.
And that explains the voyage to Guanajuato.
“You need to think about what rallies are somehow good for you but on the other hand if and when the target is to go forward from here, you can’t only pick the rallies that are good for you because then you won’t be competitive in the run of a whole season,” Lindholm explained to DirtFish.
“So it’s always about finding the rallies which you need to do to get experience on and finding rallies which play into your hand and maybe you are, let’s say, able to score some better points.
“There’s the logistics points as well, you still have to keep an eye on costs and think about what is reasonable and feasible.
“We thought about it at the end of last year what rallies I should do – what rallies I haven’t done which are usually on the calendar from year to year, and Mexico seems to be one of those,” Lindholm added.
“It’s a rally with quite a long history and it seems to stay on the calendar so we thought it would make sense to go there and get the experience.”
Where Lindholm is at a disadvantage here with his strategy compared to a couple of his Toksport team-mates like Gus Greensmith and Nikolay Gryazin – who are able to do the overwhelming majority of the events and therefore get experience without the pressure of championship points-scoring and instead score on the rallies they feel they are strongest – the Finn’s budget doesn’t stretch that far.
He says seven rallies are “certain” this year, but he is working on doing one bonus eighth.
“Minimum we’ll do seven,” he said, “which means we might not do more than seven and that’s still under discussion.
“We are pushing to do more and I think eight would be somehow ideal and realistic, but at this point I’d say seven is certain.”
But at this point I think the aim is to be on the podium and then anything above that is a bonusEmil Lindholm
That places an element of pressure on Lindholm this week because as useful as it is for him to learn Rally México, he can’t afford to just fade into the background and scoop some minor points – particularly after a slow start to his title defense thanks to a trip into a snowbank in Sweden.
But Lindholm is quietly confident he can compete.
“Let’s say my target is surely a podium but I don’t see why we couldn’t win,” he said.
“But again I’ve never been to Mexico so I don’t really know what we’re up to. I’ve seen some onboards, sure, but if it’s somehow a rally which I assume it is then yeah I think we should be able to fight for the win as well.
“But at this point I think the aim is to be on the podium and then anything above that is a bonus.”
Even the switch back to the older Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo instead of the new Fabia RS Rally2 (made for logistical and financial reasons for this round only) doesn’t worry him.
“The newer car might be faster if you’ve dialled it in perfectly, but obviously I at least don’t have a lot of experience in Mexico so with the old car we are in the ballpark immediately and it will be easy to set the car up,” Lindholm reasoned.
“So I don’t think that our performance will be compromised by the fact we are in the evo instead of the new car.”
Write him off at your peril.