Twelve months ago, Adrien Fourmaux was flying high. Eleven months ago and he was just flying. Off the side of an Alp. Last year’s Monte Carlo Rally was the kicker for the likeable Frenchman’s very own annus horribilis.
There’s no dressing 2022 up. It was a shocker.
More than a few felt that Ypres shunt was the final straw. It wasn’t so much whether a P45 would be prepared, but when it would be delivered.
Luke Barry’s Friday story detailed Fourmaux’s season as accurately as it did sympathetically. And make no mistake, a WRC2 program is the rallying equivalent of the sport’s naughty step. Point is, it’s a step that still sits on the right side of the front door of Dovenby Hall. And demotion is surely preferable to dismissal.
And let’s be honest here, nobody knows more about sending their drivers back one step to bring them forwards two.
There were those (probably me, included, if I’m honest) who questioned whether demoting Elfyn Evans at the end of 2015 was the right decision. In Malcolm Wilson’s eyes the Welshman hadn’t delivered and things had to change. It would be naïve in the extreme to think these decisions are taken in the heat of the moment, born out of fury and frustration.
Far from it.
Evans was given time to find his form again. He did that and look at him now. More pertinently, look at him through 2020 and 2021. Second only to Sébastien Ogier. Suddenly, scrapping for a British title seems a very long way away.
The process would have been the same for Fourmaux. His future would have been a topic of consideration through meeting after meeting.
The thinking from M-Sport will be the same as it was seven years ago. Relieve the pressure, regroup, reassess and return at a level where the spotlight’s not quite so bright and the competition not quite as razor sharp.
The world championship’s second tier has come a long way in the last few years and drivers like Andreas Mikkelsen, Hayden Paddon and Mads Østberg make a WRC2 win more worthwhile than it’s ever been.
But it’s still the second tier, the feeder series for the top flight.
And this is Fourmaux’s opportunity. By his own admission, he loaded himself with anticipation and expectation at last year’s season opener. Quite possibly, he spied an opportunity to demonstrate the future of French rallying before the eyes of the legends he’d grown up admiring.
And then he and the Puma took flight.
He needs to forget last season ever happened. There’s nothing he can do change it and giving it head space now will only empower 2022 to hinder 2023. He dropped the ball. Nobody else.
Fortunately for him, MW has spun him another one and given him some space to run into.
Fourmaux’s an intelligent fella. He knows all of this. But he also needs to remember it. Go win WRC2 in Monte Carlo, like we know you can. And then do the same at round two. And maybe even round three.
But keep the head in the game and don’t let the demons distract you. Route one back to Rally1 comes at the end of a consistent, quick and possibly championship-challenging season. Redemption remains very much an option here.
The year ahead will offer significant insight into Fourmaux’s character. He’s in a position drivers around the world would willingly hand over a wide variety of body parts to be in. Yes that position also happens to be located behind a saloon door marked ‘last chance’ but balancing expectation, performance and delivery is what professional sport is all about.
Clear your head, focus your mind, back yourself and bring it.