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Solberg versus the Welsh forests

2 years ago

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Hamir Thapar | Young writer


29 December 2021

As the penultimate stage loomed before him, the champion’s title aspirations appeared to be on life support. Victory last time out in Japan may have provided some much-needed respite, but three preceding retirements had taken their toll. As he climbed from the crumpled wreckage on round 10 in Germany, he’d slumped to fourth in the drivers’ standings, 32 points adrift of a certain imperious Frenchman.

Having re-centred himself and vowed to push as hard as he could for the rest of the season, Japan proved a rampant return to form, cruising home well over a minute clear of the opposition. But as the forests of Wales beckoned, it was clear that Hokkaido had been a veritable turkey shoot compared to what was to come.

Our protagonist’s start was less than auspicious, and that’s putting it mildly. The usual agglomeration of remorseless rain, treacherous mud and impenetrable fog played their part, as did the runaway championship leader who, as first on the road, kindly churned up the formerly compacted surface for all those running behind him. Lacking both grip and confidence, our man had already dropped nearly 20 seconds come the midday service halt. But as the afternoon re-runs commenced, so too did this ultimate game of cat and mouse. For two and a half days, pursuer and pursued would remain locked in combat, the former digging deeper than ever before just to make the slightest of inroads into the latter’s apparently impenetrable defence.

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