Rally racing is reserved only for a set of special individuals. Either an obsessive, relentless, bloodthirsty demeanor or an almost-comatose level of serenity is needed, because the risks are so immense. Obviously, one can assume that chucking a car sideways along a dirt ridge is dangerous enough, but factor in unforeseen surface changes, wild animals, boulders and other friendly, natural obstructions and the whole endeavor gets a little hairier.
Perhaps Hayden Paddon felt a little anxious on his charge through this year’s Rally de Portugal, where, after clipping a hillside, spun his Hyundai backwards into a clutch of trees. With that turbocharger burning white-hot, the brakes glowing, and other ancillary components making his car a mobile sauna, that heat sink of a car isn’t best placed in the middle of low-growing shrubs immediately after a hard run. As a result, that thermal energy sets the neighboring brush alight, and starts to clear another path for this stage of the Portuguese rally.
Within a matter of minutes, the car is a charred relic, and another rally machine joins the crowd. This time, it’s Ott Tanak, the same rallyist who went scuba diving in his WRC Fiesta not too long ago. Contributing to the blaze, Tanak’s car is mildly burned but with an improvised pulley and some fire hoses, the Estonian saved his machine. Tanak is helped by spectators and rescue workers who do what they can to keep the whole stage from combusting, but cannot prevent the fire from consuming the hillside. Terrifying, spectacular and thrilling, rally racing is reserved for those who thrive in tense conditions like these.