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GP Week : Issue 72
AWARDS >> s selected by Martin Holmes We are di erent at GPWeek. We are not going to devote all our attention to the man who has won six successive world championship rally titles. There cannot be many untold stories about Loeb at all. For this moment I am swinging the spotlight round onto Dani Sordo, Loeb's number two driver, the man who has still never had a chance to step onto the top level of the podium. Fourteen second places is of course an all- time record and all this has been achieved by a driver who is still only 26 years old. Dani and Jari Matti Latvala are members of the young generation. Until Latvala came along, nobody younger than 24 years 3 months had ever won a world rally, but of course the world has moved on and drivers have got younger. What made me laugh during the year was an interview with Dani in Australia, with his co- driver Marc Marti. I asked about how a co-driver in his 40s could work with such a youngster: "It really took some adjustment, and after my rallying time with Carlos Sainz (more than four years older) I did not know if I could adjust. But I did, though what was a huge surprise was his appetite. How is it that somebody can eat so many sandwiches in a day?" What I really haven't unearthed is to what extent Sordo is satisfied with his lot in life, knowing that his position in the sport is to cover the back of Loeb, or whether he really cannot stand it all any more. What I have discovered however is that team director Olivier Quesnel has his own opinions: "There is only one way in which I could ever fault Dani. He is just not nasty enough. But I really like having him in the team!" 3 -- Dani Sordo One person in the sport that one keeps on wanting to know more about is Martin Prokop, the man from Jihlava. This year he was the only driver to tackle both Junior and Production car championships, which this year meant every event, a task he had tackled before and been plagued by errors. But this year it all worked out fine -- gold in Junior, silver in Production Car. The really nice thing about the Prokop team is the family spirit. Sister Petra is his manager. She holds Martin on a tight rein, makes sure things happen, and endeared me when I decided to interview Martin in their motorhome. She came into the seating area, went to a cupboard and provided a whole basket full of delightful Czech home-made cakes. She said she only produced them for special occasions. The highways and byways of Czech republic and neighbouring countries are dotted with the red and white Jipocar trucks, the Prokop family business concern, a sort of mini Stobart operation, and are all part of the present day scene in Czech Republic. I suppose the reason I am fond of Martin and everything he has achieved is precisely that -- the country itself. Martin is the first world rally champion from one of the eastern countries of Europe. These things have been achieved by people in recent years the hard way. His success is all part of the Czech success invasion in the sport in 2009, but Prokop and Skoda have nothing to do with each other. They have achieved their successes by themselves. 4 -- Martin Prokop To choose Matthew, son of M-Sport chief Malcolm Wilson, as one of my favourite drivers of the season may seem unexpected, but I very much like what he does in the sport. I like his lack of pretentiousness, his permanently happy countenance, his enthusiasm for everything he does, be it motoring, cycling or whatever. I like the happy family atmosphere of the Wilsons together and his enduring compatibility and friendship with his co-driver Scott Martin. In a world where the media expects intrigue, double-dealing, stabbing in the back and political skullduggery, here is a family in the forefront of the business making the most of the chance of doing what they love. One thing which few people really appreciate is the background of the way Matthew recovered from his horrific crash some years ago, in a virtual double-take on what happened to his father at curiously the same time of their careers. Rallying demands a wide range of participants. There are places for absolute winners, good guys, worthy and responsible citizens and people who are just who they are. Matthew represents the decent side of British youth, which cannot have been unnoticed by the Stobart people, who continue to be proud of everything the young driver achieves. 5 -- Matthew Wilson 51