Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Go. It's the start of a stage - a long one. The person who talked about size not mattering clearly didn't work in the World Rally Championship. This week's Rally Argentina has caught everybody's attention - it's the longest since 1996. I'm a bit old school when it comes to a rally being a rally and my hand baggage was overflowing with fever when I boarded the flight to Buenos Aires.
Toying with one or two bags of Revels to make the trans-Atlantic trip more comfortable (I'm a man of simple pleasures... they were family-sized bags), I caught up with a mate who put this talk of endurance into context.
Davy Patterson, brother of Petter Solberg's co-driver Chris and son of legendary Northern Irish journalistic duo Brian and Liz, is a man who knows a thing or two about endurance.
At the top of this tale, I counted you down into stage. This was Davy's stage and Davy's story. It was a couple of years ago when he was competing and, when the light went green, he dropped the clutch knowing he had 1304 miles of non-stop competition ahead of him. This was the year the Baja 1000 did another lap and became the Baja 2000.
"Took me 60 hours," says Patterson, with the wistful look of somebody who knows and loves riding until your fingernails fall off. Did I mention Davy was on a bike?
"Three days and two nights I rode for," he says. "I absolutely loved it."
But how many of those 60 hours were spent sleeping? Surely he'd dropped some time powering down for a power nap?
"There was no sleeping," he says, "none at all. I only stopped for fuel, the rest of the time you were just on it, making the miles. And being on the bike, there was no way you could let your concentration drop for a moment - there's always a rock waiting for you if you let that happen."
And Davy had undoubtedly found a few of those rocks.
The overtone of the Patterson's story was clear and it centred on the crews competing in Argentina this week: yes, it's tougher than normal, but 40-odd miles in one go is, quite literally, a Sunday drive in comparison with some motorsport events.
We've got to be practical, though. The WRC is never going to embrace the madness that runs out of Mexico's Baja peninsula. The best we can hope for is a return of the championship's best-loved rally, the Safari.
Of course, when we're talking about this week's Rally Argentina being the longest since the same event 16 years ago, we're not including those classic open-road races through Kenya. The Safari was a mind-boggling adventure, a season in a week - a win being just as marketable as a championship title itself.
In all honesty, the chances of the Safari coming back are about as remote as parts of the route for the African classic itself. Which is why we need to embrace the likes of this week's Rally Argentina. I fully understand that drivers like Mads Ostberg and co will make very strong and compelling financial arguments against more mileage, but I'm afraid those sentiments just won't wash here.
This is the World Rally Championship.
And, if you want it, you're going to have to fight for it. And that fight means finding the funds for a full season. I sympathise with Ostberg's plight and I completely agree that we can't ignore the current economic situation, but making Rally Argentina a longer and tougher rally has, in an instant, given the WRC a bit more of an edge.
Suddenly, this Sunday is not just about a handful of stages and a celebration, it's about a 40-miler in the morning.
What I completely disagree with is the potential for the FIA to ratify a calendar that could include up to six of these long-distance WRC rounds. That just wouldn't make any sense and it would devalue events like Argentina, which could well go on to become the sport's gruelling great in the absence of the Safari.
I must admit, I'm a little bit perplexed about the drivers' reaction to the 312 miles on offer this week as well. I'd have thought every moment at the wheel of a World Rally Car on the classic Cordoba roads would have been a moment to savour. Apparently not.
While none of the drivers have come out and actively criticised the organisers' decision to go long, there's almost an undercurrent similar to the feeling you and I associate with unpaid overtime. The reason for this is simple: this generation of drivers simply don't do long-distance. Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb both competed in Kenya, but that was a decade ago. The WRC they and their colleagues know is the one that's all about flat-out.
The introduction of planned, percentage driving is not necessarily a good thing from their perspective; driving slowly enough to win is not something they've ever really done before - but they might well give it some consideration this week.
I've done a couple of fellas a bit of a disservice in those past couple of pars. There are two drivers who will be relishing this week - and they're both in Citroens: Mikko Hirvonen and Nasser Al-Attiyah. Hirvonen's older-school than me - with a love of the old-boy BDA talk and long rallies being long.
Hirvonen is a big fan of longer rallies © LAT
As for Al-Attiyah, he's a master of endurance, as a slightly inexperienced journalist discovered in Mexico earlier this year. With the 54-kilometer (34-miles) Guanajuatito stage fast approaching, the local telly fella asked Nasser what his feelings were about this 'monster'.
Al-Attiyah was polite with a platitude.
"It's probably the longest stage you've ever done..." continued the reporter.
"Er, no," said the former Production Car World Rally Champion. "The longest was 800 kilometres," added last year's Dakar winner. "I don't think this will be a problem."
Nasser's a man who knows how to pace himself. Keep an eye out for the Qatari DS3 this week.
Thinking about this week's column, I was quite determined not to write specifically about Argentina, but Davy's story was too good to miss. The other consideration for this space was the fact that we've got three great rallies on three continents this week, with the British Rally Championship making its trip to the Pirelli International Rally and the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship heading north from its Kiwi opener to the French Pacific island of New Caledonia for chapter two in what's going to be an engaging Chris Atkinson v Per-Gunnar Andersson and Proton v Skoda season-long squabble.
More of that next time. For now, let's see who can play the long game.
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