CHAMPION racing driver Erik Comas saw out the end of the Australian round of the World Rally Championship today - but as a spectator rather than a competitor in his own Loctite Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6.
After crashing out midway through yesterday's stages in the Perth-based rally, Comas' enthusiasm for rallying clearly showed through today: He took his wife and son to watch the final stages of the event.
Like the thousands of other fans at the forestry complex where the rally's last competitive stages were completed, he cheered on the spectacular efforts of friends Francois Delecour and Didier Auriol and the trio fighting for the rally victory - eventual winner Tommi Makinen, second-placed Marcus Gronholm and Richard Burns (who was third).
Comas was also there to cheer on Loctite team-mates, Belgian brothers Bob and Tom Colsoul, as they brought their identical Mitsubishi home in 27th place - 13th in the Group N production class.
It was a standout comeback from a day one setback, when the Colsouls lost seven minutes after a puncture forced them to make a wheel change in one stage. A small setback turned into a big problem when the jack jammed under the car. They dropped to 48th outright at the end of the first day.
But they made a steady comeback from there en route to today's finish.
Comas also took some consolation from the words of top French navigator Herve Panizzi, who pointed out that Comas and navigator Jean Paul Terrasse were not alone in struggling to properly pace-note the rally.
They too struggled with the same problem - finishing only ninth in his works Peugeot 206 WRC.
"When you see guys like that, fresh from winning two rounds of the World Rally Championship, still struggling with pace-notes here, I understand better how we had so much trouble.
"And, of course, if you can't have confidence in your own pace-notes, you are lost!"
To correct the situation, the former Ligier and Larousse Grand Prix racer says he will be asking friends like Auriol and Delecour for advice - and will be undertaking an extensive testing programme in rally cars over the next few months.