With his M-Sport team mates Thierry Neuville and Mads Ostberg
delivering a thrilling battle for second place at the sharp end of Rally Finland on Saturday, the third member of the squad could only watch from a distance and ponder what might have been.
Evgeny Novikov's race was hit hard when he ran into a pile of logs during Friday's first run through Palsankyla, which left him limping for home and cost him five places, dropping him to 13th place in the overall timings.
"Hit a pile of wood over a jump about 5km into the stage," said the Muscovite of the incident that cost him his shot of contending for a podium position with his team mates. "I think the car is okay, just the windscreen is broken so it's hard to see. I'm sure it's possible to fix."
It was, but the lack of visibility in the meantime had consequences when Novikov came back onto the road ahead of Citroen's Kris Meeke. Novikov couldn't see the other car and held it up severely for the remainder of the stage, much to the British driver's irritation.
"Some boys need to learn some lessons, it's not a little boys game," fumed Meeke. "He needs to think more. I broke my wheel trying to get past him, I couldn't see anything, the windscreen is destroyed ... The incident with Novikov has ruined my race."
Novikov made it to the midday service, and after that his Ford Fiesta RS was back in proper working order, allowing him to mount a comeback run on Saturday which saw him finish the race in sixth position, helped ironically by a late retirement for Meeke who crashed in the final run of the day through Ouninpohja.
"It was fine, it was very good at the finish," Novikov said after the end of the event. "We are good for next year, it was not our best rally but we got some experience so some positive points from this rally."
Despite the sixth place, Novikov couldn't help but rate Rally FInland a disappointment because of that Friday mishap.
“Unfortunately this was not our best rally, but there were still some positives to take away, he said. "We showed some good pace in the beginning, and after the off on day 2 we were able to check our notes to ensure that they are perfect for next year."
Even though Novikov had competed in Finland in 2012, he pointed out that he hadn't been able to get the full experience he needed because of an injury to his then co-driver Denis Giraudet.
"Last year Denis injured his back so I couldn't push through all the stages," he explained. "That meant that on stages like Ouninpohja, today was the first time for me driving at full speed, so we could really work on getting the notes right.
“It was good to get through the entire rally, and sixth place at the end is not such a bad result," he summed up.