A few months ago, Formula One driver Fernando Alonso caused more than a few chuckles when he boldly radioed his team following the British Grand Prix and predicted that they would be 2010 world champions.
Even more incredibly, the two-time champ's audacious statement to his Ferrari crew came following a disastrous July weekend at Silverstone where he finished out of the points in 14th spot. Facing a 47-point deficit to then-leader Lewis Hamilton of McLaren, Alonso was undaunted by the challenge ahead.
"We are only halfway through the season and there is plenty of time to recover," he said at the time. "We have a great car and we proved that to everyone this weekend and confirmed it with the fastest race lap."
No one is laughing now after the double world champion continued his incredible second half run in a rainy Korean Grand Prix on the weekend, delivering a win that put him into the points lead with two races left in 2010.
The victory gave the Ferrari driver 231 points, 11 more than Red Bull's Mark Webber, who failed to score after crashing out of Sunday's race early. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who finished second on the weekend, is third with 210 points, four ahead of Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who led in South Korea until his engine expired late in the action. Reigning champion Jenson Button of McLaren left South Korea pointless and is all but eliminated after falling 42 points out. Drivers get 25 points for a win.
And what changed to make Alonso's incredible resurgence possible? That's easy: "Luck."
"We struggled to be on the podium for one part of the season, as I said, maybe because of the luck factor," he insisted. "And now we are achieving more wins than expected because of the luck factor as well, because today we were third and one Red Bull crashed, one Red Bull blew up, so as we said many times, luck at the end of the year is compensated."
But as the saying goes, you also have to be good to be lucky and Alonso has been more than just good. The victory in South Korea was Alonso's fourth in the seven races since his unabashed prediction, and his third in the past four grand prix. In the seven races after the British Grand Prix, the Spaniard gobbled up 133 of a possible 175 total points available.
Sunday's win in South Korea wasn't easy with heavy rain wreaking havoc on the brand new circuit at Yeongam, about four hours south of the capital, Seoul. With oils and resins leeching from the newly laid track, the conditions were treacherous at best, with several cars spinning on the way to the starting grid. The track surface also had trouble dissipating water properly which reduced visibility severely.
The race initially started 10 minutes late and behind safety car before being suspended after three laps. After almost an hour delay and then 35 more minutes behind the safety car, the drivers were finally allowed to race. With the sport's governing Federation Internationale de l'Automobile breaking its own safety rules by approving the track less than two weeks before the event, it didn't need rain increasing the chances that something might go horribly wrong.
It almost did on lap 41 when Vitaly Petrov lost the back end of his Renault and crashed heavily in the final corner. The Russian's car skipped across an asphalt runoff area and almost careened into the pitlane, but instead slammed into a tire barrier. Accidents on the ice-like surface claimed seven of the 24 starters in the race.
With South Korea behind them, the F1 circus heads to Brazil in two weeks for 2010's penultimate stop. Alonso will be looking to continue his second half success on an Interlagos Circuit where he has finished in the top-4 in six of his nine career starts.
But don't expect the two-time world champion to relax because he knows Lady Luck can be fickle.
"If you don't score, you lose 25 points to one of your main opponents, so nothing has changed - here it was bad luck for Mark and Sebastian, but anything can happen in the next two races," he said.
"We cannot forget we need to be on the podium and fighting for victory in the next two races."
Veteran driver makes it "Martin's ville"
Denny Hamlin may have taken his third consecutive win at the tight 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway on Sunday to close to within six points of points leader Jimmie Johnson with four races to go in NASCAR's Chase for the Cup, but veteran Mark Martin stole the show.
After tangling with A.J. Allmendinger and ending up in the wall about halfway through the race, the 51-year-old fought back from two laps down and put in an incredible run in the final 100 laps to go from mid-pack to second by the chequered flag.
After the race, Martin summed up his day: "That was fun. This is what I live for, and, man, I can't give it up."
Muscle cars in 2010, are they mad?