“It took me years to understand the changing grip levels” REIGNING WORLD CHAMPION
We always know that we are going to be in for a tough fight when we come to Wales. And last week was definitely no different to the other years.
I have always had a special feeling for this rally because it’s the place where I made my debut in a World Rally Car. I will never forget that event 10 years ago. In some horrible conditions with snow and ice, I made the fastest time in my first ever stage in a World Rally Car and then I led for the first morning. But then I crashed the next day – and that’s what this rally can do. It took me a few years to learn to understand the grip changes, the way these roads work.
When I got some experience, I really learned to love this place. And now, in stages like Dyfi and Myherin, honestly, these are beautiful flowing roads where it’s such a pleasure to drive these cars.
But always, we know the conditions will be challenging and, the schedule for the event is hard. We don’t see so much of our beds and, for sure, when I get home it takes me a day or two to come back to my normal form.
But this time, as well as the physical challenge, it was also a real rollercoaster – of emotions. On Friday morning, we were quite low. We had a problem with the transmission and lost first and second gear after a spin.
After that, I focused on trying to get the podium place. But the fight was big, there were so many cars, so close – except one: Ott. He was flying. I have to say that he was on a different planet, we couldn’t follow his speed.
When I heard he’d stopped, when I came to the end of the Hafren stage, I honestly had mixed emotions. I couldn’t really be happy to be in the lead. He deserved this one. But, then again, maybe we deserved the win last time in Turkey and we gave that one to Ott. Now he gave it back to us in Wales.
But what it meant was Jari-matti [Latvala] and me going in a big fight again – just like the days when we were in Volkswagen together. I told him to think about the manufacturers’ championship… but he wasn’t having that. I knew he would fight like hell and he did.
I was confident I could take some time on the Great Orme, I’m quite happy with this surface (asphalt), but still it wasn’t enough and I had to make a very big push in the last forest stage. I can’t say this was perfection, but it was as close as I came to perfection. I couldn’t do more.
Winning this event is so important for me. I’m really proud to become the first person ever to win in Britain five times, sorry Hannu [Mikkola] and Petter [Solberg]!
But as well as that, it gets me back close to where I want to be in the championship. I’m now just seven points behind Thierry [Neuville], but with two rallies where running order will play a part to come, anything can happen.
As well as that, I’m very happy to stand on top of the car and celebrate – it’s really nice to show my son that it’s not just Ott who can do this; papa can do it as well!