“It took me years to un­der­stand the chang­ing grip lev­els” REIGN­ING WORLD CHAM­PION

Motor Sport News - - Wales Rally GB -

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!

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