Taking the train to the stage…
Taking the train to the stage…
It’s not often that you step off a train to the soundtrack of Sebastien Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R WRC in the middle of a stage. That’s what happened to me in Finland last week.
It was quite surreal to leave Helsinki and arrive right in the middle of an up-and-running round of the World Rally Championship a couple of hours later.
Surreal but superb.
The stage happening as I alighted was Harju, around the streets of Jyvaskyla. The atmosphere about the place was electric. And it just got better and better as the week progressed.
I hadn’t been out on a WRC round since Monte Carlo in January, when I was working on Henning Solberg’s gravel notes with Matthew Wilson. I did go to Portugal, of course, but Keith [Cronin] and I didn’t make the start after a crash in testing just before the start.
Even without a set of timecards in my pocket, it was great to be back.
Basically, I was out there looking for work. The world championship is where I want to be and I’m not going to get back there sitting on my backside at home. Much as I love engineering the production of Tunnock’s Teacakes and Snowballs, reading pacenotes and flying through stages is what I want to be doing.
What I didn’t want to do was just go out there and stand around in the service park, so I’d lined up something different for each day. I was out with WRC Live stage end reporter Colin Clark on the first day; accompanying my fellow co-driver Seb Marshall as he went about his duties reporting the weather back to the Hyundai team on Saturday (Seb and his driver Kevin Abbring weren’t competing in Finland) and then heading into the WRC Live studio to commentate on the powerstage with Becs Williams on the final day.
In between times, I was bumping into as many folk as possible to let them know that I’m out here, ready, willing and able to go.
I’ve got to be honest, much as I absolutely loved being back on a world championship event, it was quite frustrating at times to see the WRC2 guys battling it out, knowing Keith and I should have been here challenging for the victory.
I’ve competed on Rally Finland twice in the past and it is one of the best rounds of the World Rally Championship. You can’t believe the speeds you’re pulling through the trees and then you get to the jumps. Flying through the air in top gear is like nothing else in this world. Everything goes silent for a moment as you hang in the air and then you’re down again and pressing on to the next crest or corner.
Like I said, nothing compares with competition, but watching from the side of the road was really impressive. The speeds the likes of Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke were pulling down those roads is just incredible and a great spur to continue working away to achieve my dream of co-driving in a factory team at the highest level.
And the good news for me is that I won’t have to wait too long before I’m back in a rally car again. I’m in China with Alister [McRae] for the next round of the Chinese Rally Championship in the middle of this month. The first event I did out there with Al was amazing, both in terms of the competition and the culture.
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