The best rally of the season for us Finnish drivers is of course the home rally. I had driven two test days all together about 600 kilometers which was more than ever before in two days. The car got clearly better in the tests due to new suspension. Still I was wondering if the car was fast enough to compete with the Citroens. This year’s Rally Finland was a 60th anniversary of the race and it was driven in two days (there was one super special on Thursday though). So the race started on Thursday with Laajavuori super special stage where we first had to climb a tarmac slope. There were lots and lots of spectators which made the atmosphere great but it also added the excitement a bit. This first stage went well and I was third having the same time as Sebastien Loeb. Petter Solberg was the fastest. Friday morning started in Urria where I jumped too far and the front of my car hit the road the way it caused me some serious pain in the back. Mikko Hirvonen started well being the fastest of us all but his race ended on stage four where he jumped and drove off the road because after the jump when he hit the ground his steering got a bit jammed and the car was unable to steer. I had to drive a bit easier, too, because of the pain but in the service after stage five our personal physiotherapist, Pertti Siekkinen, was able to treat my back so that I could drive again with good rhythm. Petter Solberg was leading after stage five but now that I was able to drive with fine rhythm I drove the fastest time in Lankamaa and on both times in Sirkkajärvi. Now it was I who was leading the rally. At the end of the day we drove Laajavuori again after which I was leading the rally by 9.1 seconds. On Saturday I was the first car on the road and there was lots of loose gravel because of the dry summer. At night and in the morning there had been some showers which wetted the stages numbers 12 Kolonkulma and number 14 Surkee 1. In Kolonkulma I was the second fastest and I was able to make the difference between Petter Solberg and myself a bit bigger but in Väärinmaja the Sebastiens Ogier and Loeb attacked and were about seven seconds faster than me. When the road was dry I could not drive faster on loose gravel. On Surkee 1 I saw that the road was wet and I attacked taking big risks but it paid off. Driving on Surkee 1’s narrow roads was smooth like a dance between the rocks. What I lost in Väärinmaja I took back in Surkee. On stages 15 Leustu and 16 Himos 1 I was the first car on the road again but I lost only a few seconds. The rivals behind me had changed places. It was Ogier who was closer to me now than Loeb, Solberg was behind Loeb. Ogier was 12 seconds behind which made me drive like a maniac on Surkee 2 to get more time between us two. Still Ogier got 1.7 seconds closer to me. After stage 17 we had service during which I started to get a bit excited: would ten seconds be enough for me to keep Ogier behind on the next two stages? He had increased his pace, I thought. Five first cars drove in reversed order because of the televising. Pertti Siekkinen relaxed me in the service and I started stage 18 Leustu 2 more concentrated than ever. I drove as fast as I could and took many risks. Halfway through the stage I heard the times and realized I was leading Ogier by two seconds. That increased my confidence. I drove so roughly I broke my wind shield both up and down but that didn’t matter. In the finish of the stage I was 0.5 seconds faster than Ogier. That relaxed me because I knew that Ogier could not catch me on the last stage Himos 2. No more huge risks there for me. My concentration did not crack on the last stage and I got a great reward: in the finish there was the first Neste Oil Rally Finland victory waiting for me. My dream ever since I was a little boy has been to win this Rally Finland and now seven years after my first start in this rally I was the winner. I was so happy and relieved I did not have words to describe my feelings. I also became the youngest winner of Rally Finland when it has been a part of the world championships series.
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