A huge dream of mine came true when Akio Toyoda, the chairman of Toyota Corporation gave me permission to drive in Secto Rally Finland after a break of four years in driving. This was my 210th world championship start.
I had wanted to experience the hybrid technique of this new generation Rally1 car.
It was really exciting to return as a driver after being a team principal for some time now and to see what competing in the world championship series level felt like today. The week started by testing in Konnevesi where I was able to drive 150 kilometers with the car. Right away the car felt great. The power of the Rally1 car was a huge experience. About 530 hp with extra boost by electricity. The fastest car ever that I had driven, I thought.
The first stage of the rally was the legendary and traditional Harju on Thursday. I felt nervous. I decided to drive through safely with no risks, because any mistakes would be embarrassing and people would remember them for a long time. I was ninth fastest, eight seconds slower than the fastest car. We lost quite a lot on the stage which was only 3.5 kilometers long but the car was undamaged.
On Friday the first stage was in Laukaa. After the rain the roads were wet and slippery. My intention was to honor the conditions and make good memories throughout the weekend. My co-driver Juho Hänninen made it clear to me that this was the intention of this race for the both of us.
We started the rally on Friday by being in ninth position but the wet roads surprised some of the top drivers. After their retirements we realized that we were fifth overall, one minute 24 seconds behind the lead.
On Saturday it was still raining which forced us to adapt our driving to the conditions. Västilä felt like a fine stage but at the same time it was difficult because I could not trust the grip. No mistakes during the day although Vekkula felt like the Safari Rally at times with the ruts full of water.
On Sunday (Himos1) I was a bit too enthusiastic and attacked which caused a few moments. Right away my co-driver Juho Hänninen drew me back to Earth and stated that no more of such moments or he would step out of the car!
I drove a clean and safe power stage and was fifth. So, I received 1 extra point from Power stage and my overall results was 5th in the rally as well. Elfyn Evans won the race.
It was such an overwhelming experience to drive in Jyskälä in front of the home audience that I talked more than too much in the interviews after the finish line but luckily the spectators liked it.