Jordan Rally 24 – 27 April 2008

This rally was the fifth of the season and a new one to all us drivers. I was very hopeful when starting the race because I have usually managed well in these new events. There would be eight stages on Friday, eight on Saturday and final six on Sunday. My race started well. We were close to the lead on the first stages although we weren’t able to drive any of the fastest times. My driving was a bit too aggressive, though, and it was rough for the rear tyres. I tried to set up the car in the service and drive a bit less eagerly but still the rear tyres wore too much and on the last stage I lost about five seconds because the tyres wore completely down. Anyhow, I was third in the race 8.5 seconds behind the leader, Dani Sordo. On Saturday Loeb started to push really hard and I could match his pace. After the three morning stages he was 34.1 seconds ahead Sordo and 34.5 seconds ahead me. But he had to retire due to a collision on the road section. I improved my driving on Saturday and could take the lead from Sordo but he and Mikko Hirvonen were very close. On Saturday afternoon’s last stage Mikko and I slowed down because of the tactics we had agreed with the team. We didn’t want to go as the first cars on the road next morning but let Sordo sweep the roads before us. So, after Saturday I was second 8.5 seconds behind Sordo and Mikko was third 1.9 seconds behind me. On Sunday I had a hard race waiting but was able to take the lead. Mikko was close only 0.3 seconds behind, he was second now. On the next stage my rear suspension support arm broke. Apparently it had been hit by a rock then twisted and now it snapped because of the strain. When the rear tyre bent under the car I thought for a second that oh, no now I have to retire but miraculously we were able to drive 60 km of access road and over 40 km of the stage with that broken suspension. We lost about 11 minutes but we managed to get to the service where the car was fixed and we started to chase the others in the afternoon. The pushing was even too hard at times I made mistakes the car got hits but finally it paid off and we managed to rise to the seventh position and got two personal points plus three points for the team. It really was sad and frustrating that I could not race properly for the victory throughout the whole rally but it’s better this way than with no points at all!

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Rally Argentina 28 – 30 March 2008

The challenging rally with hard tyres started on Friday in rain and mud. Mikko Hirvonen started extremely well driving the fastest time by 48 seconds on stage one. The conditions were so difficult that the differences between the drivers were unbelievably big. Maybe these differences had an effect on me and I drove off the road on the next stage: it was a flat left corner where the rear end of the car started to fly and I braked in panic which took the car off the road. We landed on the side with minor damage. Luckily there were spectators who helped us to turn the car back to its tyres and they even found us a way back to the road. It all took us eight minutes but we were still racing. On stage three I was the fastest but on stage four I hit a rock which damaged the right rear suspension. We were able to drag ourselves to the service park though. Friday afternoon went well and I climbed to the eighth place although I made some minor mistakes. The stages on Saturday were fast and I started them feeling good although it was raining cats and dogs. In the middle of the first stage on Saturday the sump guard beneath the car had an impact with a rock which had become exposed. Still the car ran in a normal way. So I drove to the end of the stage and to the next stage where I had to wait for my turn. While waiting I turned the engine off and when I then tried to start it again it didn’t start because the starter motor didn’t work. It had split into two in the impact with the rock earlier. We tried everything we could, Miikka and I, but nothing helped. Finally after such a long period of time that we were already out of the competition we were able to push start the car with the aid of the spectators. We were allowed to drive through the stages but we had to retire on our return to the service park. On Sunday we continued the race due to the SuperRally which was worth doing because we drove two fastest times and after many retirements of the fellow rivals we gained two manufacturers’ points. That was comforting in this sad rally of mine.


Corona Rally Mexico 29 February – 2 March 2008

I started this first gravel rally of the season feeling very well because about a week before the race we had two good testing days in France. On Friday I was the second car on the road after Mikko Hirvonen. My driving was relaxed and enjoyable and Pirelli’s new gravel tyres felt good. My Friday succeeded perfectly which meant that I was leading the race over Sebastien Loeb with nine seconds. On Saturday morning I was the first car on the stages which I soon realized was challenging. It was extremely difficult to find the right spots to brake because there was loose and pure gravel on the road. So my first stage in the morning didn’t go so well. Loeb raged after me and I lost my advantage over him. After stage one it was the smallest possible only 0.1 seconds. The next two stages went better but Loeb took the lead by five seconds. After the service we knew that I had to push really hard to be able to challenge Loeb. Unfortunately on these decisive stages the pipe between the intercooler and the turbo came loose and due to that the engine of my car had only some power left but not full boost. We had to drive two long stages and two super specials with this broken engine. That’s why we lost two minutes. We dropped into the third position. On Sunday my aim was to drive freely and take my car to the finish because I was unable to catch the car before me and no one was breathing on our necks, I didn’t have to push hard anymore. We finished Rally Mexico third, got important world championship points and a good feeling to go to the next race in Argentina.


Uddeholm Swedish Rally 8 – 10 February 2008

In this year’s rally Sweden the temperature was above zero which brought a lot of gravel onto the roads making the rally very challenging for the tyres and the drivers. Luckily the snow banks didn’t melt because they helped in staying on the roads. They saved me a couple of times, too. The rally started on Thursday evening with a Super Special. I was the second fastest. On Friday we headed towards Torsby where we drove three new stages. They were all driven twice and we also drove a Super Special in Karlstad. I pushed hard in the morning and because I was the tenth car on the road it was cleaner for me to drive than for the first cars. I drove the fastest times for the three first stages and I was leading the rally by 23 seconds. When driving the stages again the roads were the same for all the drivers but still I succeeded in driving the fastest times for all of those stages. I was the fourth fastest on the evening’s Super Special and my lead was now 48.2 seconds. On Saturday the stages were near Hagfors. I was the first car on the road and I tried to drive fast but still wisely because I didn’t want to lose my lead for Mikko Hirvonen. Everything went well even though I didn’t drive any fastest times. My lead stayed the same. On Sunday the drivers behind me started to ease up which I could do, too. Some small events occurred because the roads were soft and muddy – even Mikko was surprised when he saw that I had been hitting the snow banks so often. The last stage of the rally was Rämmen. I was so exited before it that my legs started to feel numb. My co-driver Miikka Anttila advised me to take a deep breath and calm myself down which I did and then it was okay. Luckily everything went well and we finished the rally as number one. For the first time in my life I won a world championship round which I did at the age of 22. This means that I made history by beating my idol Henri Toivonen’s record by two years.


Rallye Monte Carlo 24 – 27 January 2008

My first rally as the BP Ford Abu Dhabi Team driver got a tricky start when in the middle of the first, 27-kilometre-long stage I drove too close to a wall. My front tyre hit it and went flat (since the beginning of this season 2008 there is a new rule banning puncture resistant mousse inside the tyres). We had to change the tyre which took us 3,5 minutes because the new battery of the wheel nut gun was empty and we had to use the traditional wheel brace. The second day of the race, Friday, went without problems, but my pace wasn’t what it should have been. Saturday morning started with hydraulics problems which were fixed in the service. In the afternoon the car was fine but I tried to push too hard and that ended in hitting a stone and breaking the suspension of the car. On Sunday I drove under the SuperRally rule having no problems what so ever and my stage times started to be what they should have been all the time which brought a bit consolation to this very tricky race.

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