Wales Rally GP, Cardiff 23.-25.10.2009

I was expecting a lot of this rally because the previous year I was able to battle for the victory here in Wales all the way to the last stage but once again Sebastien Loeb won and I was second. This year I could not battle for the victory but this race definitely built up my character. On the first stage of the rally the outer joint of the driving axle broke down turning the car into a three wheel drive. Furthermore the driving axle pulled itself totally out of the joint at the end of the stage breaking the front brake circuit. I was forced to drive stages two and three as a three wheel drive and having only rear brakes which caused all kinds of events. After the third stage there was a so called light service. It meant that we only could change the parts that we carried with us in the car. We managed to fix the brakes but we couldn’t do anything to the driving axle. The next three stages went as a three wheel drive. I was ninth in the race after Friday but all in all seven minutes behind the lead due to all my troubles. On Saturday I wanted to drive good times but I couldn’t find the rhythm and not even the set up of the car was the best possible to suit those fast and forested roads of southern Wales. My times were among the top five but I wasn’t able to drive any fastest times. At times I tried too much and that was why my driving wasn’t relaxed. Still I was able to improve my position, I was eighth now. To be relaxed was the idea of my driving on Sunday and it paid off. I drove well on the first stage of the morning and even better on the second until the finish line was crossed. I stopped driving too early before a slippery braking and s-type bends. I realized it was slippery, but I did that too late and I couldn’t stop the car. Instead it went too wide, hit the bank and flew onto the other side of the road and off the road. The spectators helped us get the car back to the road again and off we went. No external damage was caused by the accident but the right rear tyre twisted 45 degrees to the right and the right rear driving axle broke down. We had to drive with a broken car the last two stages but persistently and carefully we managed to get ourselves to the finish. Ogier had to retire and we raised one position. Hirvonen and Loeb had an unbelievable battle for the title which was then won by Loeb because he won here in Wales. Both this last rally and the whole season were very tricky and difficult for me but if I am able to learn from all that I will be much, much stronger next year. “Per Aspera Ad Astra”, as the ancient Romans used to say.

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Rally de Españja, Salou 2.-4.10.2009

I had prepared to this rally very carefully. I had been on track in Alastaro with a specialist Olli Haapalainen for a day and I had also driven 550 test kilometers in two days which was my record in testing so far. And the set up of the car felt better than ever before on tarmac. Still the race had a tricky start on Friday’s moist – though drying -roads. I couldn’t find self confidence and I had lost what Haapalainen taught me. I was fifth after the first stage and then I dropped into the sixth position and all the others ahead of me went faster than me. I changed the car for the afternoon and my driving got notably better but it didn’t show in the results, unfortunately. On Saturday I started the race hoping that I could catch Sebastien Ogier who was fifth but from the first stage of the day his pace was too much for me even though I drove better than last year. The competitors ahead of me went their way and I remained sixth having trouble with my jamming rear brakes. I was sixth on every stage on Saturday. On Sunday my rear brakes were better and I started to get closer to the fastest stage times. Finally I drove one fastest time on the last stage of the rally which made me very happy. I drove 0,2 seconds per kilometer faster now than I did in 2008 in Catalonia but still I was sixth. The race was won by whom else than Sebastien Loeb, Dani Sordo was second and Mikko Hirvonen third. There is one race left but Citroën already made sure that they will win the manufacturer’s title. As for me there is still work to be done in driving on tarmac!

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Rally Australia 4-6 September 2009

It was again time to drive Rally Australia after three years. The event had been moved from the western parts of Australia to the eastern country, from Perth to the areas near Brisbane. The scenery was more like in New Zealand than in Australia. There were demonstrators on the road sections who protested against driving in the woods but luckily only two stages were cancelled because of them. The rally started on Thursday evening with a super special driven twice on tarmac in Murwillumbah. The stage was driven using gravel tyres and the differences were big. The ones who had the most worn tyres succeeded best because the car sways less with worn tyres. Sebastien Ogier was the fastest on both of those stages while I was forth and fifth. The actual race started on Friday with stages on gravel: in the morning fast stages and in the afternoon technical stages. I was a bit asleep at first but when I found the rhythm I was able to drive six fastest times. I was leading the rally at the end of Friday and Sebastien Ogier was second, Sebastien Loeb was third, Dani Sordo fourth and Mikko Hirvonen fifth. On Saturday I was the first car on the road which was more difficult than I expected: I was unable to find the rhythm on fast stages with lots of loose gravel and I could not attack enough and keep the others behind me so later during the day they started to catch me and on the last forest stage of the day I jumped into a ditch which broke the rim and led to a puncture which took 50 seconds. After my puncture the Citroen team made a tactics where they forced Hirvonen to be the first car on the road on Sunday. Sordo was now number two, Loeb number three; I was fourth and Ogier fifth. On Sunday I tried to pressure the Citroen drivers but a puncture on stage two ruined my plans. On loose gravel in a slow left the rear end of my car hit the bank and the tyre got off the rim. There was 20 kilometers to the finish and I lost again 50 seconds because of the flat tyre. I dropped to the fifth position and the rest of the race I just concentrated on getting to the finish. The result after all the stages: Loeb number one, Hirvonen number two, Sordo number three, Ogier number four and Latvala number five. But the official result was something else: Hirvonen won, Loeb was second, Sordo third, I was fourth and Ogier fifth because in the inspection after the race they found antiroll bars in the Citroens that were against regulations so all Citroen drivers got a time penalty of one minute. This was so far the hardest rally ever in my career because the days were longer than normally leaving us only five to six hours to sleep. I was disappointed with my performance but still I was able to get to the finish which was most important together with the fact that we got some points.


Neste Oil Rally Finland 30 July – 2 August 2009

I was supposed to work as a team player and help my team mate Mikko Hirvonen in his battle for the title in this home rally of mine. The race started with events in Poland on my mind which affected the first stages of Friday: I stood too much on the brake and my driving was cautious. On Friday we drove Mokkipera stage twice and in 2007 and 2008 this stage was my nightmare but this year I was able to drive it through sensibly with no mistakes. On Friday evening I realized what driving this rally was all about and I ended the day being fourth ten seconds behind Dani Sordo. Mikko Hirvonen was leading the race and Sebastien Loeb was second. Early Saturday morning I woke up with terrible pain in my stomach and couldn’t sleep any longer. I had to start day number two in very bad shape and I wasn’t sure before Leustu, the first stage of the day, if I could drive at all. But still I decided to try and fight even though I felt like throwing up in every jump. I simply had to jump less than the others and I could battle with Sordo all the same. I felt better and better stage after stage and in the service consulting with a doctor helped the situation, too. In the afternoon on Saturday I started to feel pretty okay and when the more difficult stages started I was ready to attack. Kavala and Vaarinmaja were the last two stages of the day and I was able to drive the fastest time on both of them so I passed Sordo by ten seconds. There were a couple of events on the way though. Sordo had driven two excellent days and I knew he would try to attack on Sunday so I really needed to do my best on Sunday, avoiding mistakes of course. The day started in Hannula and then there was the legendary Myhinpaa two times. This stage had been in this rally about 15 years ago and spectators remembered it which was seen in the atmosphere and in the amount of public. The last stage of the rally was Ruuhimaki. I drove that with no mistakes and was rewarded in the finish: I was third in the race. Mikko kept Loeb behind him and won the rally. Being third in this home rally of mine was a big thing for me and even the team was very pleased with my performance.

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Rally Poland 25-28 June 2009

This was the second world championships round in Poland. The first was some 30 years ago so this race was new to all the present day drivers. The roads in Poland remind the roads in Finland. They are fast like the ones here in Finland but the surface is softer, they are narrower than the Finnish roads and they run in more open areas. The race started perfectly for Ford when Mikko Hirvonen took the lead on stage three and on stage four Sebastien Loeb hit a stub breaking his front suspension. He continued the race in SuperRally. I was third before stage four but now that Loeb had to retire I was second and Dani Sordo third. On Friday evening Hirvonen was leading by 8.9 second and Sordo was 28.1 seconds behind me. We were to maintain one-two position to the finish now that Loeb had retired but Sordo made it very difficult on Friday afternoon and even harder on Saturday. Dani attacked in the morning and got close to me. He was only 19.5 seconds behind when we reached our day service. I was three seconds behind Mikko. In the afternoon we drove as fast as we could sometimes I felt it was much too fast to drive long legs flat out! In the evening Mikko was 12 seconds ahead me and Sordo 26.5 seconds behind me. It was hard to get seven more seconds between Sordo and me. On Sunday Sordo made another attack but he drove one crossing too long and lost over 20 seconds. After that Hirvonen, Sordo and I eased the situation and concentrated on driving sensibly to the finish. Everything seemed good. All the forest stages had been driven and there was only one super special in Mikolajk left. Before that last stage we had to wait for one and a half hours which was hard for me. Finally the last stage started and all I had to do was to cruise it through but no, that didn’t happen: I cut into a barrel breaking the front suspension and the car touched the railing. I was stuck there and tried so hard to get the car back to the track again that I overheated the clutch which broke into flames. That was it then and I gave the team, the fans and myself a tremendous disappointment.


Acropolis Rally of Greece 12-14 June 2009

After the victory in Sardinia my self-confidence was better than at any point of this season. In the recce it was almost plus 40 in the car but luckily during the race it went down to plus 30. This was going to be a rough rally both road wise and conditions wise. The rally started traditionally on Friday and my driving went well right away on the first stage and forward. I drove the fastest time on stage one and after that my times were the first, second or the third fastest all day until the last stage of the day. When this stage six started I was leading Dani Sordo by about ten seconds and I hoped I could make the gap between us bigger. Stage six started perfectly and I was really pleased with my driving until in the middle of the stage I braked too late in a slow right and we went too fast to the inside of a corner and our rear end slipped into a ditch where it got stuck in soft sand. For a moment I thought nothing serious happened but the car didn’t move an inch and I even got us deeper while trying to get back to the road. There were spectators nearby but it took a few minutes to lift the car back to the road with the help of them. After three and a half minutes we were able to continue the race but our position dropped so that we were eleventh now far away from the lead. This mistake of mine didn’t make the team very satisfied because Sordo waited on the stage for so long that Mikko Hirvonen had to drive Saturday’s stages as the first car on the road. My co-driver Miikka and I made a strategy for Saturday: we would ignore how the others drive and just drive in such speed we would not break the car or the tyres. This strategy seemed to work well because right on the first stage of the morning Sebastien Loeb drove off the road and had to retire and on the third stage of the day both Sordo and Henning Solberg hit the same rock and continued in the SuperRally. During the day many other drivers had problems and because even by driving I was able to catch some drivers so by the end of the day I was suddenly third. Hirvonen was leading and Sebastien Ogier was second. On Sunday we used the same strategy as on Saturday and because there were no changes in the lead and we had no problems the results stayed as they were: Hirvonen won, Ogier was second and I was third. Once again Acropolis showed its roughness but a good fight paid off.



Rally d’Italia Sardegna 22-24 May 2009

The race went without problems and bigger mistakes from the start to the finish. That is the reason it ended in the best possible way. On Friday morning my rhythm was not the best possible but because I was the seventh car on the road that gave me an advantage and I led the race right after the first stages. In the afternoon my driving got better but I couldn’t make much difference between myself and Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen. On the last stage of the day the boys eased their pace to get better position to drive on Saturday but the team told me to drive flat out to the finish. I was leading Mikko by about 40 seconds and Loeb 43 seconds. On Friday evening one thought game to my mind after a long time: “we have a possibility to win this rally”. On Saturday I was the first car on the road and I knew I have to drive fast and without mistakes to keep my fellow competitors behind me. In the morning I drove without mistakes and the gap between Mikko and me only got 13 seconds smaller so I was still leading him by 27 seconds before the afternoon stages. In the afternoon the race got harder though and even I had to try as hard as I could; and I drove one corner too long. Loeb had a puncture and lost one minute, but Hirvonen drove avoiding all mistakes and was now only about ten seconds behind me. On Sunday I concentrated on my own driving and didn’t pay any attention to Mikko’s attack that’s the way I tried to avoid making mistakes. But there was a surprise for all of us waiting on Sunday’s stages: the dust. I was the only one who didn’t have any problems with the dust because I was the first car on the road. Hirvonen couldn’t attack in the dust and I made the gap between us bigger. When the difference was over 30 seconds I knew it would be enough for the victory. And no order came from the team before the last stage although it might have helped Mikko in the battle of the title so all I had to do was to drive the last stage to the finish and the victory would be mine. That last stage felt so long and difficult when we knew that the victory was so close but luckily everything went well and we won the race after one and a half years. Hirvonen was second. One-two positions were very important for the team after such a difficult start of the season.

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Rally Argentina 24-26 April 2009

We were under a lot of pressure while starting the race because after a tricky start of the season I now needed a good performance. The race itself was a bit odd for me due to small incidents: a puncture, overheating of the engine, a lost hood, talking to the police, etc. We got through all that and although we lost time we were number six after Friday. My Saturday was a success and I passed Henning and Petter Solberg and when Mikko Hirvonen had to retire because of technical faults I was already third. On Sunday all I needed to do was to drive to the finish and maintain my position. But things don’t always go as planned: on the first stage on Sunday six kilometers from the start in a jump the rear end of the car hit the road and the engine stopped; the computer screen showed that there would be a gas pressure failure. We tried to solve the problem but then we realized it wasn’t the gas pressure but the main switch. After eight minutes of work we were able to get back to the road but we dropped to the seventh position. Petter Solberg had to retire on Sunday’s second stage so we were finally sixth in the rally. Losing the podium was very annoying but all in all we got to the finish and we made five fastest times, too. I believe that due to the experiences of the spring of 2009 I have taken mentally a step forward in my career as a rally driver.


Vodafone Rally de Portugal 2-5 April 2009

On Thursday morning in the Shakedown my car felt extremely good and it lifted up my spirits. The actual race started already on Thursday evening. We drove a Super Special on tarmac inside of a stadium. I drove with no mistakes and was fifth. Friday morning started on a 20-kilometers-long stage where I drove as the seventh car because that is my position in the series. This helped me in my driving and I managed to drive the fastest time on stage two. The same pace continued on the next stage and now I was leading the rally by 10.6 second before Daniel Sordo. On stage four I was leading but then my world collapsed: I had too many things in my pace notes. I was coming to a slow corner after a faster section. The corner was behind a crest but I was unable to understand everything my co-driver was saying to me so I tried to “see” the road but I couldn’t. This is something you should never do! So there was a slow spot after that crest and I came in much too fast. The car jumped and hit the opposite bank. Only two tyres touched the road and the car rolled through the railing and started rolling downhill. After about 150 meters there was a tree which stopped the rolling. We could get out off the car unharmed but for a while during the rolling I was sure we would die. We are so grateful to our team who has built a strong car and to FIA’s safety equipment. Once again a huge disappointment but there is a new race in Argentina. I have to ease my driving and take some things off my pace notes!!!


Cyprus Rally 13-15 March 2009

This competition was new to me and the only one in the series that I have never driven before. This race was rare because the first day was driven on tarmac with gravel tyres and the last two days on gravel. After 1996 there hasn’t been a race before this driven on two surfaces. On Friday my race started poorly as I was hassling with the tyres. When you drive on tarmac with gravel tyres the best possible result will be reached by worn front tyres. That gives you grip while braking. The rear tyres may be new. I learned that on Friday afternoon but still I was one minute eight seconds behind the lead on Friday evening. Loeb was once again the first, Sordo the second, Hirvonen the third and I was the fourth. On Saturday morning we drove on gravel and I managed to drive the fastest time on stage one by 4.7 seconds. On the second stage of the morning it was time for yet another disappointment for me: in the recce I had marked a left-right corner combination as too fast which is why I came too fast trying to save the situation by cutting too much of the inner corner causing the car to get stuck in the sand. There were no spectators so I had to run about one kilometer to the nearest junction to get people to push the car off the sand. After 22 minutes we were able to get the car back to the road and we could continue our race. Only the front bumper was damaged. This event ruined my rally but we decided to keep on driving the race and learn. After Saturday I was number 19. On Sunday I drove a relaxed race still making fairly good times. There were only three stages on Sunday but one of them was the longest of the whole rally, 40 km. The Rally Cyprus is the slowest in the series so the time on that long stage was over 39 minutes. Sebastien Loeb won the rally and I was the twelfth but I got two manufacturer points. The beginning of this season has been very tricky but now I have decided to turn a new leaf!

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