Wales Rally GP 11 – 14 November 2010

Traditionally the season has always ended in Wales, Great Britain. There have been a few exceptions though. My first time in Wales was in 2002 but I was a spectator even one year before in 2001 so this was my tenth time there in a row. Wales is known for its hard weather and muddy and slippery forest roads. The conditions were bad even this year but Saturday was rarely enough dry and sunny. We drove some tarmac sections on two stages then. I have wanted to win rally Wales for a long time and our team’s aim was to win this race this year because this would be the last time when world championships series was driven by Ford Focus WRC with two-liter turbo engine. The rally started well right away because I drove the fastest time on stage two and took the lead. The car ran smoothly on those Welsh forest roads plus my feelings were right. The long stages I drove in the lead but the shorter ones I for some reason or another was a bit further back. After stage four in Builth Wells’s service I was still leading the race. After the service my driving went perfectly until the last stage of the day where I had trouble: my windshield got partly steamy making the driving difficult and I drove too fast to the right over crest. It went too far and I hit the bank. Right away the car went straight again but the tyre jumped off the rim. There was still over 20 kilometers to the finish. I drove as fast as I could with an empty tyre but one kilometer before the finish the tyre exploded and tore the side of the car. I had to drive extremely carefully to the finish and I lost one minute twelve seconds. I collapsed from the leading position to the sixth place. I started to attack on Saturday and Sunday to get a better position in the race because I had the place in top three of the series on my mind. It didn’t look good at first because I was a lot behind my worst rivals Petter Solberg and Sebastien Ogier. We were fighting for silver and bronze in the series. But everything started to change when Ogier drove off the road and had to retire. On Saturday I was also able to pass Sordo and reach the fourth position. On Sunday I had to catch my team mate Mikko Hirvonen. That was not a very easy task to do because I had minor problems; my launch control didn’t work at the beginning of one stage and even my steering wheel got loose at some point. I was able to catch Mikko by driving though but still he eased up his pace a bit at the end of the last stage to make sure I can make mistakes but I didn’t do any on the last stage. Sebastien Loeb won the rally, Solberg was second and I was third. Ending the rally in this order made sure that I won the silver medal in the world championships series which felt just marvelous. This result showed me that finally I had found an even rhythm in my driving.


RACC Rally de Espana 22 – 24 October 2010

Since 2005 a known holiday resort Salou has been the place for rally Catalonia. This rally has been driven on tarmac but sometime at the beginning of the 1990’s it has also been driven on gravel. The new element of this year was gravel-tarmac stages on Friday where 30% of the stages were driven on tarmac and 70% on gravel. These stages were driven with gravel tyres and gravel set up in suspension. On Friday evening in the service gravel equipment was changed into the tarmac one and both Saturday and Sunday were driven only on tarmac with tarmac tyres. There was a dense fog when we started a 35-kilometer-long stage one but luckily it started to clear after ten kilometers. I killed the car engine at the start because there was a minor malfunction in the clutch but it only took about four seconds. Sebastien Loeb drove the fastest time on stage one and I was the second fastest. On stages two and three I tried too hard and lost time because of some small mistakes. After stage three I was third 13.1 seconds behind the lead. I started stage four marvelously and was leading it in the split times but then there were six kilometers of tarmac and I ruined my tyres which caused me some trouble on the next gravel section and my times got worse. At the end of the day I was third 19.9 seconds behind Loeb who was leading. On Saturday morning I had to switch my brain into tarmac position which succeeded alright but the adjusting screws of the suspension were not right. That cost me 18 seconds on the first stage. On the road section I adjusted the suspension but still the Citroens seemed to be faster. When I realized that Dani Sordo will pass me and that I will be unable to compete with him I concentrated on driving safe points. After Saturday I was fourth and Dani Sordo was only 10.1 ahead me but my pace wasn’t good enough to challenge him. On Sunday I tried to improve my driving which I did and I was closer to the Citroens. I could even drive two fastest stage times but still the difference between me and the Citroens got bigger. I finished the rally fourth which was so far my best ever position in rally Catalonia. Loeb won once again; Petter Solberg was, after a fantastic driving, second and Sordo third. My driving on tarmac has improved a lot but there are still things to be done!


Rallye de France 30 Septemper – 3 October 2010

It was time to go back to France after two years. Earlier the competition was driven on the island of Corsica but now we went to Alsace in Strasbourg. It was the first time to drive the race here and the super special was driven in Sebastien Loeb’s birth town, Haguenau. So this was Loeb’s home rally. The weather was rainy and pretty cold. This was why we drove with soft tarmac tyres (there is a hard version, too). We drove on mixed tarmac surfaces and on different kinds of other roads. There were lots of cuttings and in wet conditions mud appeared on the roads a lot. Some stages were more gravel than tarmac because of that. The roads were fine otherwise but there were too many cuttings. Luckily we had our personal safety crew whose work was demanding. Safety crew can only be used by WRC drivers who have the FIA classification and who drive the whole series and it can only be used in tarmac rallies. My safety crew was Juha Miettinen and Pentti Kuukkala like so many times before. The rally was one of my best races on tarmac because I was able to drive four fastest times. In previous tarmac rallies I haven’t been able to drive so many fastest times even all together. I had a positive race but there are still lots to be improved: my stage times varied a lot due to the conditions. I was able to drive well when it was either dry or dirty but if the conditions were mixed I could not drive well. On Saturday mud made me spin and I broke my car’s rear oil cooler. Fortunately after the stage we were able to take the broken cell off and lead the oil back to its right place. We also added some lubricant (it was brake fluid because we had nothing else) which helped the car to the next service. But these mishaps were not all: while I was trying to catch Petter Solberg and the third position on Saturday evening I span at a crucial moment losing about ten seconds. And they even cancelled the second last stage because of too many spectators so that was it. This race was the most demanding ever for me due to mixed conditions but on the other hand my Focus felt better than ever on tarmac. The French got their public festival because Loeb made sure he will win the title for the seventh time after winning this race. The Citroens will also win the manufacturer’s world championship title.

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Rally Japan 10-12 Septemper 2010

After two years it was time to go back to Japan. Sapporo was the place where we went to. After 1100 kilometers on tarmac it was a bit difficult to find the right rhythm on gravel at first. The Shakedown was driven on painted concrete which also was the place to drive eight super special stages. So even the shake down gave no feeling on gravel. On Friday’s first stage I was over 20 seconds slower than the fastest driver which frustrated me. We also had problems getting split times into our car but luckily that trouble was soon fixed. Before the second stage of the day I made my car a bit softer which gave me better feeling of suspension and in the corners. Now that the split times were working and the car felt good I drove the same times as the leaders. After day one I was fourth. Petter Solberg was leading and I was 22.4 seconds behind him. The stages on day two were the same kind as on day one that is fast, narrow and soft but these kinds of circumstances suited our car. I tried to take advantage of my starting position and to get higher in the results. The differences on the first stage were not big but on the next stage ( Kamuycep) which was the longest of the rally differences started to appear. I drove the fastest time and was now second in the race. After this long stage there was stage number three where Petter Solberg took a false start and got ten second’s time penalty. Now I was leading by 1.6 seconds to Sebastien Ogier. When in the lead I tried to drive the same way I had driven and everything seemed good until while driving Kamuycep the second time the front driving axel of my car broke down. I was leading Ogier by six seconds but in the finish I had lost him 2.3 seconds. There were still one forest stage of ten kilometers and two super specials that I had to drive with a broken driving axel. I tried to drive as fast as I could even though the car was very difficult to handle. Furthermore I span on the super special and lost about ten seconds. In the end of the day I had dropped from the lead into the fifth position and was 30.7 seconds behind the leading Petter Solberg. On Sunday there were mostly short stages to be driven but fortunately there was one long and difficult stage, stage 20/23 Naegawa (17 km). On that stage I took big risks on both times it was driven and managed to catch Dani Sordo. Mikko Hirvonen was second after two days of driving but now he got trouble with the hydraulics of his car and he lost so much time his position changed from second to sixth. It was so annoying the he, too, lost his chances to win the race due to technical problems. After all the trouble that I experienced on Saturday I was sure I could not get to the podium but I was wrong. All in all I was third in the finish which made me happy although my hardest rivals were ahead of me (Petter Solberg and Sebastien Ogier). Ogier won the rally. He was driving in Japan for the first time which made his victory even more glorious. Solberg fought himself into the second place.


ADAC Rally Deutchland 20-22 August 2010

This race is the most difficult in the series due to the changes in the rhythm, changes in the grip and changes in the width of the roads. I tested two and a half days before this competition altogether about 700 kilometers. A new element in this rally was the short gravel sections on some of the tarmac stages. Rally Germany has always been a bit difficult for me so now I hoped that I could drive a faultless rally. If I could be among the five best drives I would be happy. The actual race started on Friday morning at 9 o’clock. That was quite late compared to other rallies which start very early in the morning. All stages of the day were driven close to wine yards. This was a dry day but the sides of the roads were still a bit moist after the rain of the recce day. This made the cutting places slippery. My competition started well. I was third fastest on the first stage. My pace stayed the same throughout the whole day and I made no mistakes so surprisingly I was third at the end of the day. I was about one minute behind leading Loeb though. Sebastien Ogier was fourth 6.2 seconds behind me. Saturday’s stages were driven in the military area and close to fields and villages. In the military area we drove the longest stage: 48 kilometers (perhaps the longest of the whole season). Before the rally I said that this particular stage will be the one where solutions are made. I anticipated correctly because I lost my third place to Sebastien Ogier after spinning and losing 20 seconds. I was fourth now and chasing Ogier. Before spinning I was 7.7 seconds ahead of him and now I was 11.3 seconds behind him. I tried to catch him but he was able to make the difference between us even bigger. At the end of the day I was 16.6 seconds behind him. On Sunday morning we went back to the wine yard area. I really tried to give Ogier more pressure which was seen in good split times but my attack was not enough because he could increase the difference between us. In the afternoon I tried to drive with good rhythm without any risks because I wanted to finish fourth. I was pleased with this position although the third place was not far away either. Sebastien Loeb won this rally for the eighth time in a row. He made history, again.


Neste Oil Rally Finland 29-31 July 2010

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.


Rally Bulgaria 7-11 July 2010

The first Rally Bulgaria in history was driven about 70 kilometers from Sofia close to a skiing resort. We had driven good tests before the race changing the car notably and for a better direction. We hoped that now we could be closer to the Citroens than last year. My own driving style has changed a bit after driving at Nurburgring in the spring. The race started on Friday in dry conditions. The first stage was the longest, almost 32 kilometers. Right away the Citroens went unbelievably fast although our car felt better on tarmac than last year. After the second stage the car started to feel too soft so I changed to a harder suspension which immediately helped and I was able to trust the car more. After Friday I was sixth and my team mate Mikko Hirvonen fifth ten seconds ahead me. Sebastien Loeb was leading. On Saturday morning there was a slight shower which made two of the stages wet but our team weather report was unable to give us that information. So Mikko and I took hard tyres while the Citroens took soft ones. Our tyres did not work in wet conditions so the Citroens rubbed our noses with their pace. The stages started to dry and in the afternoon our hard tyres were the right ones. But then my power steering broke down and I had to drive two stages without it. That was tough for arms. Luckily I didn’t lose much due to that problem, only about half a minute but there were a couple of happenings along the way because my hands and arms got so tired that it was very difficult to turn the wheel. It was like hammering with a heavy hammer having your arms straight. After Saturday I was sixth 40 seconds behind number five and 40 seconds ahead number seven. On Sunday morning we tried different tyres because my position was safe so it wouldn’t matter if I lost some time. My times in the morning weren’t very good with soft tyres (the others were driving with hard ones). In the afternoon I took hard tyres and I drove like I normally do. We learned how different type of tyres work on different surface which would be useful information in the coming rallies. I finished the rally sixth, my team mate Mikko Hirvonen was fifth and Sebastien Loeb’s triumphal march on tarmac continued.


Vodafone Rally de Portugal 28-30 April 2010

Rally Portugal like Rally Jordan is one of the most difficult rallies of the season because of the unnatural roads. Stones and small trees surround the relatively narrow roads which mean that one should be very careful driving on these roads. The race started on Thursday with a Super special where I was the 11 th but the differences were very small. The rally actually started on Friday with forest stages. Last year I drove off – badly – which affected my driving this year at first. I lost 0.7 seconds per kilometer to Dani Sordo who drove the first fastest time. Little by little my feeling got better and so did the stage times, too, but still something was missing. By the time of day service I was sixth in the rally and Sebastien Loeb was 12.1 seconds ahead of me. In the afternoon I started to get closer to him and I was about seven seconds behind when I noticed that my tyres were all worn out. Again I started to loose and by the end of the day our difference was about 18 seconds. My position was still number six but Loeb got to the third place while Sebastien Ogier was leading. I tried to attack on Saturday morning because I knew that in the morning the tyres would be good enough to do so. In the afternoon it would be time to save them. I was the second fastest on the first stage of the morning, 2.8 seconds behind Loeb. I was able to drive the second stage of the morning only about 300 meters when a fast left right corner combination went too wide and the car hit a rocky bank. That broke and jammed the rear left brake and the car turned 180 degrees sliding about 30 meters and of course the rear end of the car had to hit the only tree there was. My pace was still about 100km/h so the car got so badly damaged we couldn’t fix it to the Super rally and that was the end of my competition!


Rally New Zealand 7-9 April 2010

The race came back from Hamilton to Auckland after five years. The main service, the Shakedown and the Super special stage were downtown, on the same tarmac road. Auckland’s central location made it possible to start the race on northern stages which haven’t been driven in five years. On the second day of the rally we headed south of Auckland to drive stages more familiar from the latter years but there were also new sections. The third day was the same as two years ago when this rally was driven the previous time. We started on Friday and finished on Sunday afternoon. I concentrated on driving fast but at a steady speed without taking any unnecessary risks like the team driver number two should do. Many drivers made minor mistakes due to slippery roads and the change of campers on the roads. Sebastien Loeb was the fastest driver but he drove off the road twice and he had two more events during the race. Sebastien Ogier was driving this rally for the first time and compared to his lack of experience he drove brilliantly. The lead changed many times during the race and the winner was clear only on the last meters of the rally after 400 raced kilometers. The last stage of the competition was Whaanga Coast (about 30 kilometers). While starting that last stage Sebastien Ogier was leading me by 6.2 seconds, Petter Solberg was third 10.6 seconds behind me and Loeb only less than a second behind Petter. Petter drove off after five kilometers and retired. Loeb had a spin at the end of the stage and lost about 12 seconds. Ogier and I were battling of the victory and in the middle of the stage I was five seconds ahead of him but at the end of the stage he drove faster. When there were only less than ten kilometers left of the stage I was only about three seconds ahead which was not enough to beat him overall. I tried to push harder but that was a mistake because now the car started to go sideways. By the end of the stage I started to believe that I had lost to Ogier but three corners before the finish line I saw bumper parts on the road. They were from Ogier’s car. He had a spin three corners before the finish and lost about ten seconds and when I reached the finish I had won the rally by 2.4 seconds, third smallest gap in the history of rally racing. I felt unbelievably great because I didn’t drive a single fastest time on the race, so I wasn’t the fastest driver of the rally, but I was the steadiest. When this season started and I was told to be the driver number two in our team I didn’t even dream of winning rallies so I got a great bonus by winning this race. Being driver number two in the team seems to be my thing. In the race Ogier was number two, Loeb was left third, Mikko Hirvonen finished as fourth and number five was Dani Sordo.


Rally of Turkey 16-18 April 2010

The rally changed from Kemer to Istanbul which also changed the conditions and the roads from technical hard surface to fast and rocky. On the second day of the race there were some parts driven on tarmac with gravel tyres which needed fast changed in the rhythm. Mostly the rally was driven on gravel, though. I started well. I was second on the opening stage on Friday but after that I lost my rhythm on stages two, three and four. We had service after the fourth stage and then we went back to drive the morning stages again plus one super special downtown Istanbul. In the afternoon my driving was okay again but I couldn’t reach Sebastien Ogier or Dani Sordo who were driving very fast. Ogier was leading the rally after Friday; Sordo was second and Mikko Hirvonen third. I was sixth but only 27,5 seconds behind the lead. The first stage of Saturday morning was 18 kilometers with first 13 kilometers on tarmac. I had a good place because I was the sixth car on the road and I meant to take advantage of that. But something happened. I had driven only one kilometer when I came to a long full crest to the right. In my pace notes I had ‘full’ but the tyres weren’t warm enough and the car started to slide. I kept the gas pedal on the floor but the car didn’t obey and it went into a ditch and off the road with tyres up into the air. Luckily there were some spectators to help us back on our tyres and back to the road again in four minutes and we could continue. The front of the car suffered some damage but no trouble in the steering or suspension. Unfortunately the turbo hose got a small hole which caused a leak and now we had no turbo power. We drove the stages 10 to 13 slowly through and got to the service. We lost over 18 minutes and dropped to the 17 th position. The car was fixed in the service and I tried to reach at least the position number ten to get some points to the team. In the afternoon everything went smoothly and we got to position 12. Sunday morning’s two stages (18 and 19) were cancelled because the rain had made them too muddy. In the afternoon they got dry enough and were driven. Yet some sections were slippery and stressful to drive. On one of these slippery sections Sordo went off and retired. My day was calm and we rose into the eight position. I got four personal points and the team six points. Once again Sebastien Loeb won. Petter Solberg was second and Mikko Hirvonen third.


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