Wales Rally GB 13 -17 November 2013

The last competition of the season was driven on the forest roads of Northern Wales but the service area was in Chester, England. There were 22 special stages; some of them were old RAC stages. We drove over 300 stage kilometers plus over 1 200 road section kilometers. I was fourth in qualification but I wanted to be the first on the road. On Thursday evening we drove in the dark and Friday – Sunday were driven in daylight. Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville both had a good start and I came after them. After day one Ogier was leading. In the morning of the second day (stage four, Hafren) Sebastien Ogier drove ten seconds faster that Neuville and 12 seconds faster than me. Now it was time for me to wake up and start competing. My driving improved and I started to challenge Ogier for real. On stage six (Myherin – one of my favorite stages in the series) I was 4,6 seconds faster than Ogier. Unfortunately I started to push too hard and incidents occurred. On Myherin 2 I almost went carefully off the road but luckily I was able to avoid the stones and could keep my Polo on the road. Neuville began to make sure he would be third so he slowed down and the gap between us became bigger. On the third and fourth day my pace was the same as Ogier’s but the mistakes I made gave him credit. If I got closer to him I made a minor spin or killed the engine and he was farther again. I was good on new stages but Ogier was better than me on slippery stages. Ogier was better in the morning and I – after having some coffee – was better in the afternoon. I could not reach him so I was second (21,8 seconds behind). I drove the fastest time on the last stage of the series; a good way to end the season. Neuville was third in Wales and took world championships’ silver. Ogier won the Title. In the last three events I found confidence in my Polo and in myself which gave me lots of motivation to fight for the Title in the coming rally year of 2014.


RallyRACC-Rally de Espana 24 -27 October 2013

The race started on Friday with night stages which brought some change into a traditional tarmac event. In the dark one had to concentrate more carefully. On tarmac the car went pretty straight so the extra lights stayed steady. It seemed that everybody’s lights were set up perfectly because almost no differences occurred. Sebastien Ogier took the first place, I was second and Dani Sordo third. The second day in bright daylight was track race as its best. The narrow tarmac roads in Spain were like a race track. The differences between us drivers stayed small. Sebastien Ogier had a puncture on stage seven so he lost about a minute. At that point I took the lead which I kept the rest of the day. Dani Sordo was second (only 1.6 seconds behind me) and Thierry Neuville was third. The last day was driven on gravel which forced me, who was leading, to sweep loose gravel off the roads while I was going first on the stages. Normally the driving order in gravel events was reversed but this was not the case in Spain. I started my day thinking that I would not let the loose gravel bother me and my driving was good but Sebastien Ogier, who was fourth, practically flew behind me (of course the roads were cleaner for him than for me). He kept on catching me but I could keep the others behind. The three last stages were driven twice and I knew they would be cleaner but it still was not at all easy to keep Ogier behind me. Everything seemed to be okay in the afternoon but at the end part of the third last stage I started to experience some brake problems. More problems appeared on the second last stage and finally there was also a fuel leak which started a fire under the hood. Luckily the organizers had a fire extinguisher and we managed to put the fire out. On the road section we were able to fix the fuel hose (loose clip) but the brake problems stayed. Later we found out that the right caliper did not get any brake fluid so the car was stopped by only three of the brakes. I could not drive fast the last stage because the car was difficult to brake which gave Ogier a chance to overtake me. I kept the second place and Mikko Hirvonen was finally the third after an even performance. I felt disappointed because I could not win the race but winning the manufacturer’s title gave me comfort.

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Rallye France-Alsace 4 – 6 October 2013

This was the most high-class rally on tarmac in my career. Five drivers were fighting for the tenths of seconds and Sebastien Loeb was driving his last WRC race. The first stage was the power stage which Dani Sordo won, Thierry Neuville was second and Sebastien Ogier was third. This result meant that Sebastien Ogier won the Title. At the beginning of the rally Thierry Neuville was leading. He was full of self-confidence and he seemed to be getting away from us others. In the middle of the rally he had a puncture and he couldn’t fight for the victory anymore. I tried to drive fast without risks which seemed to be working in those variable conditions (dry, rain, fog). I was surprisingly leading the race at the beginning of the last day but only by 0,4 seconds. Dani Sordo was second and then came Sebastien Ogier and Sebastien Loeb, all of us within five seconds. On Sunday the morning stage was fatal for Sebastien Loeb. He went off the road and had to retire. It wasn’t the best way to end his unbelievable and valued career of nine Titles. He started racing in 1999. After Loeb’s retirement I began to make sure I would get as many points for the team as possible. The conditions were very bad after heavy rain. Sebastien Ogier kept on attacking and drove an extremely fast time on stage 15 (Vignoble de Cleebourg). He was eight seconds faster than Sordo. Ogier took the lead and kept it till the end of the rally. On that last day he was flying through the stages. I tried to pressure Sordo but because the stages were so muddy I decided not to risk anything. Sordo drove faster than me and took the second place while I was left third. However, I was pleased with being able to drive an incident free race which I was even leading at one point. Points for the team were more important than my own position. This rally left me no pressure for the two last events of the series.


Rally Australia 12 – 15 September 2013

The race on Australian east coast in Coffs Harbour was a Sebastien Ogier show. He won glamorously. One more point and he is the world champion of this season. My job in Australia was to hunt points for our team because of the aim to win the manufacture’s title. It was difficult at first because I could not find the right speed and I drove to slowly in the qualification. I ended up being the third car on the road and with all the loose gravel I was only eighth at first. I span on stage one but I finally managed to find the suitable pace and after day one I found myself on the fifth place. On day two I had a chance to take the third position but on stage 12 (Valla) I was surprised by the first corner which was very slippery and my car’s rear end hit a bank braking the right rear tyre. I drove the stage with an empty tyre and lost about 20 seconds. After that I only concentrated on keeping my position. On the next stage Kris Meeke drove off which gave me the position number four. Meeke was driving for the team points for team Citroen so making to the finish was extremely important for me. On the last day of the rally I drove calmly trying a new braking technique. I had been too aggressive in braking and now I tried a more progressive way which was better for the tyres. On the last stage of the rally (power stage) I tried to get extra points which could give me a possibility to be second in the series in the end (Thierry Neuville is now holding that position) but for some unknown reason the surface of my left tyre was torn off making the driving of course difficult. The same happened to Mikko Hirvonen. In the rally I was fourth (with no extra points), Neuville was second and Hirvonen third. I kept my position in the series (third) but Neuville took some lead.

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ADAC Rallye Deutchland 22 – 25 August 2013

This was the first actual tarmac event for team Volkswagen. It showed that pace we had but something was missing because there was no Polo on the podium. Rally Germany was (and is) one of the most difficult rallies in the series because of the huge amount of crossroads. It was hard to form a character for this rally and all in all the weather conditions were very variable. The grip changed a lot. Dani Sordo won, Thierry Neuville was second and Mikko Hirvonen third. I was seventh. I led the race a way over half the stages which was my first time in a tarmac rally. My driving was the best ever on tarmac. Competing and driving for a victory increased the risk factor which I noticed on the third day. On the longest stage of the rally, Arena Panzerplatte (41km), I hit a concrete bollard (‘Hinkelstein’ in German) while I was trying to push hard. That hit damaged the co driver’s side of the car. In the service they tried to fix it but the co driver’s door kept on opening on the next stage. Miikka Anttila had to hold the door with his right hand and read the notes at the same time. We both lost our concentration a bit and got surprised by a slippery corner (it was raining). We hit a pile of logs and damaged our right rear suspension. We had to retire on the next stage. The next day we continued in rally2 but we had ten minutes’ time penalty. The last two competitions ended in disappointments for me. But I won’t give up. Learning by these experiences will make me stronger.


Neste Oil Rally Finland 1 – 3 August 2013

To win our domestic world championships round probably is every driver’s dream but to win this rally requires courage, self-confidence, good performance of the car, good set up of the car and furthermore the driver must be relaxed. I was fifth in the qualification and I wasn’t completely pleased with the set up of my car. On the first actual stage I was the second fastest. The set up was still bothering me but I started to attack right away though because I didn’t want to lose the race at the beginning like in two previous years. On stage two (Torittu) there was a crest in a right corner and I didn’t realize that the car would jump but it did. The car went in the air and slid slightly off the road (20cm) and the rear left tyre hit a big rock. The rear suspension broke right away. I was able to limb to the finish of the stage but the rear left a-suspension arm was broken. I tried to support the arm with a charger belt which lasted the next two stages but after that we had to retire. Due to rally2 rule we were able to continue the race but we had 20 minutes’ time penalty. A huge disappointment, of course, but now I had a chance to test the set up for the future rallies. I drove good times and I even got one point from the Power stage. Sebastien Ogier won once again, Thierry Neuville, who drove a very good race, was second and Mads Östberg took the third place. No Finns on the podium! The same happened ten years ago – statistical defeats?!


Rally d’Italia Sardegna 20 – 23 June 2013

I drove on the island of Sardinia for the first time in Costa Smeralda rally in 2003. The first actual rally Sardinia was driven in 2004 but then I had to retire because of a broken rear axle of my two wheel drive Suzuki Ignis. I won rally Sardinia in 2009. It had always been nice to come to Sardinia and this year I was hoping to be able to finish the race because two previous ones had been disasters for me. I won the qualification so the start was a dream comes true. I took the driving position number 13. The race was only two days long so it was very important where to drive. Stage number one started well but after five kilometers I slightly hit a sharp rock in a left corner which broke the tyre. We decided not to change it although we had over 20 kilometers left to the finish. Five kilometers before the finish the surface of the tyre tore off and we lost about two minutes driving with a rim only. We were on twelfth position and had to start a furious attack. We calculated that we could finish the race as sixth which that was a bit depressing. But we decided to attack anyway, all the points would be important. My driving improved during the day and I took the fastest times on stages seven and eight. Stage eight was driven in the dark and surprisingly there was not much dust. Novikov retired and Östberg drove off which meant that I was fifth before the night break. Next morning Mikko Hirvonen didn’t manage to get his car back to the road after driving off so he had to retire. I passed Sordo and was suddenly third. After that I concentrated on driving carefully maintaining that position. Everything went well so I was third in the rally and got even one extra point on power stage. My teammate Ogier once again won and Thierry Neuville took the second place after a very mature driving. We took important manufacture’s points which increased our team’s lead in the series.


Acropolis Rally 31 May – 02 June 2013

My first time in this rally was ten years ago. That was also my second in the whole series but first with a WRC-car (Ford Focus WRC 2002). Time flies fast but luckily some development happens during the passing years. In 2003 I was tenth and now I won, a victory deeply missed and hoped for. This was my first victory in team VW and it was great to get it in a classical event. The qualification went badly for me; I was ninth (the worst ever). That’s why I was a bit angry at myself and started to attack right on the first stage. I was the third car on the road on that 48 kilometer-long stage. Many incidents happened on that first stage: I drove one corner a bit too long and had to reverse, Sebastien Ogier had fuel problems, Mikko Hirvonen broke his steering and Mads Östberg split a rim. Stage two was driven in the dark but there were no surprises. After day one Evgeny Novikov was leading, Sordo was second and I was third. On day two I started to put up my space still avoiding bigger risks on bad sections. I passed Sordo on stage three and on the next stage Novikov took one corner too widely and broke a tyre plus the suspension which meant that I took the lead of the rally. After that Miikka and I drove very controlled minding the conditions. Because of his bad start of the season Sordo did not want to challenge me but concentrated on taking the second highest points. There was not much change after that. I won by 1minute 50 seconds, Sordo was second and Thierry Neuville took the third place. Last day was difficult: I had to concentrate on keeping the car and the tyres intact. Last stage felt never-ending; I had to go round every stone and bump, I worried about the car but everything ended up perfectly and I won. No extra points for me on the power stage which Ogier won, Novikov was second and Andreas Mikkelsen third.


Philips LED Rally Argentina 01 -04 May 2013

Back in Argentina after two years. I was not there in 2012 because of the broken collarbone. Argentinean soft gravel roads with occasional upcoming big rocks demand a lot of tyres and suspension. A break of two years showed in the recce. I had forgotten the nature of the old stages and had to make the notes all over again. The race itself started well because I won the qualification. I took the twelfth driving position because there would be lines on the roads and not much loose gravel which would make braking easier for me. The first day was uneven though. I had a good pace but the breaking of the handbrake made my driving difficult on the serpentine sections. It was difficult to take the corners on those tight roads with no handbrake. I lost about ten to twenty seconds because of that on the first day and I was fourth. My teammate Sebastien Ogier was leading. On day two I tried to catch Mikko Hirvonen but I had a slightly wrong set up and couldn’t drive smoothly. Mikko drove faster than me but he faced problems in the afternoon and he dropped to the sixth position. I attacked but had a puncture on stage nine. Luckily my co driver Miikka and I were able to change the tyre in one minute forty seconds. We stayed on the fourth place overtaken by Evgeny Novikov by eight seconds. Sebastien Ogier drove slightly off the road on stage seven which gave Sebastien Loeb an opportunity to take the lead. On the last day I fought myself onto the podium pass Evgeny Novikov. I took a risk on the second last stage and managed to pass him by 4.9 seconds. I also won the power stage, the legendary El Condor, and got three extra points. Novikov span on the last stage but stayed on the fourth place. I drove my best Volkswagen Polo R WRC day so far because I was the fastest on every stage of the day. Sebastien Loeb won the rally for the eighth time and Sebastien Ogier was the second in this over 400 kilometers’ long rally.


Vodafone Rally de Portugal 11 -14 April 2013

Finally everything started to work out for me in the fourth competition of the season. I was third in the qualification and took the eleventh driving position so that I would have cleaner roads. Dani Sordo was the fastest in the qualification and my team mate Sebastien Ogier was second. Right at the beginning of the rally it was a bit hard for me to find the rhythm and I lost a few seconds on stages one and two but on stage three I got angry at myself and after that my times started to improve. I realized that no more experiences but more results in my new team Volkswagen. After day one I was third, Sordo was second and Ogier was leading. On day two Sordo attacked but drove a bit off and damaged his rear suspension which led to retirement. Now I was second and Mikko Hirvonen third. I tried to leave him but at the end of day two he was only 4,8 seconds behind me. I was able to drive two fastest times which made me breathe easier. I started to make the second place mine on the race during day two because I could not reach Sebastien Ogier and Mikko was properly behind me. Unfortunately Sunday started poorly for me because on the first stage in the third corner the right drive shaft broken and overheated the front lock and the car turned from a four wheel drive into a two wheel drive. Even Ogier had problems with his rear lock but luckily the situation got better. It was a dark morning for team Volkswagen but races were to be fought till the end before the prizes were dealt. I had to drive about 70 kilometers with a two wheel drive but I didn’t worry about that because of my experience in two wheel driven Historic cars. The car was challenging which made me lose about 3,5 seconds and I dropped to the third place behind Mikko Hirvonen but I stayed on the podium. In the service the car was fixed and I started to hunt points on the power stage which was pretty long, 52 kilometers. I almost got two points but my tyres started to wear out and because of that Mads Östberg could drive faster than me and I was left third and got only one point. Ogier won the race and the power stage, too, Hirvonen was second and I was third which was my first podium position for team Volkswagen.

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