Kaj Lindstrom’s postcard from Finland
Rally Finland, the fastest round of the world championship, is known for its fast sweeping corners, blind crests and tree-lined straights. This is certainly no place for the weak, only the brave.
For Finns like me it’s the highlight of the rallying season, not just for the hundreds and thousands of fans watching on the stages but for the crews, especially when your home is only 120 kilometres down the road and your friends and family have come along to support you.
I’ve been coming to this rally since I was really, really young. My mum used to take me – my father passed away when I was six months old – and one day I hoped my dream would come true and that I could take part myself. Even though the speeds are so high it’s not a frightening experience being a co-driver on this rally. Sure there are some stages you get to with butterflies in your stomach but when you cross the finish line you want more.
Out in the forests the fans have a really big party with plenty of big drinking too! It’s not that they have a problem though – this is still our holiday season and a lot of people take one week of their holiday for the rally. It might look strange the way people end up lying on the floor but they are on holiday and they want to have a good party. During the rally you very seldom go out in Jyvaskyla, where the event is based, but you know there is always a special atmosphere.
Co-driving for Kimi Raikkonen on this event is a great experience. He really enjoys this rally because of the high-speed stages and because he’s a Finn. But he’s keeping his feet on the ground because it’s only his second full season of rallying and he’s still learning.
He is quite calm when he drives and has high demands on himself in terms of how to drive and how to perform with the car. In this way you can see he’s a true professional – it’s a new sport for him after all.
We talk in the car when we’re not on the stages, the normal stuff to lighten up the atmosphere and to get relaxed after the stage. We might say a few things as well about how the previous stage went.
Because our days on this rally are very long Kimi needs to get plenty of energy so he will be eating some chicken and pasta but nothing too heavy. He likes to have coffee and some bread with eggs for his breakfast. With service five hours away he needs to eat some food.
Sleeping is quite difficult on this rally. There’s not much time between one day finishing and the next day starting so you don’t have much time but also your adrenalin is still high when you get back to your hotel room so you have to run down your engine before you can sleep.
It’s the only way.
Co-driver’s point of view
A French visit
First of all I have to admit the level of expections being quite high before the Rally d’Alsace in France. We are not speaking too much about this with Kimi beforehand, but, obviously, we had a good feeling for a good result in this brand new rally.
It was suppose to be a tarmac rally, but the weather made it quite different.
Cutting the corners made the roads worse and worse all the time. It was so full of mud and sand that you could not tell it being asphalt instead of gravel. Most likely, in the end of the day, we could have gone faster with the gravel tyres.
Well, it gave a different characteristics for the whole rally. The circumstances were tricky because of dark weather and because of very steep downhill sections. Actually it became worse and worse stage by stage. It’s was difficult and not only for us. While comparing our stage for example to Mikko Hirvonen, you could see him having the same problems like we did.
In day one we had a technical issue with the car. But it was solved and we had P7 after Friday. But after that we got too much extra program on Saturday. We slipped out of the road with the very slow speed. While it was mud all over the place, the car got stuck from the bottom on the edge of the ditch.
Il took some time to decide how to go from there. I tried my very best with my poor French to get a rope. Finally they found a piece of rope and with that we could pull the car to the road and keep on going again.
Obviously, the motivation was not the best of them all anymore after loosing half and hour to our competitors, so we just tried to focus on collecting good experience in these very tricky circumstances.
Then we had an other spin and this time the car was so deep in the gradient that we could not get it back anymore.
On Sunday there would have been only one proper stage to drive, so Kimi decided that’s it and we packed our things on Saturday evening and left for home. It was a sensible decision, while we could save the car and the engine for the next Rally Catalunya. Especially while we would not have learnt anymore of tarmac rally, that’s for sure.
Sebastien Loeb clinched one world title more on his account. He is there in the level of his own. We had a chant with Seb on Saturday evening in the hotel and, of course, we sent him a sms to congratulate him for the victory and for the championship.
Now we head for Spain. There will be at least two nice days on a real asphalt. Day one will be 70% on gravel and 30% on tarmac.
After two DNFs it’s time for us to finish that rally with good feeling from the beginning until the last special stage. The car is ready, the engine is ready – and so are we.