If you had asked me at the start of the rally, if I we could get a top 5 finish here in Sweden – I would have said you were kidding. But after a consistent and trouble free rally we have been able to achieve just that. Its great to start the year off with our best ever WRC result.
This rally was always going to be a huge learning curve, on a surface that we are not familiar with and with limited testing meant we had to learn as we went along. The conditions for this years rally were the best they have had for several years, with plenty of snow creating large snowbanks on the edge of the road to help aid the driving. However, learning the art of using snowbanks to your advantage takes a bit of learning and it was great to test them out throughout the rally.
Early on in the event, it became evident that the set-up that we had for this rally did not suit my natural driving style – but because of some linked parts on the car for future events for the #8 car, we were unable to make changes. Despite getting quite frustrated about it early on, we mentally press the reset button midday Friday and started to adapt my driving style a little to the car. This meant I had to be more aggressive and throw the car around more. Although this did not feel natural for my normal style, it was the most effective way to get more competitive times.
Over the course of the rally we learnt a lot and set some good stage times, not far away from the leaders. We also had our stages where we struggled more but this is part of the learning process. Evaluating the data post event, we can see exactly where we are loosing time and we know this is an area that when I am feeling comfortable in the car is not normally a problem. So this is encouraging for the future and for when we of course get back on our favoured surface of gravel.
All in all though a fantastic result for us and the team – with Thierry Neuville finishing 2nd. It means the team holds a strong 2nd in the manufacturers championship and we jump to 8th in the drivers championship. It is also nice to fulfill our targets for this event to get to the end and score manufacturer points for the team. This did put a bit more pressure on us, particularly today when it was just a matter of bringing the car home – but again dealing with this sort of pressure is also part of the learning process.
Huge thanks to the team for the opportunity to drive the #8 car and everyone behind the scenes working tirelessly. Also John and Katie here in Sweden have again done an amazing job. Huge thanks also for all the messages of support we received throughout the rally!!
Now its back to Frankfurt for 2 days, then we head to Spain for a 2 day Rally Mexico test. Then a week training next week in Italy before flying to Mexico for the rally. Despite it being an event we have not done before, really looking forward to it.