When the dream has become reality. When the goal has been reached. When the trophy is finally in the right hands – your hands. There and then, on the stage in front of an entire motorsports world in Doha, it seriously hit me as to what I have managed – I am a World Champion! Again!
I followed a new dream, I pushed difficulties aside, I never gave up and I got paid in something far more valuable than money.
Nothing can match the self-respect that is left after reaching the ultimate goal. Even if dreams are big or small; to set goals and to struggle to achieve them are among the most important challenges that exist in life.In my new sport there were many drivers who dreamed of becoming the first ever world champion. But in the end my team was working the hardest,we played the smartest and did most things right on the way towards the goal.
We made a plan and had small targets along the way during the season. We took calculated risks, we tried out new opportunities, we thought differently; We dreamed together and set common goals, and we reached our goals together.
In 2003 I didn’t get a trophy to take with me back home after the World Rally Championship prize giving. Just a couple of weeks ago at the combined World Championship and my 40th birthday party at home in my workshop, I received a copy of the 2003 trophy by my wife Pernilla and son Oliver. Through eleven years I had been a little sorry that I never got a trophy – the surprise by Oliver and Pernilla was absolutely fantastic!
To me the trophies say it all. I seldom look back at achievements now when I’m still in the game, I’m only looking forward. But one day even I will retire. Then I want to look back at what I’ve actually done. The most prestigious one in my 2014 collection is the Lifetime Achievement Award that I received at the Autosport Awards in London a couple of weeks ago.
To celebrate a world title is something very special. Eleven years passed before I got fulfilled the dream again. After the title race was settled in Italy in September, I decided to celebrate it in the best possible way with all my friends around me. We ended up at my workshop in Torsby with 220 invited friends, loved ones and acquaintances. Than was a very emotional evening.
It feels really different to wake in the morning now. As usual it happens early – around 7 o’clock. I normally go to the bathroom, look into the mirror and tell myself that I can reach any goal I set for myself if I work hard enough for it. Just like my dear mother taught me to do many years ago. The smile and self-image I get in return is worth every minute of struggle. The journey of life must also contain downs if one should be able to enjoy the highs to the fullest.
One more year is now behind us. It has been the most successful in my career. The World title, five race victories, nine podium finishes (from twelve races), 24 heat victories (from 72 in total) in the World RX – plus the Monster Super Charge award (first car into the first corner in the RX finals) and a further four triumphs in unofficial races. In addition my son Oliver had an equally good crosskart season with three titles (Northern European, Swedish and Norwegian champion) and nine single victories which means just as much to me.
My main plan for 2015 is to defend my World RX title. It is guaranteed be difficult to win again in 2015, but we have a good and developed plan to do it, and this year’s World Championship gold made me even hungrier for success.
Race victories and titles are doing something to me. I am 110 percent sure that this year’s season in rallycross has made me a better motorsport performer. Therefore I have also toyed with the idea of driving a couple of WRC rounds if a good enough offer arises. I would also like to measure forces against GRC drivers in the X Games – and I want to win Race of Champions individually. The experience in Barbados before Christmas was really great. What a wonderful event the Race of Champions is! Thanks to everyone in the organization and my colleagues who contributed to a life experience, and thanks to Tom Kristensen for a successful and very inspiring collaboration that led us to the top of the Nations Cup!
But on top of my list of wishes for 2015 is to retain my Championship crown in rallycross. Period!
Back to rallying. I think you all know that rallying is my first love in motorsport. It’s what I did for so many years and the chance to go back there and compete again is really good for me.
That’s why I’m so excited about the Condroz Rally. I have absolutely loved the intense competition and the atmosphere around the FIA World Rallycross Championship – it’s hard not to enjoy being a world champion again! But the chance to sit on the start line and have a co-driver count me down from five to go is really special.
It’s even more special that the person sitting alongside me is the same Welshman who won the 2003 World Rally Championship with me, Phil Mills. Phil and I started 152 rounds of the World Rally Championship together and won 13 of them. The last time he was calling the notes to me in the world championship was on the Rally of Portugal in 2010.
Phil and I have been through a lot in our time competing in a car. Both joy and drama. For me it’s not only the victories or the dramatic crash in Germany 2004 that comes to mind. All the good talks and joy we had driving around for hours and hours in between stages in different countries around the world is very special to me still. The chance to get back together again in a Citroen C4 WRC is really nice for both of us. We wanted to do something last year, 10 years after we won the title, but there was never time to sort it out. We can say this is a delayed celebration for the two of us.
But what about Belgium and Condroz? I must admit, I don’t know so much about the rally, except that it’s a very, very popular event with fans and competitors. But, having competed in World RX of Belgium earlier this year, I do know about the country and just how much those guys love their motorsport. The atmosphere at the race was incredible and I’m sure it will be the same when we get to the start of the rally.
It will definitely take me a little bit of time to get used to rallying again after driving alone and around in circles for the season. But once Phil and I find our feet again, I’d like to think we’ll be pretty close to the pace. With the focus of PSRX on winning the FIA World Rallycross Championship, there really hasn’t been time to drive rally cars much recently – I have done some shows and things like that in the last couple of years, but not so much. I can’t wait to get back into a rally car.
The main thing is to enjoy myself.
After the rally, the whole team will be focused on World RX of Argentina later in November and next season. We are working flat out to sort everything for 2015, but at the moment there is nothing confirmed.
And you never know, once Phil’s back in the car, he might not want to get out again…
What on earth does table tennis have in common with rallycross? Well, in the past few weeks I have played far more ping pong than I have driven cars. The purpose is to train my reactions and concentration to be an even better rallycross driver. And it’s pure fun too!
In the world of sport it is stated that one must train on what you want to succeed in. 5-6 minute per ping pong set with full concentration and reaction speed as well as taking lightning fast decisions is an activity I am convinced that will make a positive contribution for my World Championship campaign. Just last week I played with a team colleague for a total of 6-7 hours.
Of course it’s all about a hobby more than trying to win the World Table Tennis Championship title too. In my early rally career I was subject to a strict training regime in Subaru. We practiced for hours a day and used everything from weights to running, cycling, boxing, tennis and basic strength training in the gym everyday.
I’ll admit that my training fervour has diminished somewhat over the years, but still I train consistently. After two seasons in rallycross my team and I have concluded that reaction and concentration are key elements. To respond rapidly to the green start lights is essential, and strong focus all the way through a whole race weekend is absolutely necessary.
We concluded earlier in the season that such training is important. That’s why I now play 4-5 times a week of table tennis with a team mate. We play game, set and match (10 set x 3) and keep on going between 1 and 2 hours per session. It will be interesting over time to see whether I notice any response. I believe in the theory. Also, it is really fun to play ping pong and to win!
In addition to table tennis, I am out several times a week on the ATV with my son Oliver and occasionally with Pernilla. A few weeks ago the whole family were out on a fantastic ATV safari back home where we challenged ourselves in forests, thickets, marshes and cliffs. THAT is what I call quality time with my beloved ones!
‘Game, set and match’ is not on my lips when it comes to the FIA World RX Championship. It’s way too early. Admittedly, I am leading the championship with 28 points, but before this weekend’s World Championship round of Germany only two-thirds of the season is done. Four races remain, leaving 120 points still to be awarded. I notice in my body as well as in my mind and my surroundings that it’s starting to get really interesting.
Tactically we have been smart for a long time. To continue to collect important World Championship points, there is no reason to change our strategy. We go for the top finishers in each heat, semi-finals and finals, but without being desperate for victory in every single race. I feel very comfortable with the plan that my team and I have made trying to win the first ever World Championship title in rallycross.
We are well underway, but it is far too early to begin to think about anything but the next race. When we only have Argentina left, I’ll sit down and look carefully at what will be needed. Now I only think about the RX of Germany. Then the RX of Italy next weekend. Furthermore, Turkey two weekends later.
Three times we have won World RX races this year. The confidence is high in the whole PSRX Team. But it’s very important to remain realistic. One weak performance turns everything upside down again. Or an engine failure, a crash, mechanical trouble, punctures at inopportune times. A lot can happen, and I must be prepared for anything.
It’s all about being smart and waiting for the right opportunities to go Flat Out. Race victories mean very little if the pursuit of them leads to DNF’s. If I find it too hard to win some races, I’d rather run risk free into a 2nd, 3rd or 4th place. Trying just a little too much could make you end up in a ditch.
Although I think differently when it comes to tactics now, there’s one thing that will never change about me: I will grab every shot at a victory with both hands if they present themselves.
‘Mechanic Moral’ - It’s not a commonly used term in everyday life, but with the PSRX Team it is crucial for success. My mechanics are hand-picked from rallying – and with good reason.
When we won the first World Rallycross Championship round ever to be held outside Europe last weekend, it was honestly fully deserved for my team. The container with my car came to port just three days before the race, and the guys were working feverishly to ensure that all details should be in place.
Between each heat in the compact one-day race schedule, the mechanics had less than half an hour to fix the car. I was truly impressed that they served me literally a winning to each and every heat. We won five out of six heats – including the final!
I say «we» because I’ve never experienced more of a team victory. The RX of Canada would never have been won without my mechanics. They live and breathe every day to be the best. The PSRX team, our sponsors and our common passion is why we now lead the championship by 20 points.
The story about my mechanics and me began many years ago. The PSRX Chief Mechanic Ole Johan Rustad is a graduate at the ‘Star Academy’ in Torsby and served in Ford’s WRC team for several years before he came to me in 2009. My good friend and compatriot has been a key figure on all cars in my private engagement both in rally and rallycross.
We have three British mechanics in the team. John Cudmore has been a crucial team member since 2013 and is the first mechanic on my 2014 RX-car. He works very closely with Ole Johan. «Cuddy» is a worker of the rare, and together they puts all their diligence, ability and pride into making my car the best there is. Ole Johan and Cuddy is responsible for the work on my car also between each race.
Mark Butler and Ian Emmerson were brought to the team this year to give Ole Johan and Cuddy the support that is needed in the World RX races. Mark was the chief mechanic for several years in Subaru, so I knew him very well from before.
I also have several «freelance» mechanics in support.
In April, Estonian Sten Oja came to us to test his abilities as a mechanic, and he proved capable. In Canada Sten, who already is twice North European and repeatedly Estonian champion in rallycross, got the chance to drive the team’s second car as we were missing a driver. Possibly he will get the opportunity again.
Two of my team members are French. The engines are maintained by Yannis Loison from Pipo Moteurs, who were responsible for Peugeot and Ford engines in WRC for many years. We have an amazing co-operation. My system engineer is Francois Regnier from Syx Tronics, who also have been with me since my rallying days.
My whole crew have the passion and moral that it takes for me to fight for the World RX title.
Canada was close to perfect both for the team and me. The team effort paid off with a blasting victory. A World RX win is not just an everyday happening. I had ‘only’ 14 in the WRC and now I have two in World RX after racing almost 200 world events in total.
We were welcomed and treated in the best way possible by the organizers in Trois-Rivières, where the environment for motorsport proved mildly impressive. On the last day of the motorsport festival, the entire team was invited to watch the NASCAR race from a VIP room. It was an experience we would not be without.
We were so lucky to have guests from my sponsor TOTAL and Kongsberg Automotive at the race. They had a fantastic trip and adventure! A big thank you to KA, who invited my family and me on a day of water-skiing and total relaxation the day after our victory. That day put a finishing touch to a fantastic Canada trip.
Canada is a wonderful country with great people and spectacular scenery. I am really looking forward to the next time I’ll visit the country.
Three weeks remain until the next World RX round. Then we return to Loheac in France, where I took second place last year. It is a circuit that I know well and feel very comfortable on.
I was the first World RX winner and the first Championship leader (Portugal), the first winner outside Europe and the first to win two World Cup rounds (Canada). Maybe Loheac can offer new milestones?
Rarely have I been so nervous before and during a race than when I was going home to Norway to run the FIA World RX round in Hell itself!
I wanted to show my countrymen that I still have what it takes to compete at the top level.
A year had passed since the last time I was in the middle part of Norway. Last year’s European Championship round was held at the same place, but ended with a downer «de luxe» and 13th place. In fact, I lacked only a few seconds to drive semifinal at the time, something which I have thought a lot about afterwards.
Things could have been done differently in Hell last year, and I intended to rectify this immediately.
After the last World RX round at Lydden Hill, we came together in the team to put up a new strategy for the Norwegian round. By facilitating the smoothness of driving and avoid taking unnecessary risks, the chance of a top result would increase significantly.
Everyone in the PSRX team knows what it’s all about in 2014; the title race in the FIA World RX Championships. The plan before the race was to run for just that, and that a single round victory could be sacrificed to collect as many points possible without taking big risks.
I implemented the plan to the fullest. In the first heat I had a terrible start and remained behind Jacques Villeneuve. I kept the location behind the Formula 1 legend and got me an honourable time.
I could fully blame myself afterwards; the start was miserable, but we gained more chances this time.
Following two more heats, I came in a position to contend for a heat win. I was fighting for a place in the front row for the semi-finals, but had some misfortune. I cheered wildly when the TV graphics in our service area first showed that I had done it, but soon afterwards it became clear that I was missing two points.
Nevertheless, I got a fantastic race in the semifinals, a new heat victory and the second starting position in the finals too.
Since it rained a little during the finals, I kept the strategy from the start not to take any risks, and I chose a medium wet setup on the car for the final. In the end I lost some small tenths to Reinis Nitiss on each of the six rounds, and the Latvian got his first Supercar victory.
I am very impressed by Nitiss; a huge rallycross talent and both a pleasant and humble person as well. The 18-year-old, who got his driving licenses only a few months ago, will guaranteed be a hard nut to crack in the fight for the world title. I must continue to be smart to hold a position in the top of the World RX overall fight.
My only chance of victory in the RX of Norway final would have been going on in a duel with Nitiss on the way out of the joker lap, but I followed the strategy of my team and stayed neatly behind him. The risk would have been huge to ruin both my own and Nitiss’ race if I was to push forward. I don’t think such execution is fair play.
Second place felt like a victory. I had a lot of pressure on myself before the World RX round at home ground. It was my most important single race of the season, pure and simple. To redeem a position on the podium, I consider that a triumph.
I am rarely satisfied with anything other than wins, but right now I believe that enough 2nd places will also give gold overall. I am not willing to risk a position on the podium by taking unnecessary risks.
But when the victory chances presents themselves, and it will, I will seize the opportunity with both hands and feet.
13,000 people had paid admission to see the World RX rallycross in Hell. It is an obvious new record! The support I received from my own countrymen meant a tremendous amount, and it made a huge contribution to me going back from Norway with a sense of victory.
The circuit in Hell is very cool, and the organizers had made a great effort to make very successful event. Thanks to all of you who contributed to the party!
We are quite busy in my workshop these days. The next World RX round takes place in Finland in one and a half week. By the time we travel to Kouvola in the middle of next week, we get a logistic challenge out of the ordinary. We will pack for three races in a row, and containers are to be shipped to Canada in the process.
The next three World RX rounds will determine much of the world title fight.
About three and a half weeks from now, we will know the answer to who is still in the game and who’s not.