Reason triumphed on home ground
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.