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GP Week : Issue 22
>> WRC FINLAND The Bravest Passenger on Earth? N owhere else in our business do we travel at such consistently high speeds. Nearly all the time you are going round corners at between 100 and 150kph and there are no long straights on this rally, where you can catch your breath. That is why it is so special. Then add all the crests, which means you cannot see where you are going and, remember, many of them are jumps! Maybe, if you are courageous, you can look out of the window. In fact, however, there are not many chances to look out because you are really too busy to see where you are going. It is so fast you just need constantly to keep on reading the pacenotes. Certainly you will go many kilometres with no time to look out of the car. You are busy reading the pacenotes far further in advance than you are on a slower rally. This is a rally where you need a lot of experience. You cannot expect to be in the top three places unless you have been coming here four, five or maybe even six times before. You can always be fast for a short period of time – did you see how fast some of the younger drivers like Aava and Mikkelsen were on Friday? They were really very good, but you cannot keep up that pace for the three days of the rally unless you have the experience. True, around 100km of stages this year were not the same as last year, but it isn’t just the exact details of the route which counts, it is their special character – even for experienced people like us, these newer stages are more difficult. You don’t have to be Finnish to win but it helps. When you are someone like Sebastien (Loeb) who has been here many times, he has the same ability as we have to make the pacenotes and adjust to the crests and corners. Nowhere in the world is it impossible to see the exits of the corners on so many corners. They are hidden round the trees or by the crests. There are very few traditional bends where you can see all the way round the corners. Of course we Finns cannot see further round the corners than anyone else, but we have an advantage because we know the character of the corners, especially in this area of Central Finland. Remember, that club rallying in Finland is over secret routes, with no pacenotes, and that helps develop an eye for the road. It trains you to make an intelligent guess as to where the road is going! People ask if we codrivers are ever afraid. On a stage we are not, but between stages we sometimes wonder about the mad things we have been are so good to drive that the braver you are the faster you go! In this rally there are other risks, of course. For a co-driver it is easy to hurt your back. Some jumps come very suddenly and with much greater force than we ever expect, and you are just not braced for that. It is even more easy to hurt your neck but actually the new HANS systems help a lot. Here in Finland it is all or nothing. For us co-drivers there is no time for thinking about anything other than reading the page of pacenotes in front of you. And when you think about it, there is absolutely no room for using your brain at all – when you do the 1000 Lakes Rally, leave you brain in a locker back in the hotel! 41 Mikko Hirvonen’s co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, is one of the bravest men on earth! He explains some of the emotions of being driven at crazy speeds on gravel roads through forests in Finland, where the average speed over all the stages is around 120kph... doing, admitting something has been scary or stupid – but on a stage there is so much adrenalin you just enjoy it. Cars of course are strong and