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GP Week : Issue 149
You came to motorsport because you had an injury that stopped you skiing. Was it a big disappointment to leave skiing? That was my previous change in life. At the time it was a big disappointment. I was doing really well in skiing and then I had to stop, but luckily I was able to jump into rallying. I got my focus into something else. I am actually glad that I had this injury because rallying is something that I now really enjoy doing and something that I live for at the moment. I now know where my real passion is. How long a career would a skier have? Of course skiing is very hard for your body, both your back and your knees, so its hard to say for how long your body will last in that sport, but definitely it is very different in rallying. As you can see you can drive till you are 45 years old or more, so definitely better for the body doing rallying. The body doesn’t get so beat up or so many injuries, so I think rallying is better. You started at the top, driving World Rally Cars but since then you turned to Group N and now Super 2000. Is this the best way? YesIthinkso.IwasatanagewhereI learned things very quickly so to get a lot of stage miles in a World Rally Car was the good way to do it. But I also think it was very good for me then to take two steps back and try also other types of cars with less power. The British preparation company Ramsport was a huge help in my career. The arrangement started through a friend of my father, Rob Atkinson. We needed to find a team that was based in the UK. I had to start my rallying in the UK, because of the lower British legal driving age than in Nor way. We were very happy with them and they did a really good job preparing the cars. We were with Ramsport all the time until the family’s financial crisis came, when everything just stopped. Who rescued your career? It was Erik Veiby, who is now my manager. He came in and wanted to show my potential. He put me in a national Group N car to prove I actually had the talent and that my earlier results were not only because we had the best team and the best car. I think that Skoda started to take an interest in me after Costa Brava in 2009. We already had some other good results. We had some meetings with Skoda and then at Skoda UK after Guy Wilks went to Peugeot. The team didn’t have a driver and they wanted us to drive for them. That is how everything came together. Of course it was a bold move for them not hiring a British driver. It was something people were speculating about. It is understandable but at the same time they wanted the driver/ co-driver who could win rallies from the word go. They couldn’t find that with a British driver at that moment which is the reason why they picked us. Except it took half a season to get into form.... The first half of 2011 did not go so well, it was not the start we wanted. But Skoda UK still had belief in what me and my co-driver Ola could do with a rally car and they never stopped believing. Finally in the end, in the second half of the season, we were really showing our potential and after that things went really well. It had been difficult to start off with the team. Partly it was myself. It was the first time we had been driving for a manufacturer, something new for me. It takes some time to get to really know everyone in the team, so you work together in a good way, and find out how we should all work in the best way together, and when we find that out then everything was working. For me it was this challenge, working with a proper manufacturer and really trusting myself and in the end that really made the difference. And where do you go from here? We are mostly staying in IRC this year. I’m not after doing the world championship rallies at the moment, though I have connections with Volkswagen who have entered me on certain WRC rounds in their own Skoda. Of course I would like to be world champion one day and hopefully it will happen soon but we will work hard every day. We will see if and when it comes. I still feel I have a lot to learn still as a driver in IRC. I need to try and defend my title – it’s good training as well and still I need to improve myself as a driver and I think I can still do that in IRC. What is it you feel is different about you as a driver now and what you were five years ago? Knowing I have been able to pick myself up again after bad things have happened. I feel now much more mature and I’ve learned so much in the last couple of years. Being set back and then really fighting to get where we are now and really fight for where we want to be. Before I was given everything in my hands. I didn’t even ask, I just had it. Now I really need to fight for everything. That is a really good thing and that’s the one thing I’m really proud of myself today. 38 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: RALLY >>> FEATURE