Spotlight on Peugeot Sport's Finns: Locally-bred talent-- Peugeot Sport's entry for the most spectacular round of the championship, Rally Finland, will be an all-Finnish affair. Marcus GrÃ¶nholm, Timo Rautiainen, Harri RovanperÃ¤ and Risto ...
Spotlight on Peugeot Sport's Finns: Locally-bred talent--
Peugeot Sport's entry for the most spectacular round of the championship, Rally Finland, will be an all-Finnish affair. Marcus Grönholm, Timo Rautiainen, Harri Rovanperä and Risto Pietilainen talk about their rally and their home country--
Q: What is it you like the most about Rally Finland?
Marcus Grönholm: "The stages are fantastic, even though they are technically very demanding and call for extremely tight racing lines. You need to be so concentrated that it's actually not that much fun on the spur of the moment. It's more a rally you savour afterwards, when it's all over - especially when you win."
Timo Rautiainen: "I don't really like the famous yumps ever since I ended up with a bad back a few years ago after the awesome Ouninpohja jumps, but I do love the rally's fast stages which are always very smooth. The organisers know which ones cut up and they only programme them once over the rally weekend."
Harri Rovanperä: "Thanks to the quality of the stages, there's always a very fierce, close-run battle between a number of drivers. You need to push very hard to pick up every possible tenth of a second and that's just so exhilarating. It's not a coincidence that this event is also known as the Jyväskylä Grand Prix."
Risto Pietilainen: "The event used to be known as the 1000 Lakes Rally, but we've always known it mainly as the 1000 Jumps Rally. Sitting in the right-hand seat, feeling the car take off at speed just after you've called a fast-arriving corner gives you such a tremendous adrenaline rush."
Q: Is the special motivation that you Finns call 'sisu' a decisive advantage on your home event?
Marcus: "Yes and no. We really want to do well on home soil, but all our non-Finnish rivals all dream of beating us and are therefore especially fired up. And while the support we get from the spectators is really heart-warming, it doesn't give you any extra speed. The right-hand pedal is already pressed as far as it will go anyway. You could even say we run the risk of perhaps wanting to do just a little too well--"
Timo: "Our so-called 'sisu' is the same whatever the event, but it's true that it is lifting to compete in front of your fellow countrymen and friends;"
Harri: "It's mostly the beauty of our stages which makes you want to go maximum attack, but this is something that is shared by all the drivers in the World Championship, Finns and non-Finns."
Risto: "You always give your best whatever the rally. The support we get from the spectators is always very nice and you do feel it when you're inside the car."
Q: What is the most important part of a rally car to be competitive in Finland?
Marcus: "It's a package. The easier a car is to drive the easier it is to feel confident when you push hard."
Timo: "The best thing is to have a Peugeot. This year, we know the 307 has a good engine, effective suspension and very good tyres. But if I had to choose just one factor, I would say the differentials--"
Harri: "You need a strong, powerful engine because you spend so much time at full throttle. However, having a good set-up which enables you to feel confident is important too."
Risto: "The main thing for me is the suspension, because of the famous jumps. Flying so high and over such long distances might be great for the photographers but you can't accelerate when you're in the air. It's best to be in contact with the ground so you can exploit every bit of the engine's power--"
Q: You don't spend much time in your home country. What do you miss the most about Finland when you're travelling?
Marcus: "A normal life. Being at home, looking after my farm, doing all the good things in day to day life and having some time to myself--"
Timo: "When I'm away, I miss my family and also, and this might come as a surprise to some, our little restaurants. They may be a little expensive but they are pleasant and friendly, and you know you will get a good choice of fresh, natural produce."
Harri: "The Finnish summer; taking time off in a chalet where there's no noise, but where there's a sauna and, of course, a lake."
Risto: "Apart from my family and friends, the thing I miss the most is the pure, fresh air we breathe at home."
Q: Not so long ago, you were a young spectator watching the 1000 Lakes Rally. What do you remember of those days?
Marcus: "My father competed in rallies and he used to take me along with him, but I always made him despair because I spent so much time asleep! You have to understand that the events were mostly run in winter and in the dark. But thanks to him, when I was a teenager, I got to meet the likes of Markku Alen, Hannu Mikkola and Ari Vatanen. They were my idols and I actually went on to compete against them for a short period."
Timo: "I wasn't that interested in rallying when I was a kid. I went to watch the 1000 Lakes Rally for the first time at the age of fourteen but I didn't understand much of what was going on. It was only afterwards, during the Group B era, that I got hooked. I started by doing a little servicing and then one day, at the age of 23, I found myself in the right-hand seat of a rally car--"
Harri: "When I was young, we went to watch the 1000 Lakes Rally every year. More often than not it rained, but we didn't care. I still remember the smell of the rally cars driving over damp ground, and it still makes me feel good."
Risto: "As a kid, when I saw the drivers and the speeds at which they drove, I was a little overawed. I thought they were completely crazy! I never imagined that I would one day end up doing the same thing^Å"
Q: What is your fondest memory of competing on your home round of the World Championship?
Marcus: "The 1992 event, driving a Group A Toyota Celica. That was a super souvenir because I showed that I was quick, but it was also the worst memory because I went off on Stage 5--"
Timo: "I think, like me, he really prefers our first win on the event in 2000, with the 206 WRC--"
Harri and Risto, same answer: "My best memory is the 2000 event when we finished 3rd driving a privately-run Toyota. It was that result that sparked off our joining Peugeot Sport. My worst memory was last year when we broke the car in the very first stage."