Monday 03 November:
Hi there wrc.com crew
Aye aye aye, what a rally! Just not my weekend, well it just hasn't been my year this year but okay this is rallying sometimes. It was great to set a fastest stage time but just a shame - especially for all the Expert fans out there - that we retired from the event on Sunday. I was just cruising along but the conditions were so slippery and I think I was braking maybe 100 metres before the corner and we still slid straight on and got stuck in the mud.
Unwinding after a rally is just as important as getting acclimatised before one so after this rally Cato and I tried some of the local cuisine. We went to this small restaurant where you take your shoes off and sit on the floor with some slippers on. I ordered sashimi because I love raw fish and most of it was what I have tried before, Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel... but then the fourth piece was prawns but these were not normal prawns... they were live ones! I couldn't believe he picked these moving prawns out of a tank, peeled the body, and then just put them on a plate kicking away! Okay, I know they say with seafood the fresher the better but this is maybe taking things to the extreme!
After dinner we went back to the team hotel because Malcolm [Wilson, team principal] was putting on some drinks for the whole team on the top-floor bar for all the good work that resulted in Ford finishing 1-2 on the rally. It is nice that the team does these things when they have a good result. It is a real family, not just with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team but with all the M-Sport run teams and that's one of the best things about driving a Focus - plus the team parties ;)
Now we are on the way home from another Japanese experience, no podium this year but I will return looking to change this. We fly from Sapporo to Tokyo to Frankfurt to Oslo so I have some hours ahead now! Thanks for reading my blog and make sure you all tune into wrc.com for the final round next month - Rally GB.
See you later
Well firstly in this blog I have to say that me and everybody in the team would like to say a big GET WELL SOON to our Ford team-mate Patrick Pivato who has been in hospital after the big crash yesterday. I have seen the crash barriers he hit and they look like they could be extremely damaging to the car so I imagine it would have been a very heavy impact. Patrick is one of the cool guys of rally so we hope he will recover from this injury quickly and be back on tour with us again soon.
The last time I wrote for this blog I told you all about my adventures in Tokyo but since then I have been behaving for the rally - well, except for a few sneaky trips to McDonalds near our hotel ;p)
On Thursday I had so many PR things to do and one was pretty strange - even for me. Matthew [Wilson] and I had to plant a tree, along with people from some of the other WRC teams. Apparently planting a tree in Japan signifies a secret bond between two newly met parties - maybe this means Henning Solberg making a secret bond with the podium on Rally Japan 2008? Who knows. Then we had an autograph session inside the massive Sapporo Dome and it was amazing to see all those people inside and to see how polite they acted. They are also pretty crazy compared to most rally fans - one guy was even dressing up as a bright orange pumpkin to support me and the Halloween day... he even had a real pumpkin that he had turned into an Expert rally car! Some of the things these guys in Japan come up with are quite special.
The four proper stages we did yesterday were not so bad but I had the set-up all wrong in the morning and had to change everything at service to find the correct set-up for my driving style. In the end we only managed to do two stages in the afternoon but I thought I would make up for it today by just going for it! This worked okay to begin with because we were the fastest on stage 14. But stage 17 turned out to be a bit of a nightmare.
I don't even know what we hit but all of a sudden the brake disc just exploded and I got a puncture then 7km further on the trailing arm broke and we just couldn't continue.
Tomorrow we will return though and I will be going for nine stage wins! I have to go and talk to Scooter, my engineer now - we have a very close relationship; I tell him what to do with the car and he loses his hair over it!
Rally Japan blog one - Thursday:
Welcome to my first English blog! Sorry if some of the things I write don't make sense but it was just five years ago that I couldn't speak a word of English but okay, I think I have learnt a lot more since then - especially driving with M-Sport.
Cato [Menkerud, Henning's co-driver] and I arrived to Japan last Saturday because we wanted to spend some days in Tokyo because we had so much fun there last year. This time it was no different and we meet up with my brother Petter to firstly go and see some sights like the Tokyo Tower and the Tsukiji fish market.
We also visited the Asakusa Temple where an old Japanese man gave me a small scroll with my fortune on it, hopefully it will be to win Rally Japan but it was all Japanese so who knows... maybe it says I will win the next 100 metres sprint at the Olympics! Highly unlikely I think but I reckon my sponsors would be happy with this ;)
In Tokyo we also ate some amazing sushi - the proper stuff - and it even had salmon all the way from Norway! On Sunday we got the flight up here to Sapporo where it is a bit colder than down on the main island but this is okay because we are used to the cold weather from back home. Last days they say it has been snowing and I have heard that the organisers might even cancel stage three because there is too much snow. I don't think they should do this at all because for me it is much more fun to drive... lots more sideways action!
This morning's shakedown was okay and I think the stadium will be an amazing sight tonight at the ceremonial start with all the fans inside. I will talk to you all again tomorrow after the (hopefully snowy) stages.
Rallye de France final blog - Monday:
As you know, I won the Tour de Corse on Sunday for the fourth year running, while Sebastien Ogier profited from his trip to Corsica to wrap up the 2008 JWRC crown. Sebastien is very talented and it's nice to see more young French drivers arriving on the scene.
In fact we were both in similar situations this weekend, because we both needed strong results for our respective championship bids. I didn't keep such a close eye on Sebastien's times in Corsica as I have tended to do on the other J-WRC rounds, but I did check regularly that he was still running and that everything was going well for him.
Following his mishap in Spain, he wasn't in the easiest of positions before the start, but he showed that he was capable of coping with this sort of situation and that, I think, has done his future chances in the sport a world of good?
It was seven years ago that I took the Junior crown after winning every round, but the importance of that title was only relative because Guy Frequelin had already informed me that I would drive one of the works Citroen Xsara WRCs on the Rallye Sanremo. To tell the truth, that's all I was interested in! I never imagined at the time that I would go on to win the world title four times because I had no idea how well I would perform in a factory WRC car! but everything worked out in the end.
Getting back to this year, we failed to make sure of the two world titles in Corsica, so everything will be settled either in Japan or Wales. Before flying out to Asia, I intend to go to Paris because I haven't visited this year's Paris Motor Show yet. And perhaps by then Valentine will have started walking. She's gaining in confidence all the time and the big day isn't far off. I just hope I will be there when she does make her first steps before having to leave for Sapporo!"
Rallye de France blog two - Saturday :
Things haven't gone too badly since my last post! We're nine stages into the rally, and we were fastest on all of them, so it's all looking fairly good. At this point in the rally, my biggest rival is probably myself: it is absolutely vital that I stay concentrated to avoid making a mistake, which really isn't the sort of situation I enjoy the most!
Dani retired yesterday, so there's only me left to defend Citroen's chances now, but I've tried not to let that change my approach; I don't want to put myself under extra pressure by feeling that I've got less right to make a mistake than usual. That's not the sort of thing you want to have on your mind as you're being counted down to a stage start.
I pushed very hard yesterday because I wanted to pull out a gap over the Fords, but I started to lift a little this morning, especially over the damper portions. I've also been taking care of my tyres because today's stages are particularly abrasive. That didn't stop me from posting fastest times on all three first time round, though, and I intend to keep up the same sort of pace this afternoon, because it seems to be working for me.
As in Spain, our sponsor Red Bull has set up the Red Bull Energy Station in the service park. It's a shame I haven't got more time to profit from it - they do a great espresso! All my friends who have made the trip to Corsica to cheer us on this weekend on sampled a few of the Red Bull-based cocktails yesterday evening, and I've been told they continued well into the night, trying out some of Ajaccio's night spots!
Hopefully, I will be able to join them for more of the same on Sunday night, because that will mean that the Tour of Corsica ended successfully for us!
Rallye de France blog one - Thursday:
As you can probably imagine, we've hardly had time to draw breath since the finish of the Catalunya Rally. But at least we managed to celebrate our win on Sunday night: there is no shortage of places to party in Salou! Then we took the plane to Ajaccio on Monday morning. Luckily my wife Severine and my little daughter Valentine came too, as well as my parents in law as babysitters. It's really nice for me to have my family with me, and I would have found it difficult to be separated from my daughter for two whole weeks!
The most difficult thing was finding any time to relax. On Monday afternoon, we already started the recce of the shakedown stage! We didn't have the chance to do any tourism, which was a shame as the countryside in Corsica is stunning. I'd love to come and spend a few days' holiday here, but the current recce rules actually make this quite complicated. As it was important to be at full strength for the rally, we at least sampled some of the island's gastronomic delights. I still remember now an absolutely fantastic side of beef that we enjoyed. The restaurant is called 'Villa de Rome' and I recommend it highly if you are ever passing by.
The recce went well, even though it was hard to resist the call of the beach sometimes! As is the case every year, I was visited by one of my more unusual fans. Her name is Joy and she is a Yorkshire terrier. Joy wears a baseball cap that I have dedicated to her on two occasions. This time, Joy's owner asked me to sign some photos. I'm sure they will make a great addition to any kennel!
Today we did the traditional shakedown, before the usual round of interviews and press conferences started. I also caught up with Sebastien Ogier at the Equipe de France FFSA presentation. After a difficult Catalunya Rally, he will need to have a strong weekend here in Corsica if he wants to win the J-WRC title.
It's time for me to go now, but I very much hope to have some good news when I write next!
Rally de Espana blog three - Sunday:
Since I wrote my note to you last night from the service park, the rally has finished. And thanks to our team mates Francois [Duval] and Patrick [Pivato] we finished on the podium and they finished fourth. They've been great team mates all weekend. After a difficult weekend we didn't think we'd be standing on the podium this afternoon. And it's thanks to them that we are.
Those of you who have never done a sports event before wouldn't know what that feels like, standing up there in front of thousands of fans. It's a strange feeling on a normal Sunday afternoon but this afternoon it was like standing up there in somebody else's shoes. If I get to talk to you in a years' time, then I hope I'm talking to you from the middle position on that podium - that's all I can say.
Now it's time to put this rally behind us and start to focus on Corsica. Actually we've been thinking about Corsica since Friday morning. We're definitely going to fight like hell next weekend.
So once we get back to the hotel we'll do a debrief with our engineers to talk about this weekend and what we want for Corsica. It's Sunday afternoon, still got the post event FIA press conference to do and tomorrow morning we fly at 11.00 to Ajaccio. Normally we'd have more time to think about the next event but in 36 hours we'll be starting the recce in Corsica so maybe we need a couple of beers tonight in Salou.
Tomorrow morning we head to Reus airport to get the rally organisers flight to Ajaccio. If you're a rally fan, it's the flight to be on. Every driver and co-driver is on that flight. If you're at Reus airport in the morning, get your autograph book out!
We'll be in Ajaccio by lunchtime. Time for a run and playing poker with my safety crew. So that will empty my mind and my wallet - a good way to forget about this weekend.
It's been a difficult three days and we're a bit exhausted. So I'm going to go to the press conference now.
Thanks for reading my blog everybody, speak to you soon.