I’ve got to be honest and say I have really enjoyed the first four months of my time as Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal.
The honour I felt when I was offered this job remains and every day I work to make sure I am paying back the confidence my friends and colleagues in Japan placed in me to offer me this job.
It’s been a pretty amazing start to the season for us. We won two from three rallies and we’re leading the manufacturers’ drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships.
Like all of you, COVID-19 has made some changes to what would have been my normal working life. I have an office in Jyväskylä, but because of the pandemic I have been working a lot in the home office. I have to be honest and say I quite like this, I’ve quite enjoyed not being tied so much to one place. After so long travelling the world and being away so much, I’m not ready to spend all of my time behind the desk just yet.
Away from rallies, the mix is nice. Take this week, I have been in Tallinn having a look at the operation over there in Estonia. I’d say I’m there twice a month. Then I’m two days in Jyväskylä and then I’m also at home, which is good – it means I can still take a look into my own business.
My own business with the preparation of cars and running the museum was starting to get really busy, so I have asked a family friend of more than 35 years to step in and take this over for me. This helps. I could not consider to do both!
When we are on rallies, it’s definitely different to be following the cars from the service park.
I’m enjoying the chance to have some input. Like in Rallye Monte-Carlo when Séb [Ogier] was wondering whether to follow what [Thierry] Neuville had done in the morning and take used tyres. I was able to talk to Séb, to talk about the tyres, but also about the road position to remind him of a couple of things and maybe give him some more confidence from my own experience.
Of course the decision was his own for tyres, but he went with the new ones that I had suggested and he was fastest. I like that. I like to deal with the drivers and find some solutions.
And I’m also looking forward to driving my own car again. When I started this job I said I wanted to keep doing some events myself. I’ve done one rally this year already and it will be nice to get behind the wheel of my Toyota [Celica GT-4] again. I was thinking to do some European historic events, but with coronavirus it’s been really complicated to try to sort that out. And I don’t forget that now I am 110% team principal.
And with that in my mind the complete focus is towards Portugal and Sardinia – two rallies in three weeks where we have a real opportunity with our fantastic crews and cars.
Really, I have to tell you, it is a special feeling for me when I am seeing my name next to my job title. It makes me so proud, but I also understand the hard work and the expectation which comes with that job.
I’m ready for the next four months – and I can only hope that they are going as well as the first four!