Finland’s Kaj Lindstrom will be one of the most experienced co-drivers to take the start of Rally Argentina next week.
This year’s rally will mark the fifth time the 44-year-old has contested the event and he and compatriot Jari Ketomaa will start as one of the WRC2 favourites in their Drive DMack World Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5.
But Lindstrom doesn’t have particularly fond memories of Rally Argentina after suffering a heavy accident in 2002 that almost ended his WRC career.
Lindstrom was at the height of his co-driving career sitting alongside four-time world champion Tommi Makinen when their Subaru Impreza left the road in sixth gear and rolled violently into the Argentinian undergrowth.
“I had a big crash with Tommi in Argentina in 2002 and I had a problem with my left hip after that,” he explained. “I had a surgery in 2007 to put an implant in my hip. Everything was turned upside down when the doctors said I couldn’t go in a rally car again.”
Lindstrom, who partnered Kristian Sohlberg at Mitsubishi and Tobias Johansson in a private Subaru after Makinen retired, feared his career was over. But he was given a second chance in 2008 when an FIA doctor assessed his condition and deemed him fit to return to the co-driving seat. He hasn’t looked back.
“I have been very happy to be back in the rally car after being told I could never do co-driving again,” Lindstrom said.
The Monte Carlo Rally winner has been a regular figure in the WRC service park ever since, enjoying two high-profile seasons alongside former F1 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, before teaming up with current driver Ketomaa in 2013.
Lindstrom acknowledges that his career at the highest level is probably over but he’s definitely still enjoying his rallying and sharing his vast experience with drivers like Ketomaa.
“For sure, my career has been good but it’s not at the same level it was when I was with Tommi,” he said. “My experiences with Tommi – the feedback always came straight away whether it was good or bad, right or wrong – have been a big help when I’ve been in the car with not so experienced drivers.
“Jari has been close to the top for a long time and is a very talented driver. He’s been quite calm in the car with me and I don't need to teach him anything. He knows that as a driver. But maybe I can calm him down in some places. That’s the most important role that I have at the moment.”
Lindstrom is hoping for a smoother run on this year’s Rally Argentina compared to the one he endured with Makinen in 2002. Referencing his accident 12 years ago, he said: “I don’t want to get on that rollercoaster again this year.”