“It was a special day for me as it was my birthday – not that anybody knew this when I was asked if I could work.
However, this was no ordinary working day. WRC TV had been invited to a Hyundai Motorsport test in Germany to spend some time with world champion Ott Tänak.
Ott was going to show us around his high-speed office that is a Hyundai i20 World Rally Car and then give us some insights into how he drives his i20 to victory.
Sitting in rally cars is nothing new to me. I did some driving in my younger days and I’ve also sat in a 2002 Ford Focus RS WRC alongside Markko Märtin and sampled Hyundai’s R5 version of the i20 when it was launched.
But this would be my first taste of a super-aggressive latest generation WRC car.
The day arrived and we met at the test site….the daunting Baumholder military ranges and the sometimes scary Panzerplatte roads.
Ott and co-driver Martin Järveoja were testing in the morning. My turn in the co-driver’s seat would come in the afternoon, which was a good thing as by then hopefully Ott would have some idea of where he was going!
Just after 16:00 I was belted into the passenger seat for a ride that is very rare, one that is normally reserved for superstar co-drivers and not former drivers who now make a living talking about it.
As we reversed out of the service area my head was racing with the questions I had for Tänak – his explanation of what he is doing, how he does it and how he and his rivals make it look so very easy at crazy speeds and angles.
Six minutes later, we were driving back into the service area and I had gained an amazing insight to how and what Ott does behind the wheel of his i20.
As I said, this was my first experience of the latest version of a WRC car and it was everything you would expect it to be – the acceleration, the braking and the commitment of the driver himself – but the things that impressed me were the cornering speeds, how much grip these cars have and how easy Tänak made it look.
I understand Ott maybe wasn’t on an all-out attack on the stage, even though this was a great opportunity for him to scare the living daylights out of me and get me back for all those awkward, tricky and sometimes downright silly questions I’ve asked in the past!
But still, the car just stuck to the road and the faster we went the more stable it felt.
As birthdays go it was a very good one. Thank you to Hyundai and Ott, and not forgetting Martin for letting me borrow his seat if only for a few minutes. And, for future reference, I’m ready to do this type of work again – even on my birthday!”