It’s human nature to want something in return.
Anybody who’s watched the popular US sitcom Friends will recall the episode where Phoebe Buffay challenges Joey Tribbiani to find a selfless good deed.
There aren’t many. Even in the most extraorindary acts of kindness, the return comes through the gratification of helping others – knowing you’ve done the right thing.
In rallying terms, it’s rare to find anybody who’ll go to these lengths. Help normally comes with a price tag attached, and why shouldn’t it?
But there’s a high-profile Swedish driver who does things a little bit differently.
“In 2021 I needed help with setup of the car and with pacenotes, so I called Tom and I said ‘can I pay you to come and help me with this?'” rising Swedish driver Calle Carlberg tells DirtFish.
“He said ‘of course’, so we had a day where he taught me a lot about rallying, about life, about everything and then he said ‘you don’t need to pay me, I just want to help.’
“So from that day we have had a lot of contact over phone, he’s helped me with everything in life not just rallying. He’s like a mentor to me.”
It’s an extraordinary reminder that there really are good people in the world. And it’s worth remembering that 2021 was probably one of the most difficult years of Kristensson’s life, as he battled to find budget to fund his WRC2 program with M-Sport – his prize for winning the 2020 Junior WRC title.
For him to have found the time to support another driver, and do so expecting nothing back, under any circumstances is remarkable, but under those ones is exceptional.
Carlberg, unsurprisingly, agrees.
“He was fighting every day to find budget to drive, and even with such a tough year behind me he still helped me to do the last round of the Swedish championship which… still to this day I cannot imagine how or why he was able to do it, but he’s just that guy,” he says.
“I think the main part is that I know in rallying it’s all about money and I think both me and Tom come from quite similar backgrounds, [we] don’t have family with a company with a lot of money, we had to do all of this by ourself.
“And I think that’s what he’s helping me with a lot.”
The relationship between the two Swedes remains very open. As Carlberg mentioned, back in 2021 Kristensson’s support – hiring a Rally4 car for Carlberg to compete in – allowed him to win the junior title in Sweden.
This year Carlberg found himself in a similar position – facing a budget shortfall ahead of the final round of the Opel e-Rally Cup, Central European Rally. Step forward Kristensson who, along with his partners, has once again helped ensure Carlberg – the current championship leader – has a shot at the title.
So why? What’s actually in it for Kristensson?
If he wouldn't have helped me [compete in] that last event of 2021, I would never have been Swedish champion, and then I would've never got these thoughts to go to EuropeCalle Carlberg
“He’s a very hard working guy,” Kristensson tells DirtFish. “I can see myself in Calle quite a lot from that time when I was at his point in his career, and everything just gets tougher.
“Swedish krona now is so weak, so this is one of the main reasons why I like to help him and it’s a little bit of a push for the other Swedish people. It’s so common for people to write on social media, especially in Sweden, ‘aw they should be in Finland to get support, everything happens in Finland’ but nothing is just happening, someone is working for it.
“Somebody is giving the opportunities to these drivers, and this is one of the main reasons I would like to support this guy in this way.
“I was trying to do one more rally for my season but I didn’t find a good agreement, so it’s better for me to spend this small budget for this guy because it is helping him a lot more, it makes a big difference for him.”
Carlberg couldn’t be more grateful, labelling Kristensson’s help “crucial” for his career to-date.
“It’s quite clear to see that if he wouldn’t have helped me [compete in] that last event of 2021, I would never have been Swedish champion, and then I would’ve never got these thoughts to go to Europe, go to this electric rally cup,” he says.
“I would maybe be in the old Volvo just for fun so I think that was one of the most crucial parts of my career until today.”
I really can hope that people see that I'm not so selfish! I try to give something back, not only takeTom Kristensson
Supporting a younger driver is perhaps to be expected from retired drivers who are looking to give something back to the sport that gave them so much, or individuals who have the funding and wish to live vicariously through those they are supporting.
But for an active driver (don’t forget Kristensson was competing in the European Rally Championship earlier this year and is still working on his own plans for 2024) to do so is very rare.
“It’s basically this question is one of the reasons why I’m doing it, because it’s something that nobody else is doing,” Kristensson says.
“You’re only focusing on yourself and what will I do for the next step etc? Now I am supporting young people around me as good as I can, because when I was there I was hoping for someone like me to do pacenote practice, have some chat about how to collect sponsors and what to discuss with them in meetings.
“Now I am also able to give some budget as well, which is the main thing to drive of course. I really can hope that people see that I’m not so selfish! I try to give something back, not only take.”
The ultimate vindication for Kristensson’s efforts would be a second championship title for Carlberg in three years.
Happily, that appears to be in safe hands.
“I think I can finish fourth with some powerstage points and I win, but it’s not over until it’s over!” Carlberg nervously laughs.
“I need to not think about Central European Rally and the pressure and everything, I just need to enjoy what I’m doing. So I’m trying to do that – Tom said that a lot to me as well. Just take a deep breath and enjoy it.
“All year we haven’t focused anything on the championsip, we’ve just approached it meter by meter, corner by corner, stage by stage. I try to win every stage, and I’m always driving with a bit of margin but I just approach it like normal.
“I hate to lose, so I want to win this one as well!”