Colin Clark’s WRC Testing diary: Blowing away the cobwebs

Being bitten by 'beasties' in the hot Finland weather doesn't matter when you've been bitten by the rally bug

Colin Clark and Heikki Barsk, Toyota WRC testing in Finland, 15 June 2020

We’re only a few days from Midsummer here in Finland; the sun sets mighty late and rises mighty early. It doesn’t really get dark here at this time of year, which makes sleeping really rather difficult. And they have strange pillows. That doesn’t help either.

Considering how genuinely excited I was about the prospect of being back out on the stages watching World Rally Cars, I somewhat surprisingly slept like a baby. That was until the alarm went off at 5:45am. And I don’t know how I managed to draw the short straw in the DirtFish apartment, but somehow I was first in the shower and the one responsible for making the coffee.

That will change tomorrow morning.

So we boarded the happy bus – our Toyota Proace nine-seater especially designed for safe social distancing – and headed on our merry way towards the pretty village of Korpilahti, Rally Finland’s heartland.

Heikki Barsk, DirtFish Cameraman/Editor, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC testing in Finland, 15 June 2020

Photo: Colin Clark

But first, food. The Finns, much like us Scots, aren’t really known for their culinary excellence. But one thing we do have in common is porridge. It’s delicious served with a generous helping of local strawberry jam. And the best place to indulge in this hearty breakfast? Any of the mighty fine service stations that pop up regularly on the road out of Jyväskylä. So obviously we had to indulge.

One other thing that appealed to me greatly as a Scotsman – the price. A huge bowl of porridge and very decent Finnish coffee for less than five euros. I really do love a bargain!

So all fueled up and ready to go, off we headed to the Toyota test stage.

But we weren’t the only ones heading in that direction. It really doesn’t matter how hard the teams try to keep these test locations secret, there are always those in Finland who are in the know. And they tell their mates, who in turn tell theirs and before you know it, it’s looking like a special stage from Rally Finland.

But you know what, these guys don’t need marshalling; they are as close to professional rally fans as you’ll find anywhere.


Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Under crystal clear blue skies, with the temperature rapidly rising, we were all out to savour that rare, compelling and addictive sight and sound. A flying World Rally Car being driven to the max by a baby-faced prodigy. And let me tell you, Kalle Rovanperä didn’t disappoint.

A 3.75-mile test stage was his playground for the day, and boy did he make the most of his play time. By lunch he’d clocked up in excess of 75 miles and had well and truly blown away those lockdown cobwebs.

I got dusty, I got hot and sweaty, I got a little sunburned and I got eaten alive by all manner of biting beasties.

But I didn’t care, I was out on the stages working again reporting on the greatest motorsport in earth.

So that was day one of what’s shaping up to be a fantastic week of rally testing.

Myself and Heikki, our very talented DirtFish cameraman/editor, are now back at the apartment putting together our video from today’s high octane entertainment.

And again it seems I’ve drawn the short straw. He’s just asked me if I know how to make carbonara. Silly question, of course I do, but better than that, I know where to buy it from. So take away carbonara it is then for dinner.

And then the challenge begins again. How to sleep in a room that doesn’t get dark with a pillow that my cat would reject as not fit for purpose.

Night night folks. Shall we do this all again tomorrow?

Words:Colin Clark

Photos:Toyota Gazoo Racing, Colin Clark