I’ve got to be honest, it was with genuine excitement that I searched for my passport and packed my bag on Saturday afternoon. Finally, after three months of talking about rallying, I was going back to work properly.
And going back to work brought novelties we’ve lived without since March, novelties like setting an alarm clock – when did you last do that? I’d almost forgotten how to do it. Luckily, I got it right and four o’clock Sunday morning I was up and on the M40 heading south to Heathrow.
And how bizarre was it to be back in the airport again. Everything was closed. Everything except Boots and WH Smith. After a long queue for check-in, I was ready for a cup of coffee. There wasn’t a coffee shop open, not even a machine. The only option? One of those cans of cold coffee from Boots.
I wasn’t that desperate. Instead, I went for an Innocent smoothie. One of the energy-boosting jobbies. I drank that and fell fast asleep on the plane.
I’ll admit, it was a bit odd getting on the Finnair flight and being completely surrounded by folk in masks – even more odd when a girl in full hazmat suit and goggles sat next to me. Never mind, I slept well.
It was a similarly quiet story in Helsinki. Just nobody around. Being in airports with no atmosphere, no announcements, no hustle and bustle is just plain weird. You know it’s something serious when they close the bars in Finnish airports!
Through immigration with no problem. The nice man asked to see proof of what I was doing – I showed him my letter from the Rally Finland organizers.
“Ah!,” he said, “you go to see Mr Mäkinen. OK, straight to work and straight home. Talk to nobody.”
Onto the hire car desk for an early win with a pre-booked Smart turning out to be Toyota Proace Verso. Loosely speaking, it’s a bus – which is handy, it leaves well more than two meters between myself and DirtFish cameraman Heikki Barsk when I’m driving and he’s in seat nine, row three!
Very, very hot in Finland. It was 27 degrees all the way up the road.
And now the feeling was even more strange, driving down the E63 past Ouninpohja, Leustu and Himos stages and then into Jyväskylä past some of the hotels where we’ve stayed so many times.
But this time no Neste Rally Finland flags, no feeling of the rally being in town. Very strange.
Heikki and I are in a big Team DirtFish apartment up near the Killeri stage – lots of space and lots of room to socially distance.
Now, time for some sleep. Early start in the morning.
Boy, it’s great to be back at work.