As the first person actually competing with Ott Tänak at the Arctic Rally Finland, I took my job of guiding the pair of us through the stage very seriously.
Cracking on down a hill, I called the fast left-hander confidently.
“It’s flat,” said my Estonian driver.
“It’s all flat,” came the confident reply. “Everywhere. Flat. Unless we want to do a Scandinavian flick…”
Apparently, we wanted to do a Scandinavian flick. So we did. And that’s how I came to be facing the snowbank on the outside of a corner. It wasn’t a problem for the 2019 World Rally Champion. He soon had the sled facing in the right direction again.
But the work of a driver’s never done when you’re competing on the fringes of the Arctic Circle. Happy to be catching the crew ahead – Craig Breen who was being ‘co-driven’ by DirtFish colleague Colin Clark – our speed dipped. There was a problem upfront.
“Stop fighting!” Ott yelled. The first of three pairs of huskies clearly got the message, stopped biting each other and put their backs into hauling us forwards once again.
“Now we’re moving,” he said.
Taking my role as co-driver more seriously, I requested Breen and Clark clear the road to let the clearly quicker (and therefore obviously lighter…) crew come by. The response has no place on a family-friendly website.
With Tänak ready to send us up the inside of a fast-right hander, we hit more trouble with the power units.
I looked up and inspected the issue: “Right-rear dog is…”
Tänak burst out laughing and finished my sentence: “… taking a s***!”
Our challenge was further hindered when our left-rear decided the time had come for a number one. You had to feel for the poor pair at the back, quietly trying to do their toilet business while being hauled mercilessly by four other hounds.
Breen and Clark couldn’t be passed. Second would do for what had been a fantastic – and fragrant – start to the week in this winter wonderland.
Fully embracing Lapland life, the drivers progressed to a reindeer sleigh ride, a shot at ice karting and finally the chance to meet Joulupukki (Finland’s answer to Father Christmas) himself.
The real business of the recce starts in the snow tomorrow. And it still is, by the way, snowing. It’s 10 degrees (-12 Celsius) and the snow’s set to continue through the night.