Takamoto Katsuta was hooked. Seriously hooked. He dipped in for another go and grinned.
There’s always a touch of the anomalous about Finland, but the last two days have taken that a little bit further.
Like earlier, when I discovered Kalle Rovanperä’s Nikes weren’t pink, they were the Finnish version of porridge maroon. Or something similar.
Or now, watching Taka take a photograph of our bag of sweets.
“And these are Finnish?” he said looking admiringly at bag of bilar originals. “I lived here six years and I never found them before.”
And we’re hooked on Finland. Here at DirtFish, we’re the same as you, always counting the days before the best drivers in the world land back on planet fast.
This time, we’re slightly ahead of them. It’s Friday when Team DirtFish touches down in Helsinki.
Why so early? We have a plan.
It’s a plan we’ve been working on for quite a while. It’s a plan which would never have come to fruition without the hard work, commitment and patience of our great friend and Toyota uber-PR guru Hans De Bauw.
Six months ago, on paper, it was entirely simple: take a Toyota driver, put them in a car and drive around the city singing some songs and telling some stories. It’s a concept you might be familiar with.
It was a plan we liked very much. So did Hans.
In fact, Hans liked the cake so much he added a big bunch of cherries.
If you’re having one driver, you must have them all. And what about TP?
How could we forget Jari-Matti Latvala? We couldn’t. And wouldn’t.
But what to drive? The DirtFish renter? Well, if you’re going to take a car, you have to take a Toyota GR Yaris. And if you’re going to take a GR Yaris, why not take Takamoto Katsuta’s recce car?
We agreed. With everything.
And that’s how we ended up at Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Jyskä headquarters on a Sunday morning.
So, we had the wheels, but what about the tunes? Eclectic doesn’t come close.
There was Bon Jovi, Big City Life, Belinda Carlisle with a bit of Avicii and AC/DC thrown in to keep things interesting.
It’s fair to say, some were more engaged in the singing side than others.
Our very own Colin Clark was, naturally, front and center with the tunes. The sight and sound of him and J-ML reminding each other that heaven is a place on earth was special. Lappi’s song selection took a bit longer.
“I don’t listen to music,” he said, slightly apologetically. “Maybe sometimes in the car, but not so much. I didn’t know what to choose. In the end I picked two from the top 50 songs… I don’t know what they’re called. I don’t know the words.”
From Elfyn? Nothing. And no hint of an apology.
“He can make enough noise for both of us,” he grinned nodding at Clark.
He was right. Sensing last year’s Rally Finland winner might not come up with the goods, Colin had done his homework.
Dafydd Iwan singing “Yma o Hyd.”
“Oh yeah,” said Elfyn, “I’ve heard of him. He’s the stadium guy.”
He certainly is. Watching Colin channel his inner Dafydd is almost as amusing as watching Elfyn watch Colin.
Kalle? Ice cool.
Comparing playlists reveals a shared interest in Big City Life, but it’s AC/DC where the real story sits.
Understandably, the choice wasn’t: ‘It’s a long way to the top.’ Rarely could a song title represent the very antithesis of Kalle’s career.
But it was loud.
“This is what Jonne [Halttunen, co-driver] and I listen to when we are getting ready for a big stage,” said the world championship leader.
Being the first in the car, Rovanperä found himself slightly more involved in the technical delivery of the production.
Confronted with the opportunity to pair his phone with the Yaris left Clark slightly bemused. After a significant amount of touch screen abuse, Kalle stopped laughing and took control.
“We could sync my phone,” he said, “but this is Taka’s car.”
Katsuta was last up.
He was very happy to see his sunnies were still in the right place, his boots and spare caps still in the boot and a bag of bilars in the door.
Avicii’s High Hopes was on the money for Taka, but typically Colin took a more medium-term view and looked to the season’s end.
Largely ignoring Katsuta’s choice, Clark steamed in with Alphaville.
A big grin spread across Taka’s face.
“Tom Fowler played this song to me…”
Turn it up.
“Oh, when you’re big in Japan, tonight.”
Come Toyota City in November and Taka will be very big in Japan.
In full voice, there was no stopping Clark. Taka looked a touch concerned.
“David-san,” he said. “What happens now? I should be singing?”
No need. Taka-san. No need.
Elfyn was right, Col was good for the noise.
But the big five brought the stories.