Our publication is one of the very few titles that still puts the time and effort into not only providing much needed support and ink to local motorsport, but covers international motorsport too.
As part of this service to our readers we preview the World Rally Championship (WRC) the week before each round takes place somewhere in the world, and then a wrap and results of the same event appears in the main paper on the Monday morning.
So from a serious facts and figures point of view, we have your needs covered.
When we received an invite to the WRC Neste Rally Finland as guests of Toyota Gazoo Racing via Toyota South Africa, I jumped at the chance to tick off another bucket list item and have some fun in a town called Jyväskylä (pronounced ‘U-vas-cular’.
An even bigger positive for this weekend was that the team celebrated victory on home soil after Ott Tänak sealed a hugely impressive win by setting the fastest time on the Power Stage.
Jari-Matti Latvala clinched third place to give the team a fantastic double podium.
The result moves the Toyota Gazoo World Rally Team to within one point of second place in the manufacturers’ standings and closes the gap to the top to 27 points.
In the drivers’ standings, Tänak remains third but has closed up to the top two drivers. Round nine of the 2018 season will be Rally Deutschland on August 16 to 19.
Three rallies in one on German asphalt: twisting roads through Mosel vineyards, the tough Baumholder military area and the fast country lanes of Saarland, and I can’t wait for the outcome of this one.
But I thought it would be a cool idea to maybe throw some fun facts around about the WRC event in Finland, the cars, the place, the people and the beers, for those of you who maybe don’t follow world rallying seriously or have never been to Finland.
Finland is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe, with only about 5.5 million people living in the entire country, and I think I have an idea why.
Summer, when temperatures hit the high 20s° Celsius and early 30s° Celsius mark, lasts for what for them feels like only a few weeks at best, then it swings into a very long and dark, snow-covered winter, that gets down into the -20° Celsius zone.
That is a temperature swing of about 50° Celsius, but that does not stop them from enjoying a proper sauna, naked, in the middle of winter, before tucking into a good old-fashioned plate of reindeer.
Sorry kids, Santa might be a little late delivering your presents this year, but his transport sure tastes good. Reindeer is so common though that we were offered it as an alternative to beef at one of our dinners.
And by the way, when I said naked, I mean it’s not completely uncommon to find somebody taking a gentle stroll out to or from the hotel sauna, through the lobby, without a stitch of clothing on.
Or popping up, so to speak, to greet you when found relaxing in the lake on a hot summer’s evening.
Jyväskylä is a city of only about 240 000 people, just North of Helsinki, and I think every person in town, plus a good few other thousand from around the world, were there as we were told there were over 300 000 spectators to watch what is considered the fastest WRC event on the calendar.
The only thing quicker than the FIA controlled, 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-charged WRC cars, which weigh in at a minimum weight of only 1190kg and are limited to a power output of about 280kW and a torque of 425Nm, was the rate at which a beer by the name of Karjala was consumed on the weekend.
This beer comes in ‘man sized’ 500ml cans, as one of the locals pointed out to me when I ordered a ‘normal’ size beer in a bottle.
This is the preserve of the fairer sex apparently. And these ‘man sized’ beers are ordered by the six-pack, singles are also for the ladies.
Is it a great beer? I am not so sure, but they went down well during the sweltering days of chasing WRC cars around in the forests and dust with happy, heavily tattooed blonde Vikings.
The morning after the special stage, camping sites looked a little like ancient battlefields.
Where the dead and wounded had fallen, so they lay, and the living carried on around them. But the passion for motorsport and having a good time alone is something to experience.
And I am so privileged to have been able to do so.
Toyota Gazoo Racing
Over the years, Toyota has participated in many different forms of motorsport, including Formula One, the World Endurance Championship and the Nürburgring 24 Hours endurance race, World Rally Championship, and even in our home engineered, locally powered Toyota Hilux, Dakar series.
These activities were conducted by separate entities in the company, such as Toyota Racing, Lexus Racing and Gazoo Racing.
The teams comprised employees from Toyota departments in the belief that “the roads build the people, and the people build the cars”.
This was in line with the thinking of Toyota’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda, who said in 1952: “Car racing … is vital to the development of the Japanese passenger vehicle industry.
“Just as athletes test their capabilities by competing with all their strength in the Olympics, automakers use racing as an opportunity to push a vehicle’s performance to the limits and compete for supremacy, enabling them to discover new ways of advancing automotive technology.”
With this in mind, in April 2015, Toyota went back to the basics and united Toyota’s motorsports activities into Toyota Gazoo Racing, making motorsports fundamental to its commitment to make ever-better cars.
They race their cars to learn from the toughest challenges.