I’ve been working with highly skilled people and fantastic teams – that’s why I’m at this level today, it’s as simple as that! OK – I have also worked very hard all the way to achieve my targets, but rallying is a team-sport.
But what does the phrase “team” means to me? That’s what I’m about to share with you now!
In my younger day’s, I did a sport where it was all up to myself to succeed, and that was alpine skiing. It was myself and my skies, and that’s it. After I turned 16, I switched my focus into a much more complexed sport, which has now become my dream and my life.
Rally is a very complexed sport, probably the most complexed motorsport there is. At least on 4 wheels. Many people believe that it’s just me and my car rallying around the world driving as fast as possible. Even I thought so in the beginning. I’ve now been in the sport for more than 10 years, and I can tell you – it’s not easy to become world champion. The fact that the youngest world champion was 27 years when he did it, proves how hard it is!
Since I started my career in this sport I have been in many different teams. Private teams and big manufacturer teams. Let me explain the road: Ramsport (private team) -> Even Rally team (private team) -> MSD (private team) -> Msport (manufacturer team) -> MRT (private team) -> Skoda UK (semi manufacturer team) -> Volkswagen Motorsport (Manufacturer team) and now part time in Skoda Motorsport (manufacturer team).
As you can see I was driving a lot with private teams early on in my career. Even though these teams are not operating as big as a full manufacturer team, it was an amazing time. I remember starting in the UK when I was 17, driving for my first ever team; Ramsport. A Wales-based team, run by Rob Atkinson. I also moved there for a long time to live with the team. I look back this time with a big smile on my face, and I learned a lot from Rob. It was at this moment all the plans and dreams were made for the future, to one day become a world champ! I have a lot of great memories with this team. I remember that even though I was the driver in the team, I also worked in the workshop too. Cleaning floors and cleaning all the rims I made dirty testing in the muddy Welsh forests. All this was a very good learning process for me.
Since that time I have been in many different teams but I have to say there is 2 teams that stands out. The time I was in Skoda UK and of course the time in Volkswagen Motorsport.
Let me start with Skoda UK. We had a saying together: “Make each other good”. It was all about making each other good, support each other and have each others back at all times. What a family! It was a small international team with a huge passion for Rally. We had people from UK, Italy, France, Norway, Austria, USA and Czech republic. I have to say the commitment from all parts (Cathie, Andy, Checco, Nico and of course Dario in the head-seat) and everyone else involved, was outstanding. How we all worked close together was the key to our success.
When I left Skoda UK to go to Volkswagen Motorsport it was a completely different ball game. Skoda UK was a small team with around 20 people on the rallies we attended. Now we were around 100 people! A very different vibe in the team. It was a full factory team with a bigger budget, but still we had a very strong family feeling in the team. Everyone was treated in the same way. No-one was more worth than the other and this comes from a great management in the team. Jost, Sven, Ralf and all the others always made sure to keep the spirit and to feel that you are part of a family and not a small brick in a big puzzle. I also met a very special man in this team, a curly Irish lad named Richard who was appointed to be my race engineer. What a close relationship that led to! And Richard really helped me to be the rally-driver I am today!
For me it has always been very important to have the feeling that the team is 100% behind you in everything you do. Like I trust them in everything they do, they have to do the same with us. We win and we lose together.
If I should succeed as an athlete, then I have a big responsibility to the people around me. I have to make them good and at the same time show them that I always will do my very best and that nothing will stop me on my journey to reach that top step of the podium at the end of the year.
All the best,