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Two in a row!

What a rush these last two races have been. Taking two overall wins in a row against all the respectable competitors that I have the honour of competing against has been an absolute pleasure. Let’s break these races down.

The “Kemi Rally” started early on a very dry and sunny Saturday. It was gonna be a long race, made up by a total of 160 stage kms. According to the rules, any race 160kms or longer is allowed to count towards more points. The total points given were going to be 125% of a standard race so from our point of view we had to strike back in the championship fight against Daniel and Erika to take back the points lead after a second place finish in the first round.

The recce went really well and we had a good feeling that we were going to be quick in this event. Me and Ísak set off into the first stage and gave it everything, the rhythm was right there at the start and the setup was also very good, although maybe not optimal for the loose sections. A very critical aspect of our performance was that we had arrived

on brand new tires and the benefit was noticeable right away. In this first stage we managed to build a lead of 15 seconds, helped perhaps in some way by Daniel and Erika having some sort of fuel related issue that Daniel described to my as loosing him some time on the very fast sections in the Kaldidalur stage. After the first two stages through Kaldidalur were done, we had a somewhat comfortable buffer of 32 seconds over Danni and Erika so going into the third stage that took place on Uxahryggir we took a measured approach and tried to manage the gap a little. Afterwards however, we saw that Danni had fixed his issue and took back 13 seconds. We knew he was very quick on that stage but that was way to much time lost so we responded on the next stage (also Uxahryggir) and lost a much more modest 3 seconds. We were however determined to strike back and rebuild our lead in the next stage which was a rerun of Kaldidalur. Midway through the stage however we saw Danni and Erika on the side of the road and retiring from the race.

A truly bitter sweet moment because I was really enjoying the fight until then, and what was worse was that the driving suddenly became a lot more difficult because now I had a lot more breathing room behind me and started to drive more cautiously, strangely that was a bit more difficult. Maybe its just that now it would be a lot more embarrassing to make a mistake. In any case, we managed to keep our head down and drive through the rest of the rally without putting a foot wrong and take the win as well as 3 extra points from the power-stage.

I was very happy with the event overall, the weather was great, the stages were absolutely fantastic although not very many and we came back home with maximum points and the car in excellent condition. Just how I like to do it.

We were riding a confidence wave going into round 3. The "Ljómarally" at Sauðárkókur in the northern part of Iceland. So confident were we that Ísak, my co-driver went on holiday, came back to do the rally and then left to finish his holiday the next morning. If that doesn’t scream overconfidence I don’t know what does. I have to say I was also feeling very confident before the race, we still had very good tires, we shipped our front Öhlins damper to Sweden for a rebuild and I made some suspension tweaks before the event that i was confident in.

For Ísak and me the week

end started early on the Friday before the race, we drove from the city centre for about 3,5 hours towards the Legendary Mælifellsdalur stage and started our reconnaissance. It was very damp and the grip was all over the place, some corners were very slippery and in other places there was plenty of grip. In the Vesturdalur stage it was a different story, the road was way smoother that I had ever seen it before and the river crossing was very shallow. Some good news for us as our Evo X is not the best car over rough terrain were as Daniel and Erika are usually very quick through the rough stuff. Come Saturday morning we set of out of park farme towards stage one brimming with self confidence. It had dried up a bit during the night and we weren’t expecting rain during the race so the conditions on the stage were a bit unknown, was it going to be slippy or not?

The event started with 4 runs through the 23km long Mælifellsdalur stage. I got into a very fast groove straight away and the suspension setup that I had been so confident in before turned out to be perfect for the conditions because all the slippy corners had dried up completely. We still had some corners noted as “slippy” in our notes so we took those very carefully. That didn’t stop us having a half spin roughly 15kms into the stage, a bit of time lost but no harm done to the car. Comparing times at stage end we realised we beat Danni and Erika by 13 seconds, a good start but the real fight was just about to start. In the next stages we continued to push as hard as we could and try our best to build a lead. On stage 2 we took another 2 seconds, then 3 and then 5 seconds on stage 4.

The pace and the conditions were so good that we realised that we were one second from beating a stage record set by the Legend himself, Rúnar Jónsson.

The next two stages were two runs back and forth through Vesurdalur and thankfully we had built a lead of 23 seconds before those stages because Danni and Erika came back and took a total of 9 seconds through those two 10k stages. So we arrived back at Sauðárkrókur with 14 seconds in hand before two runs through the Nafir stage, a spectator friendly 2,5km long stage. The rally was ours to loose at this point but in rallying, anything will and often does happen so we kept our pace up and matched Danni and Erika on the first stage and then lost 2 seconds on the second one. We held onto the lead by 12 seconds in the end. Were as our previous victory was a little biter sweet, this one has to be my all time favourite. I beat Daniel Sigurdsson on merit and that is something I will always be extremely proud of, I shook his hand at the finish line and thanked him for a truly memorable fight. I hope you, the spectators enjoyed it as much as me!

I am as always extremely thankful for my sponsors, my mechanics crew, my family and everyone else who has supported me through these two amazing races.

Now that we have reached the midway point in the championship we are once again sitting in first place in the points going into the rally of all rallies, Rally Reykjavík. Even though we now have quite a sizeable lead over second placed Danni and Erika, I know very well that all that can disappear in the next race. Especially because this next round is worth 1.5x the points of a regular race and one DNF can set us back to 3rd in the championship. on top of that it is also an endurance race that is expected to be around 300 stage kms long. It’s a bit of a shame because it is now a lot less likely that the spectators can enjoy a thrilling fight to the end. For me it’s too risky to take chances and drive at a 100% to win rather than just finish in a safe 2nd place because retirement in this race is absolutely devastating. I have personally DNF’d twice in Rally Reykjavík and in both cases either seen my title chances dwindle severely ore go completely out the window. But I won’t lie, I really want to ad a win in Rally Reykjavík to my tally.

We will see what were going to do, until then, thank you for reading.

Check out my youtube channel and be sure to subscribe to see my onboard from Kaldidalur and Mælifellsdalur.

I also suggest you follow me on Instagram @gunnarkarl_rallydriver for more content and updates on race day.


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