Yesterday was Michael Schumacher’s 45th birthday, and like everyone all over the world, we were shocked to hear of his terrible accident and wish him the very best for a full recovery.
As our own small birthday present to Michael, we’d like to look back on happier times and remember when he had his first taste of rallying: during a winter test almost exactly 10 years ago, at the beginning of 2004.
Petter Solberg had just won the WRC title, and as Schumacher had a winter home in Norway close to chez Solberg, the two world champions were quite friendly.
It so happened that Schumacher was at home when Solberg was doing some winter testing with Subaru and the inevitable happened, with Schumacher ending up in the car, on a road close to the Swedish border.
Subaru did their best to keep the whole thing top secret, but an intrepid Norwegian camera crew and some photographers got wind of it and captured the moment. Some of it, anyway, as they were kept at a very discreet distance, although one photographer shinned up a snowy tree (which is why journalists often call photographers “monkeys”) to get the best view. The picture was blurry, but there was no doubt about it: this was Michael Schumacher emerging from a Subaru Impreza WRC.
Much later, Solberg spoke about it, saying that Schumacher got out of the car: “jumping up and down like crazy.”
“Michael came up for about three hours,” Solberg said at the time. “He loved it. He wanted to know all about the set-up and my technique. Trouble is, I never think about my technique. I just do it.”
“Then we went out in the car. I didn’t hold back. My feet were going like drumsticks on the pedals. It was quite a run: 26 kilometres, no pace notes and some big jumps, all at maximum attack.”
“He looked as if he enjoyed it. He got out of the car and was jumping up and down like crazy.”
The official version, in strict accordance with his Ferrari contract, claimed naturally that Schumacher was only a passenger in the car. There’s a strong rumour though that he drove it: competitors like him normally prefer the seat with the steering wheel in front of it rather than the one facing the glove box. The clincher? One of the blurry photographs showed Schumacher getting out of the driver’s side. Of course, he could just have been trying it for size, but…
One thing is for sure: the German world champion thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and there’s nothing we would like more than to see him enjoy something similar again.
Get well soon Michael.