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GP Week : Issue 17
5 Minutes with ... Markku Alen THIRTY years ago Markku Alen captivated spectators with his personal rally slogan ‘Maximum Attack’. His style won him 20 world championship rallies and nearly the title. Today he is still around the rally paddocks and as determined as ever to make a mark, this time for his son Anton In 1975 Markku won his first world championship rally at the wheel of a factory Group 4 Fiat Abarth 124 and Anton (who joined Fiat at the start of 2007) last year won his first IRC event, Rally Russia, at the wheel of a factory Fiat Abarth Grande Punto S2000. In fact there are two young sporting Alens – Anton and his brother Andre, whose sporting ambitions are in another direction, snowboarding. Anton actually went into snowboarding first and then stopped to take up rallying – Andre who is one year older, has since followed on. Both of them, in their own ways, know you will never win anything unless you try hard. This is the second year Markku has been following his son Anton in his IRC challenge. GPWEEK: Looking at how Anton is progressing, would you have preferred to have lived one generation later? MARKKU ALEN: It is now much more difficult. I was lucky. I was able to start winning straightaway in Finnish championship rallies in the Junior category. My father could afford to get me into a dealer team. It was all straightforward. You could get noticed driving a very standard car if you went flat out! The ‘70s and ‘80s were really fantastic times – five or even seven manufacturers doing the big events, beautiful cars, good sponsors A lot of that is missing today. It is like people nowadays are more interested in making a show rather than sport. Nowadays everything is complicated, but it is an interesting story that Anton is in the same team where I was. I spent 12 or 13 years in that team. What did you and your wife feel when Anton got his first big IRC win, last year in Russia? Fantastic. Both of us, me and Marianne – who was an accomplished rally driver in her own right – know this sport so well, were thrilled. She also knows how difficult the sport is. What do you think about the Super 2000 cars? I have never driven one, but they are looking nice. I love their noise, much more than World Rally Cars. They make me think of the sounds like back in the Fiat Abarth 131 days. The package is not bad at all. Is it good for the sport that Super 2000 cars are all basically very equal in performance? For me the best thing about this is that it means that private teams will be able to compete against factory teams with the same chance of success. And when this sort of car will be used as World Rally Cars, this will be even more important like back in Group A Delta days when private drivers also had the chance of success. When the World Rally Cars in two years time are going to be souped-up S2000 cars, will Anton’s experience stand him in good stead? I hope so, that is our plan. We want to get good results with Abarth now and then see what their rally future will be. I hope we are going in a positive way. How you do think the IRC series shapes up against the world championship events? For someone like Anton the IRC is a chance to make his mark, but the world championship is something else. Many more people talk about the world championship than the IRC. It is a different story. If you want to future in the WRC, it is important you get experience in world championship rallies. And because nowadays you are only ever allowed to make two passes in recce, getting experience is even more important than when we were allowed to make 10-15 passes a stage before a rally. These are different times. Who do you think are going to become the next rallying superstars? Hirvonen and Latvala are coming very big in the sport. I think that the IRC will start to throw up some more big future stars and I hope Anton will be one of them. The former star is now watching the next generation coming through, including his own son Anton. He spoke to MARTIN HOLMES 20