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GP Week : Issue 27
>> WRC InSIGHT Ari Vatanen, 1977, when rally cars were 2WD ... road were our main rivals; the three works Fiat Abarth 131s, driven by Fulvio Bacchelli, Simo Lampinen and Markku Alen. I think the first Fiat I caught was Simo’s, then another 30km or so later I caught Markku and after another 20km Bacchelli. Bacchelli thought it was Alen who was behind him. He didn’t want to be beaten by his team- mate and let me suffer in his flying stones. It had never occurred to him that the fourth car on the road would now be right behind him! “Otherwise everything was working so well – me, engine, co-driver, tyres – it was truly a beautiful experience. We had even finished our formalities with the time-keepers at the end of the stage and driven away from the control still without any of the Fiats in sight. I had made fastest time by nearly three minutes on that stage! “Finally we finished the rally in second place. After all that distance we were only 94 seconds behind Bacchelli, and eventually I learned that Bacchelli’s engine was so badly damaged they doubted if he could have done another stage at all. It also turned out to be the longest ever World Championship special stage event, the only time even the winner took longer than one day on the stages. What a memory, and how I must have caused poor Jim to age prematurely. He started the rally looking like my father, and ended with him looking like my grandfather. “But I will also never forget how well that car went, with its A2 tyres. The old rear-drive Escorts really suited my style of driving. I will never really know if I would have been so well known if I had driven any other type of car in my early days.” 39