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GP Week : Issue 59
5 MINUTES WITH ... Tommi Makinen The former World Rally Champion is now running rally cars from his base in Finland. He spoke to MARTIN HOLMES Jyvaskyla in central Finland has bred two very special World Rally Champions, Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen, who each won the World Drivers’ title no fewer than four times. What Jyvaskyla has never had until recently, however, has been a technical rally centre. When Makinen retired from his active World Championship driving career he was invited by Subaru to create a centre for handling the specialist Impreza customer car market in Northern and Eastern Europe. Five years ago he opened the premises, close to his home in Puuppola, on the outskirts of Jyvaskyla, and has now expanded into a much bigger operation in impressive premises adjacent to the main road out to the airport. And the two Finnish rallying giants are working together, with Tommi Makinen Racing working alongside the winter driving Juha Kankkunen Driving Academy. GPWEEK: Compare the effort and stress of running a team with driving! TOMMI MAKINEN: This has been a fascinating work, but in fact nothing like as stressful for me personally as when I was trying to win the World Championship four times. Those championship years, from 1996 through ‘99 especially, that was the hardest time in my life. Did you plan this sort of business while you were driving? Never thought about it. I did not know what to do. I had no future plans except maybe work to do with our family farm, to keep that running. But the idea to start this business up happened so quickly, but was nothing to do with my move from Mitsubishi for my final year to the Subaru team. It all started after I decided to retire. The Japanese people asked me if I would like to work with them. This work began in December 2003 in Japan to set up a system to supply competition cars in Northern and Eastern Europe. Then the new model hatchback ‘N14’ model came along, Did this make a lot of difference? 1 Immediately. It was a very big change, but also very interesting work. There has been a huge improvement in the car since we first started to run it. Performance, power, everything is now much better. Mitsubishi cars had always been very, very strong here in Finland, but now Subaru was winning the rallies. Your company was running the Fiats of Anton Alen and Kimi Raikkonen on the Neste Oil Rally Finland. What is your impression about Super 2000 cars? Compared with World Rally Cars, this is a good move. I am sure we can find more and more equal competition and hopefully we can find more private teams to run these cars. These cars are more simple. Mostly the question with S2000 cars is how you can tune the suspension geometry and transmission. All the basic S2000 cars are very equal. Because the chance to run these cars is much simpler, it will be much easier for teams. What do you think about the future of World Championship Rallying when the World Rally Cars will be based on Super 2000 cars? We do not know what will happen in the future. Will they stay with twolitre, normally-aspirated engines? For World Rally Cars we need more powerful cars, not only for driving skills but also for spectator enjoyment. For World Championship level the current Super 2000 is not powerful enough in my opinion. We need similar power to the current World Rally Cars, so maybe a 1.6-litre turbo engine is the way to go. When you think about Super 2000 and Group N cars competing together, Group N has been really incredible, the only class which has never really changed. Super 2000 cars run in Class N4 in direct competition with orthodox Group N cars, like the Lance Evo and Impreza. How do you think they compare? I would like the variations between the cars to be narrower. I would prefer both types of car had similar, not completely different, weight limits and same engine performance. Creating an appropriate balance of performance between the two types of car is very difficult. We have had successful parallel regulations before, like when I drove a Group A specification Mitsubishis against the original World Rally Cars from the other manufacturers. That worked well. I hope they can really make the two types of car work well together. Will Super 2000 cars eventually replace the orthodox Group N cars? If Group N cars get phased out of rallying it will make it very difficult in the sport and make rallying very difficult all over the world. Group N cars are so much cheaper to run, to buy, compared with S2000. Looking at Kimi’s Fiat, I think we can run three or four Group N cars at the same cost as one Super 2000. You need so much work to keep a Super 2000 car in good condition. Group N cars are very reliable, need very little work – you can just keep driving and driving those cars.