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GP Week : Issue 66
Pentti Airikkala was never the best rally driver in the world but he was one of the most remarkable. His activities behind the wheel of rally cars will never be forgotten if you followed the sport in the '70s and '80s. In a world where results and titles are deemed to make a successful rally man, Pentti was a free spirit whose presence could never be ignored. He had a remarkable capability of spotting the less than obvious, whether this was in a mechanical, sporting or a tactical situation, and using this to his full advantage. Being a Finn in an age when Finns had learned to speak English and migrated to the outside world, Airikkala played the Finnish rally card wherever he went, to great effect. Being a Finn meant that you were, by definition, an expert in the rally trade, and whether or not history will favourably endorse all of his ideas, he certainly got results in places where results could be noticed. In the late '80s he was the number one driver for the small Dealer Team Vauxhall which specialised in British championship events and he achieved miracles in establishing a good reputation for the marque in Britain. And being the big fish in a small pond suited his purposes well, He worked his way up through the sport until he was given the chance by David Sutton to compete in British championship events in a full works specification Ford Escort, in a deal in which he rallied this car on mass production Avon tyres. There were occasions when these tyres worked well and never so much as on one specific event, the 1976 1000 Lakes Rally, when he finished second, beating the works Ford cars. He then led the RAC Rally in the early stages before delays due to non-related mechanical troubles put him out of the event. MARTIN HOLMES Rallies Editor opinion Pentti Airikkala MotoGP and World Superbike have over the years come to co-exist fairly comfortably. Recent events have highlighted the relationship, and underlined the di erences. Whether it makes one better than the other is definitely open to argument. It started the weekend before, when defending 250 champion Marco Simoncelli moonlighted on a World Superbike Aprilia. The hairy one put a big question mark against the depth of talent in that series when he finished third, defeating erstwhile team-mate Max Biaggi. It was his first time racing the bike and his first time at the circuit. The contrast with Imola SBK race winner Michel Fabrizio's single GP outing this year at Brno -- he qualified second last and retired -- could hardly be greater, but that's not the point. It was Simoncelli's brutal passing move on Biaggi that concerns us here. He basically used Biaggi's bike to stop himself crashing, punting the Roman off the track in the process. And afterwards, he praised Superbike organisers for not punishing him. Here, he said, is a series where you can ride "like a man". It's not like that in GPs, where a nanny- state mentality increasingly prevails. Riders who get a bit too adventurous tend to get slammed, and often heavily fined. Just part of a web of rules and regulations that seems to get more complex every week. Fast forward to Portugal, where we learned that one-time GP winner Chris Vermeulen is to abandon MotoGP to return to Superbikes. Fair exchange and MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor opinion Letters email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Happy to be back, at Suzuka It's been far too long. How great it was to see Formula 1 return to a REAL race track at the weekend. It was great to see the genuine joy of Lewis Hamilton and Seb Vettel at driving an F1 car around a track which sorts the men from the boys. Pure exhilaration. Tracks like this should be 'heritage listed' and guaranteed a place on the F1 calendar regardless of The Greedy Ones overwhelming priority for money. Matthew Brierson Oxford, UK World Cup? What World Cup? How Bernie must hate the British G P.The provisional calendar for 2010 (unless I'm wrong) puts it on the same day as the Football World Cup Final in South Africa. That should really help ticket sales. Nigel Skelsey email@example.com The old-fashioned way? So the fallout from the Renault crash scandal goes on. Now we read that Mr Ecclestone voted against Mr Briatore from being disquali ed from FIA sanctioned events. He was clearly in the minority. This just shows us that Bernie still holds the 'old boy network" style of management and doing business in high regard and does not have the best interests of the sport at heart. No real surprise that he therefore sides with Mr Todt in his bid for FIA presidency. Bernie has made several concerning statements in the press in recent months. His attitude appears to be at odds with the CVC board. Many within the sport criticise his actions and decisions. Yes, he has done a lot in bringing the sport from where it was 30 years ago, but he is now too old and too out of touch. It is time to go. Bill Bryant Brisbane, Australia 20