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GP Week : Issue 125
“It was only three years later on we finished sixth overall in Australia with a Group N car. It changed very quickly.” Those nine years have seen many changes, like the way that marque loyalty has proved much more important than in earlier days. What is interesting about the two Sebastiens, Jari and his teammate Mikko, is that they have all been loyal to one make for many years. “I have been lucky. If we think about it, I was able to be with a team which had history and still wants commitment to the championship. Unfortunately, in the meantime, there are many drivers who have been put out of a job. I have been able to keep my job so I have been lucky. It’s been great that we started so early with Ford.” Watching Dani Sordo move from Citroen to Mini, does Jari feel that he could ever succeed in another team? “I don’t want to worry about it because for me one of the passions is to be able to drive every available car that somebody gives me the chance. So I don’t want to think that I can only drive one car – I want to drive whatever car. The important thing is that we have worked for a long time with Ford, have a very good feeling with that and I know how the things work. “You cannot predict when you are to change teams. And changing teams is to do more than changing the car. It is a change of the culture. We are an English team. Look at Citroen and you notice the difference. They are a French team and the first thing is that they speak French and we speak English here. “Also the manners are different. Every morning they shake hands, they kiss the ladies. We are a little bit less formal. We need the same things but we are not as formal as they are.” Ari Vatanen managed to make the change very well when he went to Peugeot in 1984. Does Jari think it is easy to change your culture? “I think it is coming from your attitude. IthinkIcoulddoit.Itisamatterof changing attitude and if you want to make a change.” Jari is 26 and so far has won four WRC events, including his first when only 22, so when was the moment when he felt ‘I can do this, I can succeed at this business’? “Of course when you get good results, that gives you a boost and a good feeling, but when you move up and are making your way, you really try show your potential to be a factory driver. The first time I really did some great stage times was 2005 in Rally GB and that started to give me more trust that things can go ahead.” And have there been any particular moments when you felt ‘I can’t do it’? “ There have been hard moments, yes. Like Rally Poland 2009, when I lost second place hitting a barrier on the final stage, a superspecial, with all our team watching. I started to lose a bit of confidence. I got the feeling that rallying is not nice any more, because I put myself in such a difficult situation. “But luckily, a few days after that, I started to see some positive things again. But this is the thing, the job I want to do is rally driving.” But for how long? “I know for sure in this sport the maximum you can keep going is around 40. It means that you really need to keep in good shape and you need to be quick until then, but I’m hoping that I will be in the world rally championship for the next 15 years.” Have you got a rear-view mirror? When you look at younger drivers today, do you wonder what they must be feeling? “ When I look at the younger drivers, like when we saw the Academy drivers in Portugal and Sardinia, it bought back some memories. Of the time when you were working hard and creating your career to get to the top of the world, to the top of rally sport. It was a hard road which I had to climb and usually for everybody it is a hard way. But it bought memories to me.” Back home in Finland, the very best national sportsmen get superstar treatment. What has been the level of social respect for Jari-Matti as a sportsman? Has it been developing all the time or does he feel it has been the same for some time? “I noticed things changed when I finished second in the world rally championship at the end of 2010. Before that I had been two times fourth, but when I got the ‘silver’ people started