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GP Week : Issue 151
VATANEN'S MILESTONE Ari Vatanen celebrated his 60th birthday on Friday 27 April, the first day of this year’s Rally Argentina. It was in 1985, 27 years ago that he survived a horrendous crash, ironically on the first day of the Argentinian WRC event. Vatanen is one of the most personable drivers in the history of the sport, and the memory of the day when Ari nearly died remains with all who followed the sport in those times. Ari had been World Champion in 1981 driving for the private Rothmans sponsored team run by David Sutton Cars, the second and last time a Ford driver had won the title, and the last time a world championship winning driver was run by a private team. Ari officially started exactly 100 WRC events (in addition to one when he crashed before the start), winning 10. Four wins were with Ford, one with Opel and five with Peugeot. His early career featured many retirements – in his first 12 world rally starts he only finished once! His international career began in 1974, interrupted by his Argentina accident, then resumed spasmodically before rallying in the Mitsubishi and then the Subaru teams. He retired from WRC rallying in 1998, making one comeback appearance, again in a Peugeot, on the 2003 Neste Rally Finland. His return to health came at the time Peugeot withdrew from the WRC and moved to cross country rallying, in which Vatanen gained his greatest career achievement, winning Paris Dakar four times (three times with Peugeot and once with Citroen). He was denied a fifth win on this event when his car was stolen in mid event! His remarkable career has recently encompassed political activities, becoming a member of the European parliament, and challenging for the Presidency of the FIA. LATVALA STAYS – for the moment M-Sport director Malcolm Wilson has emphasized his continued trust in the injured Jari-Matti Latvala, when asked about team policies in view of Petter Solberg’s good current form at the pre-Rally Argentina press conference. “Nothing has changed, we are going on with our strategy as the season unfolds. We need to be very clear that for us to win the Championship for Manufacturers, we are going to have to win rallies. Our big push is to win rallies. “We have seen this year that Jari has the pace to do that. We will be running him again as soon as possible. If we have to alter our strategies later we will do that. Petter Solberg has certainly fitted into the team and he’s driving very well. He is getting more and more confident. “There is light at the end of the tunnel. Our priority is to make sure we can make Jari fit for Greece.” Drivers with rally-winning heritage are thin on the ground. In the Ford team in Argentina were one driver who has never won a WRC, and the other (a former world champion) who has not won a WRC for over six years. Latvala has won six in the last four years. 14 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: WRC >>> news