Morning Qualifying – The Vatanen Touch edition

Ari Vatanen, with co-driver David Richards, in the Rothmans Ford Escort RS1800 during the 1981 Acropolis Rally

I don’t know if Ari Pieti Uolevi Vatanen was born with a steering wheel in his hand. Or, if his mom always oversteered his stroller in corners.  Or, if Ari yumped his first tricycle.  The Finns just have that national mojo that makes them excellent rally drivers.  For more than a quarter century, Ari Vatanen used that Finnish mojo to stand at pinnacle of great rally drivers.  Starting at age 18, in a second hand Opel Kadette, Vatanen worked his way from Finnish national rallies, to the European, British and World Rally Championships, always in attack mode, oversteering into every corner, making his style work in a wide variety of Group 4, Group B and Group A machines.
In 1981, Vatanen won the World’s Drivers Championship in a privately entered Ford Escort RS1800, the only privateer ever to win the WRC drivers championship. Vatanen would switch to Opel when Ford retired the Mk2 Escort and, when Group B dawned a few years later, Vatanen would sign with Peugeot to drive the 205 Turbo 16.  Even after his retirement from rallying in 1998, Ari Vatanen found time, between sessions as a member of the European Parliment, to compete in the Paris-Dakar Rally.
Today is Ari Vatanen’s 57th birthday.
Ari Vatanen and Terry Harryman in the Peugeot 205 T16 during the 1985 Rally Sweden


Vatanen in the Peugeot 405 T16 during the 1988 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

With a rallying career as long, and as varied, as Ari Vatanen’s, there is a lot of video footage of the man at work.  Today, we’ve picked out a couple of great clips.  First, the 1980 documentary, “The Vatanen Touch”, detailing Ari’s exploits in the Rothmans Escort RS1800 during that year’s British Open Rally Championship, competing against the likes of  Hannu Mikkola, Jimmy McRae, Russell Brookes, Tony Pond, Per Eklund, Henri Toivonen, Malcolm Wilson, Roger Clark, Stig Blomqvist, Anders Kullang etc. etc.




Next, we have what is considered by rally connoisseurs to be the Citizen Kane of in-car rally footage; Vatanen’s epic drive on the 1983 Manx Rally, in which he drive’s the nuts off his Opel Manta 400, while scaring the pants off his highly experienced co-driver, Terry Harryman (yes, it’s the “Dear God” clip).





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6 responses to “Morning Qualifying – The Vatanen Touch edition”

  1. BGW Avatar

    Vatanen's co-driver in '81 went on to be pretty important as well.

  2. muthalovin Avatar

    Radical. Those Finn's have the Rally Skills.

  3. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    I say we start every Wednesday with jumping escorts. Wait make that jumping Ford Escorts… need to be very specific with this bunch.

    1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

      Why not both? No reason to rule anything out.

  4. Gearhead Avatar

    The Fins call it "sisu"…

  5. Deartháir Avatar

    I don't think it really needs to be said again, but… I LOVE MORNING QUALIFYING.