by Gauk
Mon, Nov 28, 2016 11:39 PM

Ari Pieti Uolevi Vatanen (born 27 April 1952) is a Finnish rally driver turned politician and a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from 1999 to 2009.

Vatanen won the World Rally Championship drivers' title in 1981 and the Paris Dakar Rally four times. Since 2013 Vatanen has been the President of the Estonian Autosport Union.

Ari Vatanen

Ari Vatanen.jpg

Ari Vatanen

Personal information
Nationality Finnish
Born 27 April 1952 (age 64)
Tuupovaara, Finland
World Rally Championship record
Active years 1974 – 1998, 2003
Co-driver Italy Fabrizia Pons
United Kingdom Fred Gallagher
United Kingdom Roger Freeman
Sweden Bruno Berglund
United Kingdom Terry Harryman
United Kingdom Dave Richards
Teams Ford, Opel, Peugeot, Subaru, BMW, Mitsubishi, Citroën
Rallies 101
Championships 1 (1981)
Rally wins 10
Podiums 27
Stage wins 527
Total points 518
First rally 1974 1000 Lakes Rally
First win 1980 Acropolis Rally
Last win 1985 Swedish Rally
Last rally 2003 Rally Finland

Biography

Vatanen was born and grew up in rural Tuupovaara in Eastern Finland. His debut year in rallying was 1970, and he debuted in the World Rally Championship at the 1974 1000 Lakes Rally. In that year he won the Nortti Rally in an Opel Ascona, beating Hannu Mikkola in the process, which brought him to wider attention. His first international rally was the 1975 Rothmans 747 Rally in Jamaica driving a Datsun 120Y. He placed 12th with co-driver Gerry Phillips. At the end of that season he was offered his first professional drive, in a Ford Escort RS1800, on the RAC Rally. He crashed out on the second day, but by then he had impressed Ford team manager Stuart Turner sufficiently for him to be offered a seat in the team for the British Rally Championship the following year. He duly won the championship, a feat he repeated in 1980, co-driven by David Richards, who went on to become chairman of Prodrive, the Banbury based motorsport team and one of the most influential figures in British (and worldwide) motorsport. Between 1977 and 1980 he also competed on selected World Championship events, initially for the official Ford team and then, after its withdrawal from the sport at the end of 1979, for the semi-private Rothmans Rally Team. He took his debut win at the 1980 Acropolis Rally and became the World Rally Champion in 1981. He remains the only privateer driver (i.e. not driving for an official factory team) to have achieved this feat.

Vatanen and Richards parted ways for the 1982 season, and for the next few years Vatanen was co-driven by Terry Harryman. he did not defend his world title in 1982, competing instead in the British Championship in a Ford Escort, before moving to the Opel team for 1983. The Opel Ascona and Opel Manta were only two-wheel-drive and not fully competitive, but Vatanen still managed to win the Safari Rally.

In 1984, Vatanen signed to drive the Peugeot 205 T16 for Peugeot's factory team. From the 1984 1000 Lakes Rally to 1985 Swedish Rally, Vatanen won five world rallies in a row. He was tipped to win the 1985 world title, but at mid-season was trailing his team-mate Timo Salonen after a series of accidents and mechanical problems. He then had a serious accident on the Rally Argentina, when his car somersaulted at over 120mph. His seat broke, and he was thrown around inside the car, suffering severe injuries to his legs and torso and life-threatening internal bleeding. He spent 18 months recovering first from his physical injuries, and then from severe depression. He went on to make a complete recovery and his return to motorsport in 1987 saw him go on to win the Paris-Dakar Rally four times; with Peugeot in 1987, 1989 and 1990, and with Citroën in 1991. He became the centre of controversy when his car was stolen whilst leading the same rally in 1988.

With Peugeot, Vatanen also won the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, after Peugeot stopped participating in the World Rally Championship in 1986, due to the demise of Group B rallying. Peugeot used the lessons learnt from its 205 T16 to create the 405 T16. With at least 600 bhp (447 kW), large aerofoils, four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering, Vatanen took the car up the hill in record time, his efforts being captured in the award-winning short film Climb Dance.

Vatanen's autobiography Every Second Counts, detailing his life and career up until that point, was published in 1988 (SAF Publishing, ISBN 0-946719-04-7) and instantly became a best seller.

Vatanen continued competing in the World Rally Championship more or less actively until the 1998 season. He drove for Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe in four events in 1989 and in five events in 1990. His best result with the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 was second at the 1990 1000 Lakes Rally. From 1992 to 1993, he competed for Subaru in 11 events, finishing second three times, including on the debut event of the first Subaru Impreza in Finland. Vatanen briefly led the event before being overhauled by eventual winner Juha Kankkunen. Even so, he was dropped by the Subaru team at the end of the 1993 season in favour of Carlos Sainz.

The following year he returned to the wheel of a Ford, driving the Ford Escort RS Cosworth for a semi-private team, and then being co-opted into the Ford factory team where he stood in for the injured Francois Delecour. His most notable result that year was a podium finish on Rally Argentina, the first time he had contested the event since his accident there nine years previously.

The 1995 and 1996 seasons were quiet for Vatanen, whose career as a top-line driver was slowly drawing to a close. At the time there was a surplus of drivers and those late in their careers, such as Vatanen, tended to lose out in favour of younger talents. Nevertheless, he continued to contest a few events then and in subsequent years, his best result being a podium finish at the 1998 Safari Rally. He then briefly returned to a works Subaru for the season-ending Rally of Great Britain, marking his 100th World Rally Championship event.

Although he became much less active in rallying, his hunger for motorsport had not left him completely however, and Vatanen joined Nissan in the Paris-Dakar in 2003, finishing seventh. He also made an appearance at the 2003 Rally Finland with a Bozian Racing-prepared Peugeot 206 WRC, and finished eleventh. In 2004 and 2005, Vatanen drove the Dakar for Nissan as well, and in 2007 he made another attempt with Volkswagen, but retired on the seventh stage.

He currently holds the position of 'Club Patron' to the Ireland's Donegal Motor Club since 2002. He has a long association with the Donegal Motor Club and the Donegal International Rally, competing twice early in his career, 1975 and 1978.

Despite having no roots in Estonia, in January 2013 Vatanen was named as the candidate of presidency by the board of the Estonian Autosport Union to become first foreign President of the authority. Vatanen said he had always been in good relations with Estonians and he's deeply impressed by the achievements of such a small country. Rumours said that the other candidate will be Estonia's most famous former rally driver Markko Märtin. Without any rival candidate Vatanen was elected President of the Estonian Autosport Union.

In September 2008, Vatanen took part in the Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally, a round of the Scottish Rally Championship centred in Perth in Scotland. His co-driver was once again David Richards and they competed in the same Rothmans sponsored Ford Escort RS1800 that they drove in 1981. He was one of a number of ex-world champions to take part in the event in memory of McRae, who died in 2007.

Personal life

Vatanen is married to Rita and has four children, Kim (b. 1972), Ria (b. 1980), Tua (b. 1982) and Max (b. 1990). They have homes in Finland and France.Kim is the manager of current WRC driver Sebastien Ogier. In 2016 Max followed his fathers footsteps by entering the British Rally Championship driving an M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta R5.

Political career

Following his years of working with a French rally team, in 1993 he settled in southern France where he bought a farm and a winery. He soon developed an interest in politics, and in 1999 he was elected to the European Parliament from the list of the conservative Finnish National Coalition party, despite continuing to live in France. The issues he has worked on include car taxation, traffic policies, development aid, and agricultural policy.

In 2004 he was re-elected, this time from the list of the conservative French Union for a Popular Movement. In 2009 European Parliament elections Vatanen was again a National Coalition candidate in Finland, but he did not get elected this time.

In July 2009 Vatanen declared his interest in being a candidate to stand against Max Mosley in the FIA presidential elections in October, should current president Mosley decide to restand for another term. He later confirmed that he would run for the presidency. On 23 October 2009, Vatanen failed in his bid to be elected as president of the FIA, which was won by his former team boss at Peugeot, subsequently Scuderia Ferrari manager Jean Todt.

He is a signatory of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism.

WRC victories

Number Event Season Co-driver Car
1 Greece 27th Acropolis Rally 1980 David Richards Ford Escort RS1800
2 Greece 28th Acropolis Rally 1981
3 Brazil 3° Marlboro Rallye do Brasil
4 Finland 31st 1000 Lakes Rally
5 Kenya 31st Marlboro Safari Rally 1983 Terry Harryman Opel Ascona 400
6 Finland 34th 1000 Lakes Rally 1984 Peugeot 205 Turbo 16
7 Italy 26° Rallye Sanremo
8 United Kingdom 33rd Lombard RAC Rally
9 Monaco 53ème Rallye Automobile de Monte-Carlo 1985
10 Sweden 35th International Swedish Rally

WRC results

Year Entrant Car 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 WDC Points
1974 Ari Vatanen Opel Ascona 19 MON
C
SWE
C
POR KEN GRE
C
FIN
Ret
ITA CAN USA GBR FRA       N/A N/A
1975 Ford Motor Company Ltd Ford Escort RS1600 MON SWE KEN GRC MOR POR FIN
Ret
ITA FRA           N/A N/A
Ford Escort RS1800                   GBR
Ret
       
1976 Ford Motor Company Ltd Ford Escort RS1800 MON SWE POR KEN GRC MOR FIN
Ret
ITA FRA GBR
Ret
        N/A N/A
1977 Ford Motor Company Ltd Ford Escort RS1800 MON SWE POR
Ret
KEN
Ret
NZL
2
GRC
Ret
FIN
Ret
CAN
Ret
ITA
Ret
FRA GBR
Ret
      NC 0
1978 Ford Motor Company Ltd Ford Escort RS1800 MON SWE
5
KEN POR
Ret
GRC FIN
Ret
CAN ITA CIV FRA         8th 11
Marlboro                     GBR
DSQ
     
1979 Rothmans Rally Team Ford Fiesta 1600 MON
10
                          5th 50
Ford Escort RS1800   SWE
Ret
POR
Ret
KEN GRC   FIN
2
CAN
3
ITA FRA GBR
4
CIV    
Ford Motor Company Ltd           NZL
3
               
1980 Publimmo Racing Ford Escort RS1800 MON
Ret
                          4th 50
Rothmans Rally Team   SWE POR
Ret
KEN GRC
1
ARG FIN
2
NZL ITA
2
FRA GBR
Ret
CIV    
1981 Rothmans Rally Team Ford Escort RS1800 MON
Ret
SWE
2
POR
Ret
KEN FRA GRC
1
ARG
Ret
BRA
1
FIN
1
ITA
7
CIV
9
GBR
2
    1st 96
1982 David Sutton Motorsport Ford Escort RS1800 MON SWE
2
POR KEN FRA GRC NZL BRA             13th 15
MCD / Mobira                 FIN
Ret
ITA CIV      
Rothmans Opel Rally Team Opel Ascona 400                       GBR
Ret
   
1983 Rothmans Opel Rally Team Opel Ascona 400 MON
5
SWE
6
POR KEN
1
FRA                   6th 44
Opel Manta 400           GRC
4
ARG BRA FIN
Ret
ITA
Ret
CIV GBR
Ret
   
1984 Peugeot Talbot Sport Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 MON SWE POR KEN FRA
Ret
GRC
Ret
ARG BRA FIN
1
ITA
1
CIV GBR
1
    4th 60
1985 Peugeot Talbot Sport Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 MON
1
SWE
1
POR
Ret
KEN
Ret
FRA
Ret
                  4th 55
Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 E2           GRC
Ret
NZL
2
ARG
Ret
FIN ITA CIV GBR    
1987 Fuji Heavy Industries Subaru RX Turbo MON SWE POR KEN
10
FRA GRC USA NZL ARG           19th 16
Ford Motor Company Ltd Ford Sierra RS Cosworth                   FIN
2
CIV ITA GBR  
1988 Prodrive BMW BMW M3 MON SWE POR KEN FRA GRC USA NZL ARG FIN
Ret
CIV ITA     0
Ralliart Europe Mitsubishi Galant VR-4                         GBR
Ret
 
1989 Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 SWE MON
87
POR KEN FRA GRC
Ret
NZL ARG FIN
Ret
AUS ITA CIV GBR
5
  40th 8
1990 Mitsubishi Ralliart Europe Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 MON
Ret
POR
Ret
KEN FRA GRC
Ret
NZL ARG FIN
2
AUS ITA CIV GBR
Ret
    16th 15
1991 Milk Team Ford Sierra Cosworth RS 4x4 MON SWE POR KEN FRA GRE NZL ARG FIN
7
AUS ITA CIV ESP   22nd 12
Subaru Rally Team Europe Subaru Legacy RS                           GBR
5
1992 Subaru Rally Team Europe Subaru Legacy RS MON SWE
Ret
POR KEN FRA GRC
Ret
NZL
Ret
ARG FIN
4
AUS
Ret
ITA CIV ESP GBR
2
11th 25
1993 555 Subaru World Rally Team Subaru Legacy RS MON SWE POR KEN FRA GRC
Ret
ARG
Ret
NZL   AUS
2
ITA ESP     7th 38
Subaru Impreza 555                 FIN
2
      GBR
5
 
1994 SMS Ford Escort RS Cosworth MON POR KEN FRA GRC
5
    FIN
Ret
ITA GBR
5
        9th 28
Ford Motor Company Ltd           ARG
3
NZL
Ret
             
1996 Ford Motor Company Ltd Ford Escort RS Cosworth SWE
Ret
KEN IDN GRC ARG FIN AUS ITA ESP           0
1997 Motorsport Consultancy Ford Escort WRC MON SWE KEN POR ESP FRA ARG GRC NZL FIN IDN ITA AUS GBR
8
0
1998 Ford Motor Company Ltd Ford Escort WRC MON SWE KEN
3
POR
5
ESP FRA ARG GRC NZL FIN
Ret
ITA AUS     11th 6
555 Subaru World Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRC 98                           GBR
Ret
2003 Bozian Racing Peugeot 206 WRC MON SWE TUR NZL ARG GRC CYP GER FIN
11
AUS ITA FRA ESP GBR 0

Dakar Rally results

Year Class Vehicle Result Stages
1987 Car France Peugeot 1st 3
1988 DSQ 4
1989 1st 7
1990 1st 7
1991 1st 5
1992 France Citroen 5th 7
1993 8th 2
1994 Did not enter
1995 Car France Citroen DNF 3
1996 4th 7
1997–2002 Did not enter
2003 Car Japan Nissan 7th 4
2004 DNF 1
2005 39th 0
2006 Did not enter
2007 Car Germany Volkswagen DNF 0
published by Gauk

 

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