Mikko Hirvonen’s announced his retirement. Prodrive’s launched a rally Volkswagen Golf VII for the Chinese Rally Championship. Hyundai Motorsport has signed Dani Sordo for another two seasons in the WRC. All is detailed over 23 pages of rally news in this week’s edition of HANDBRAKES & HAIRPINS’ free weekly eZine >>> http://bit.ly/issue330.
Wales Rally GB is delighted to announce that motorsport superstar Ari Vatanen will be the official ‘Rally Legend’ at next month’s concluding round of the FIA World Rally Championship (13 – 16 November).
The ‘Rally Legend’ is a new annual honour being introduced in 2014 to celebrate the outstanding achievements of a past hero.
The widely-admired Vatanen won the UK’s round of the WRC exactly 30 years ago in 1984 when competing in one of the revered Group B Peugeot 205 T16s, and he will be in attendance throughout this year’s rally to show his support for what he considers to be a second home event.
“It goes without saying that it is a great honour to be the first person selected as Wales Rally GB’s ‘Rally Legend’,” admitted the 62-year-old Scandinavian idol, whose fearless swashbuckling style won over millions of followers right around the globe. “It proves the links I have with this event and this country are reciprocal. I have always had a very good relationship with the British people and the British fans. They made me feel at home and I hope I put on a good show for them. I have always been well received here and I am really looking forward to coming again in November.”
Wales Rally GB managing director Ben Taylor said he was thrilled that Ari has agreed to be celebrated in this special way: “Wales Rally GB is known as the ‘Rally of Legends’ and I can’t think of a better example of legendary status than Ari to be the first past champion to enter what is going to become our very own ‘hall of fame’,” he enthused. “What’s more the timing is perfect as it’s exactly 30 years since that terrific WRC victory here in the UK. I am sure that new and old fans will be delighted to catch up with him during what’s going to be a fabulous event.”
Vatanen has been hugely popular with UK rally fans ever since he won the British Rally Championship in 1976 and 1980, wowing thousands of spectators in a splendidly sideways Ford Escort RS1800.
The second of those British titles came with co-driver David Richards, the man who later became chairman of both Aston Martin and Prodrive, the renowned motor sport organisation. Vatanen and Richards also combined in a Ford to win the coveted FIA World Rally Championship title in 1981.
“I really loved the Escort,” he recalled. “I felt I could do anything with that car; it was the glove for my hands. I was still quite young and I was afraid of nothing. I was invincible a little bit.
“Everything came to me, it all felt so natural and I would have that Escort completely sideways with the BDA engine making such a beautiful sound. There were so many near misses and if I could watch and see the people, then I would see them with their mouths open, simply gasping at what they’d witnessed. And if they could see me, my face behind my balaclava, they would have seen me smiling and laughing. I loved that car and I loved to compete in Britain.”
Having joined forces with new co-driver Terry Harryman, Vatanen signed to compete for the ambitious new Peugeot factory team in 1984 winning five straight WRC rounds behind the wheel of the immensely powerful, mid-engined 205 T16, including a memorable victory in the fearsome British forests.
“It wasn’t without its dramas as we rolled the car in Wales,” he grinned. “I thought it was finished; we seemed to have landed in some sort of swamp. Terrible. But then some people came and suddenly we could get the car over again. We could go again.”
“That win meant a lot,” he continued, “Having lived in Britain and competed in the British Championship so many times, it was special for me. Typical Vatanen, we almost threw it away, but in the end we earned it.”
The following season he had an even bigger accident in Argentina, which although he survived, effectively ended his career at the pinnacle of the sport. He never won another WRC event but did add the classic Pikes Peak Hillclimb to his victory roster, go on to compete in more than 100 WRC events as well as several Paris-Dakar adventures. Even so, he still waxes lyrical about his beloved British fans and British forests.
“Those legendary stages in Wales – particularly in November – have a special place I my heart,” he confessed. “I’m not sure why the British fans liked me so much; perhaps it was my blonde hair but it was probably my driving style. People love you if you’re fast and spectacular like Colin McRae was. Also, of course, if you make a few mistakes people can relate to you more – in real life we all blot our copybooks! What’s more I’ve always loved human contact. Cars are fantastic but you can’t speak to them.”
There will be plenty of opportunities for fans to share memories with Ari on Wales Rally GB. As the event’s official ‘Rally Legend’, he will be fulfilling a number of different roles. He will be present at both the Ceremonial Start at Eirias Stadium and Ceremonial Finish in Llandudno. In between, Vatanen will be meeting hospitality guests and fans at the Sweet Lamb stage on Friday and both Chirk Castle and Kinmel Park RallyFests over the weekend. Fans will also be able to meet him at a special display being created within the Service Park in Deeside.
Wales Rally GB is offering FREE admittance to the official Service Park in Deeside, Ceremonial Start in Eirias Stadium in Colwyn Bay, Remote Service in Newtown and Ceremonial Finish in Llandudno. Advanced tickets for the spectacular Special Stages run against the clock are available via the official website at http://www.walesrallygb.com.
The WRC, FIA World Rallycross Championship, the FIA, Petter Solberg, and more are all featured inside this week’s 18-page edition. Download, download, download for FREE: http://bit.ly/issue329
WRC Promoter unveiled its 13-round calendar for the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship. All rallies in the 2014 schedule were confirmed for next year by the FIA World Motor Sport Council at its meeting in Beijing, with some significant date changes in the first part of the season.
January’s opening round at Rallye Monte-Carlo will start a week later than this year, providing a longer end-of-season break and increased preparation time for manufacturers, teams and drivers. The year’s curtain-raiser will adopt Rally 2 regulations for the first time, allowing retired competitors the opportunity to restart the following leg subject to technical approval. Rally 2 is employed by all other rounds.
Portugal’s fixture will return to its traditional fanbase in the north after 10 years in the southern Algarve area and swaps places with Argentina.
The South American round will be in mid-April, when conditions are likely to be warmer and drier, with Portugal moving back to late May. The changes mean Italy’s round will be a week later in mid-June.
Poland, which successfully returned to the championship in 2014 after a five-year absence, retains its place for next season.
“We’re delighted to confirm the 2015 calendar and to retain all 13 rounds for next season. The breadth of events geographically ensures a truly global championship,” said WRC Promoter’s managing director, Oliver Ciesla. “We’ve again blended a mix of classic events that date back to the championship’s origins with newer, but firmly established, rallies. All will offer a challenging variety of roads and conditions to ensure that WRC will provide the ultimate all-round test of driving ability.”
The 2015 FIA World Rally Championship calendar is:
01) Monte-Carlo 22 – 25 January
02) Sweden 12 – 15 February
03) Mexico 5 – 8 March
04) Argentina 16 – 19 April
05) Portugal 21 – 24 May
06) Italy 11 – 15 June
07) Poland 2 – 5 July
08) Finland 30 July – 2 August
09) Germany 20 – 23 August
10) Australia 10 – 13 September
11) France 1 – 4 October
12) Spain 22 – 25 October
13) Great Britain 12 – 15 November
Björn Waldegard was the 1979 World Rally Championship and winner of 16 WRC events in his four-decades long rally career that culminated in the 2011 East African Safari Classic Rally win in a Porsche 911. We pay tribute to this gentle giant in this week’s issue, as well as bringing you a full report from the FIA European Rally Championship’s Barum Czech Rally Zlin. We also feature the mighty impressive Tuthill Porsche 911 RGT machine that powered into the WRC’s history books at the ADAC Rallye Deutschland last week.
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The World Rally Championship is entering the last leg of 2014: four events remain. This past weekend’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland proved to be a massively entertaining event from start to finish, and we feature 10 pages of WRC action this week. Also inside is a look at last weekend’s Ojibwe Forests Rally (Rally America National Championship) and a preview of this weekend’s ERC Barum Czech Rally Zlin that promises to be highly competitive.
Yours free, each week: http://bit.ly/issue327.
The WRC ADAC Rallye Deutschland was a thriller from start to finish. The ‘home’ team won, but it was not Volkswagen Motorsport. Rather, Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville shone brightest after 18 stages and some 360km of rallying over three days. These videos all show action from different stages over the weekend. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did in compiling them here!
Slippery and sideways…
Here’s Jari-Matti Latvala on the limit!
Our final video here brings high speed action from the famous Panzerplatte stages!