by Rob Wilkins

1981 World Rally champion, Ari Vatanen was at the 2006 Rallyday on Saturday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his success with the David Sutton-run Rothmans Ford Escort. Here, in the first of a two-part interview, he speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio about the event and the very warm reception he received...

Q:
Ari, are you enjoying the Rallyday?

Related Articles

Ari Vatanen
Well it is a needless question - you can see the incredible atmosphere and the reception, how warmly I was received. This is just like and it is not an overstatement, it is like one big family, which hasn't seen each other for a long time and finally it is a family re-union and everybody is happy to be there and see other human beings in the same family - it really is nice.

Q:
I was going to say you have had a fantastic reception and people have been queuing for ages to get your autograph and get you to sign a book.

AV:
Exactly, I mean, what can you say? It is grass-root level support and in Britain I have always had fantastic support. It is maybe my driving style and the fact that I have always liked human contact. I try to treat people on an equal footing because that is what we are. The human value of all of us, whether you are a totally unknown cleaning lady or you are George W Bush, humanly speaking, we are all the same and we must never lose sight of that. I try modestly to apply that principal in my life.

Q:
Do you think that is one of the great things about rallying, compared to something like Formula One, it is just so much more open?

AV:
It is, because it is a very open sport. It is accessible despite the price and everything - it is still accessible to everybody in one form or another. The drivers' are very accessible and it makes it an every man's sport. People can relate themselves to rallying and to the cars and it unites people. It doesn't build walls between people, it does contrary. It demolishes walls between people and I think that is what they should do in life.

Q:
You have been out on track, have you been enjoying that aspect as well?

AV:
Honestly yes, but I must tell you, I must have been very good 25 years ago because modern cars are so easy to drive and these 25 year old cars are a handful, so I have to take it steady today.

Q:
What do you make of the WRC today?

AV:
Well at this particular moment it seems to be in a downward cycle, but it will spring up again because the support for rallying all over the world is very great. The sporting authorities just have to use that potential.