by Rob Wilkins
TV expert and 1972 RAC winning co-driver, Tony Mason was once again at the Rallyday this year, interviewing the likes of Ari Vatanen, David Richards and Russell Brookes on the Castle Combe stage for the viewing public. Crash.net Radio
managed to catch up with him there and get his thoughts on that event and rallying today...
Tony, it's fair to say that you're a bit of a Rallyday veteran, what have you made of the show thus far?
I think it's absolutely marvellous. This is the sixth one and I've been to all of them. I think it's a brilliant day. They're getting better and better, the crowds are just enormous, the attractions are equally enormous and we have the legend of all time, Ari Vatanen, here with David Richards and everybody. There's also other veterans, as you call it, like Jimmy McRae and Pentti Airikkala plus young drivers like Mikko Hirvonen, Mark Higgins and the youngest of all Matthew Wilson - you've got the full spectrum of drivers, and of course cars of every era.
It's a wonderful day and I'm so pleased to have so many people here. I'm also enjoying my job - I'm interviewing on the stage and we're going back down memory lane, because my associations with Ari Vatanen for example goes back to 1975, when he first joined the Ford team and so on and so forth.
So is your highlight seeing the Ari Vatanen cars out there?
I think it is in a way, although obviously I've seen them in the museum in Beaulieu and I spend a lot of time doing films and things with classic cars. I was at Goodwood only two weeks ago and there were a lot of them there as well. So I am used to seeing these classic cars, but it is nice to see them and relive those days.
But it's the drivers that it's nice to see because we all have such memories; we all remember all the little incidents. Ari Vatanen has a remarkable memory - it's probably how he managed to drive so fast, he could remember all the bends on a stage - he can remember details that I'd forgotten, so we've been having some nice chats.
Speaking of memories, what do you think is your fondest memory of Ari?
Well I think it was in the very, very early days when he was going to join Opel to drive and I was working for Ford - competing as a co-driver and running the team. I understood that he was talking to Opel in a next-door hotel bedroom in Barry, near Cardiff, just before the Welsh rally. I thought that he was going to be signing for them so I spoke to the people at Ford and they said to get Timo Makinen, another Finnish legend, to ring the room and tell Ari, in Finnish, not to sign for Opel until he'd spoken to me. So we did that and when Opel had gone Ari came into my room and we signed him - that was a good manoeuvre and brought back a memory for Ari and me!
Returning to this year's Rallyday, it was nice to see everyone pay their respects to Richard Burns at midday and nice to see it was observed so well by the crowd...
Yes it was. I was on stage with Ari, David Richards and David Sutton to introduce that minute's silence and I was very pleased that it was observed so well. It was a very poignant moment for me as I knew Richard extremely well, and Michael Park obviously, but I filmed with Richard for BBC's Top Gear
when he was 16 or 17 and I saw him all the way through his career.
It was at this event last year, 2005, that I last saw him in person when he was here with his collection of cars. I had a little talk with him, although he wasn't very well of course. It's really, really sad to lose two really nice people and the world of rallying is a far worse place without them.