by Rob Wilkins
Rallying may not get nearly as much coverage as Formula 1, but that doesn't mean the drivers' are better, in fact quite the contrary according to 1989 RAC winner and 1979 BRC champion Pentti Airikkala.
Airikkala, who runs a highly successful rally and race driving school, which is based in Oxfordshire, has taught a number of big names over the years, including the likes of 1995 World Rally champion Colin McRae and 2001 World Rally champion Richard Burns.
Today he has coached Ford's Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala and even McLaren-Mercedes' F1 star Lewis Hamilton, but Airikkala reckons nothing is learnt from racing.
"As you may know, I run a rally school and a racing school. Mikko Hirvonen is one of my pupils and so is Jari-Matti Latvala," he told Crash.net Radio
last month at the Castle Combe Rallyday. "I am very proud to be able to teach them. Lewis Hamilton is also someone that I have tried to help. But okay he is in Formula 1, which is boring!
"At the end of the day however, about 65 per cent of people in my schools are rally people and the rest are racing people - and what a difference! Nice people go into rallying and nasty people go into motor racing, although of course there are exceptions.
"But it is quite easy to understand why that is the case. In rallying you drive through the forests and mountains at two minute intervals. Whereas in Formula 1 - or motor racing in general - you try and stop somebody from overtaking you. You try to kill him or her by crashing into them or pushing them off the road. That is not nice!
"Plus, except John Watson, I've never met another F1 or racing driving in my life, who has been a safe driver. But 95 per cent of rally drivers - or even more - are safe drivers' on the road.
"I have been lucky. I learned from rallying how to be a safe driver - and so far I haven't had a road accident.
"That is because of the skills I learned rallying. But what skills do you learn from motor racing?
TO HEAR THE INTERVIEW IN FULL WITH PENTTI AIRIKKALA – RECORDED PRIOR TO THE WRC EVENTS IN SPAIN AND FRANCE: CLICK HERE